10 Prison Architect Beginner Tips

Prison Architect was an adventure for me, and for my guards, and lastly for my prisoners. I cannot count how many riots I had to suppress, how difficult it was for me to manage even a small prison, and during some games how to make a profit. All of that is behind me, especially since I had to do a bit of troubleshooting of my own, when I was faced with a number of unknown or strange problems. This short Tips List aims at providing answers to many different questions regarding Prison Architect, and I hope that in the process you will have a much easier time playing this game.

Prison Architect: 10 Tips

1. I do not have the time to build my prison/I am overflowing with prisoners!

Building a prison takes times. One day (24 hours) is barely enough to build your structures and your prisoners arrive at the very moment you might still be laying out the cable work, pipes or bringing in the furniture. In short, it is a complete mess, but there is one simple way of solving this problem, turning off Continuous Intake.

Prison Architect

This is the screen that will pop-up when you want to open a new Prison. As you can see Continuous Intake is turned OFF. Now I will be able to control whether prisoners come in.

You might had noticed that your prisoners are STILL arriving, even though you turned off Continuous Intake at the start of the game. Why is that? The answer is rather simple, enter your prisoner tab and close the intake on all prisoner categories. That will disable any incoming “waves” of prisoners, and you can enable or disable them at any time. Just remember, prisoners arrive at 8 AM, every day, so if you are unsure whether your prison will have the space for new prisoners you can close the intake of prisoners at 7:59 AM and you will still be fine.

Prison Architect.

With Continuous Intake switched off you can also decide which of the three categories of prisoners you would want to arrive during the next “wave”. The number of prisoners coming in will be displayed in the top-left corner of the screen.

Turning off Prisoner Intake lets you handle a specific number of prisoners (so you do not go over capacity) and you get to build your starting prison in complete peace. During one game I had to wait 4 whole days to finishing building my small prison complex before I could let in any prisoners.

How much staff you can hire is connected to how much income you produce. In other words, it may be impossible to have enough guards when you first open your prison, HOWEVER as soon as more prisoners arrive you will be free to hire many more guards/staff/administrators, in an instant.

2. I do not have any money!

There are a few ways of approaching this problem. Firstly, money is generated through your prisoner numbers. Depending on the Security level of your prisoners (low, medium, high) each prisoner will give you a specific amount of cash at midnight ($50, $100, $150). Of course, that means that having only high security prisoners should be the most profitable option, but if you do not run a tight ship, and you lack in actual security, then do not try your luck with high security prisoners. Medium security prisoners are “just right”, if you plan on running a pretty standard prison.

If you are still building your prison and you run out of money order your workers to cut down all the local trees and sell the lumber. This is a way of getting a bit of extra cash quickly, not the most efficient method by any means.

Prison Architect

A workshop, ready to deliver license plates to the (presumably) American nation!

Lastly, a workshop. You will have to research prison labor before you can build a workshop, and then you will still have to place plenty of machines to make your business venture worthwhile. After you build your workshop you still need to add “Work” hours on the schedule for your prisoners, and select which jobs can your prisoners perform (through deployment). Produced goods in a workshop may be sold manually or they will be sold automatically during the night (Midnight for License Plates, 1 AM for Wooden Planks).

The only other way to earn money is to take on Grants. Grants (especially in the Alpha) can give you a lot of extra cash that will allow you to construct a small yet functioning prison. Some Grants will give you an additional reward once you complete their associated objectives (usually completing these objectives is like a checklist of having a basic prison).


About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
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Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

13 Responses to 10 Prison Architect Beginner Tips

  1. anyone says:

    Very nice article

  2. Fantastic. Thank you. You can also sell your prison if you meet the requirements. The advantage is that the profits carry over to the next game. I closed prisoner intake, built a prison big enough for 72 prisoners, sold it, and started the new game with over $200,000!

  3. Scott says:

    Regarding #1. When you start a new prison, PAUSE the game. Give yourself time to think and start planning out where you want things. If Lakes are turned on, you’ll want to check if you’ll have unusuable tiles. You can do that by using the Foundations tool to click and drag over an area. Anywhere that turns Red is unbuildable. I ended up restarting because there was going to literally be a single tile in the center of my initial cell block that was going to be completely un-buildable.

