Beware Intake Levels
If you’re just getting started with Prison Architect, there’s a good chance you’ll see a message alerting you at the top left that you have prisoners on the way in a certain amount of hours. You have to make sure your prison can accommodate these prisoners, as a holding cell only goes so far and keeping too many of them within one is a sure fire way to start a riot.
Luckily, you don’t have to live life like the I Love Lucy chocolate episode; you can set the level of inmates. Yes, accepting new ones, in large quantities, does give you extra cash each day. But don’t go crazy if you don’t have the cell blocks just yet. Go into the Reports section of the game (notebook on the bottom right) and click on the Intake tab. Here, you can set it to whatever number you want. I suggest only going with maybe five extra prisoners. Five in the holding cell for a bit is fine, just beware forgetting that you have the intake on, as that’s easy to happen.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Prison Architect comes with a genius building feature: planning. With the planning blueprint selected, you’re able to map out exactly how you’ll want your prison to look before you start setting in the foundation and wasting money. Just hit the blueprint at the bottom and you’ll be on your way to setting it all up.
Don’t Overrun One Power Station
When you’re first building your prison, you may throw caution to the wind about your power supply. Well, heed this warning: If your power suddenly goes out because you’ve built a massive prison, you’ll be screwed big time. Riots will instantly break out and you’ll have a lot of trouble getting things going again. Once you see your prison get to a pretty big size, even after putting capacitors all around your first power station, build a second one and let it handle half of the prison’s electrical cables. It’s just a great way to save yourself from a potentially huge headache down the line.
Keep in Mind Needs
After researching Psychology and setting your prison up with a Psychologist (which you definitely should do right away), you’ll have access to the prisoners’ needs section of the Reports window. A prisoners’ needs and how they are fulfilled are as follows:
- Sleeping in a Bed
- Eating in a Canteen
- Low Danger Level
- Weight Benches
- Visitation Room, Mail Room, Phone Booths
- Pool Tables, Radio, Televisions
- Sleeping in a Bed, Sitting on a Bench
- Clean Prison
- Not Locked in a Holding Cell with Others
- Laundry Room
- Reform Program or Time Without it
- Reform Program or Time Without it
- Chapel with Prayer Mats or Pews
- Reading a Book in a Library
First, make sure that you pay attention to the very basic ones that everyone will have regardless like bladder, bowel, sleep, food, safety, hygiene, exercise, family, recreation, comfort, and environment. Then, once you’ve got a hold on those, you can tackle the others that can be more advanced and aren’t as common through your prison. Keep in mind that having a shower in each room not only increases room quality but also helps with Hygiene. Also keep in mind that your Regime dictates a lot of these, so make sure the time slots are balanced well (more on this later).
Grants Are Your Friends
When you’re first starting a prison, even if you’ve played Prison Architect a ton of times, it’s really smart to follow the Grants in the Reports window. Grants will give you a certain amount of money for accepting them in advance, and then pay you once you finish the requirements. Canceling them is a bit of a pain, as you need to fork up money for penalties, and you can also only have two grants active at a time, but they’re very good guides. What they want you to do is very often what you should be doing anyway in order to build a good prison. Definitely pick the Basic Detention Center and Administration Center grants to start with.
Programs Are Also Your Friends
Programs are available within the Reports window after you’ve researched Education. You should consider setting up as many as you can, as they give your prisoners something to do when they’re interested, as well as help with a lot of issues they might have. You can cut their drug and alcohol abuse (needs an Infirmary and a Psychologist, respectively), as well as help them with spirituality needs (needs a Chapel) with certain programs. There are also general education classes to help your prisoners reform easily, workshop and kitchen classes (Workshop and Kitchen needed) to train them to work around your prison, and parole programs to potentially let out prisoners earlier than their initial sentence. Just be sure to set up Work hours throughout the day in the Regime tab so that classes can have time slots.
Know What to Research First
As was previously said, grants are your friends. If you follow them, you’ll be researching exactly as you should. Hire a Warden instantly, build an office, and get started on the new research. You’ll definitely want Finance, Psychology, Health, and Maintenance to start. Those will open up a wealth of finance options, Psychologists, the ability to see Needs, Infirmaries, Morgues, Janitors, Prison Labour, Gardeners, and the ability to quickly build whole sections through Cloning. The rest is up to you and how you want to run your prison.
Regime it Up
The Regime section of the Reports window allows you to accommodate different time slots for different activities. You’re able to set the following activities:
- Sends all prisoners to their cells. Never set this unless you want to make your prisoners unhappy really easily.
- It’s bedtime for your prison. Eight hours at night is recommended for this activity.
- Your prisoners will head to the nearest/assigned canteen and start munching. Make sure to have at least two of these throughout the day and give more than just one hour if you have a big prison so that everyone has their chance at the serving table.
- Your prisoners will head to the nearest shower to wash up. Once in a day is enough for this, and it’s best after the sleep block is done as that’s what makes hygiene go down a lot. Depending on how big your prison is, you may want to consider more than one hour for this activity.
- Your prisoners will do whatever in this time. Usually head to radios, bookshelves, televisions, and phone booths. This one’s very good to have at least once in a day because it’ll potentially fulfill multiple needs for your prisoners.
- Your prisoners will head to the yard area, run around, use phone booths, and lift weights (provided you put the proper items in the first place). This one is very useful like Freetime; it allows for multiple needs to get fulfilled.
- Your prisoners will head to work if they have a job around the prison or they will head to any programs and classes they’re signed up for during these hours. If you have a small prison, start with at least one, two hour block a day of this for programs. Once your prison goes more and more prisoners become interested in certain programs, consider longer time slots or more blocks devoted to Work.
Room Quality Is Important
Cells individually have their own quality scores (from 0-10) based on certain criteria:
- If it’s at least 6 squares (total area)
- If it’s at least 9 squares (total area)
- If it’s at least 16 squares (total area)
- If there’s a Shower Head
- If there’s an Office Desk
- If there’s a Chair
- If there’s a Bookshelf
- If there’s a TV
- If there’s a Radio
- If there’s a Window that shows the outside
Each one of those a cell has adds a point to that cell’s quality. Prisoners are automatically put in higher-quality cells based on how long they’ve gone without incident, and they’re not going to be causing a ruckus in your prison if they’re happily placed in a high quality one. Don’t go crazy building a ton of high quality cells, though, they won’t work if the prisoner doesn’t deserve it. Just be sure to build a couple varying degrees of cells so that prisoners that do deserve to be in better quality, have the option to be.
But Screw Solitary Confinement
Solitary Confinement is where your prisoners go when they’ve committed crimes within your prison and got caught. Make sure you have a wing for Solitary cells. The best part is that these don’t have any quality or minimum requirements to build. Make it a square surrounded by four walls, throw on a Solitary Door, and you’re all set with it. They’re necessary for even the best prisons as someone is bound to get out of line, so might as well make them take up as little space as possible.
Keep Things Connected
There’s a lot of difficulty in making everything work if you try to disconnect the prison in certain ways. Canteens will be harder to access, showers will be confusing, and a yard might be too far away. Always make sure your prison has central stuff, accessed by cells all around. Or, if you’re going to separate things up a bit, always make sure to build the necessary rooms next to every block so no one goes hungry or without a yard or shower to visit. The cloning skill researched from the Maintenance branch might be very useful in this. It definitely will be as you create cell blocks, at least.
In no time, you’ll be the best Prison Architect this world (or Steam’s Workshop) has ever seen!