    Use the Planning Tool to lay out where you want walls and pathways/halls, and mark spaces for different objects. Once you have a basic idea about where you want to start, then it’s just a matter of tracing the Foundations tool over your various wall placements.

    If you’re smart about what you prioritize building first (holding cell and getting utilities up and running, you can often get the finishing touches done before the first inmates show up.

    The Essentials are: Holding Cell, Shower, Kitchen, Canteen, and a Yard. I’d also add an Office for a Warden (to get Bureaucracy going) and usually prioritize getting the Accountant for unlocking the ability to have three simultaneous Grants. These are all fairly easy to get accomplished within the first 24 game-hours. Often my only mistake is forgetting to place furniture and other objects to have the rooms function. I hired an Accountant, but forgot to place her furniture.

    Regarding #5. You can take this idea to the max. Not all rooms need to be completely closed off to qualify, as long as their length and width dimensions qualify. Try this for an Open Concept Office: Build a room that is 9×9 in size. Use the Room tool to specify four offices, one in each corner, leaving the center horizontal and vertical strips without walls. Use the Staffroom tool to specify the space between the offices as a Staff Room. Place a wide sofa in the staff room strip and a drink machine against one walls. Place all appropriate Office Furniture. To further define the areas, use floor materials to customize the look of each office and staff room.

    Also, combine rooms that synergize. Infirmary+Morgue. You don’t need a wall between the two or any doors. As far as I know, inmates won’t care about sharing a medical space with dead bodies.

    8×8 Security office with a 4×4 corner staff room. Alternatively, you could probably put the staff room in the center of the Security room to make a nice lounge, and have all the security related things around the outside of this. Regarding the Armory, I would probably make it it’s own room attached to the Security Office, as it can become a potential liability should the Prisoners run wild.

    Regarding the Canteen, it would be advisable to place a few toilets within the Canteen to allow those prisoners who are in the “Eat” part of the Regime to relieve their Bowels and Bladder. I had minimum security inmates who were about to Riot because they were stuck in the Canteen for two hours without any access to a toilet. Having Entertainment and Phone options can also help relieve those needs. My only option was to flip the regime to Free Time to allow them to do so.

    Regarding the Shower, you only require drains at any entrances to prevent water from passing through.

    Regarding the Infirmary, having more beds allows more Inmates to participate in I believe Drug Recover Programs within the same session. Each session costs money, so the more inmates you can squeeze into a session the cheaper it’ll be per inmate, especially if there is a queue of interested people. Same goes for all the program-related things. Chairs for Therapy, Desks for Education, Work Stations (saws or presses, etc), for Workshop programs.

  4. Matrix Architect says:

    Nice article, but youre doing one thing wrong.
    The drains at shower doesnt really “drains” the water. It works as walls to water. So all you need is to put 3 drains at door of shower room to ensure water dont go out. the time that water exists is not related with amount of drains.

  5. saya says:

    they got rid of the continuous intake option, now the prisoners all just pile up :(

    • WriterX says:

      So I noticed, and now you have much less control over what prisoners you would like to come in. I remember I recently wanted to expand one of my prisons, and built a High-Security block… then I looked at the Intake and all I had were Medium Sec. Not the end of the world, but I was a bit surprised.

    • niknik says:

      I just found that you can control intake in the reports under intake

  6. Trelox says:

    adding aditional iteam into cell fill prisoner need like blandder and etc

  7. Tuesday Wang says:

    Why can’t I complete some buildings? And then I try to demolish them and they refuse to be demolished?

  8. Tuesday Wang says:

    Oh, and how do I ‘assign people to a canteen? I built another canteen and no one goes there to eat?

    • Scott says:

      You need to assign a cell block to that Canteen before prisoners in it will use it. Normally the game will try to determine which canteens will handle which cell blocks, but not always. Under Logistics, select Food Distribution. Select the cell block you want to assign and then the canteen you want them to use.

      The game will show the default assignments as dotted lines, and your manual overrides with solid lines. You can do the same thing with Kitchens to Canteens so that you can make sure your Kitchens are serving the appropriate canteens.

      If you don’t have micromanagement unlocked in Bureaucracy, you might not be able to adjust your kitchens and canteens.

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