Cell-ibrating Prison Architect’s Finest Jails

*Gavel thumps* “Silence! Bring the prisoner forward. Craig ‘Thomas’ Pearson, you have been found guilty of being a rubbish Prison Architect. A most serious offense that resulted in a record number of convicted felons escape your shoddily designed hole. As punishment, you are to spend the morning looking at the Steam Workshop, finding lovely prisons that you can compare your weedy efforts to. Then we’ll shoot you or drown you or something. Be off with you, and may Gabe have mercy on your soul.”

It’s true. I am no good at designing prisons. My attempts to create criminal corrals have been more poorridge than porridge, more clunk than clink, all fail and no jail. To be honest, I’ve no idea why they even asked me to build one. But I don’t need to be good, as other people are aiding and abetting me with their work on the Steam Workshop. A fairly recent update allows players to share their own gaols, and as I suspected there have been piles of interesting lock-ups uploaded. I’ve had a quick scour of the Workshop, and found some dramatically designed and detailed detainers. Some of these are only possible with a few funds embezzled, but I’ve not punished the creators for that. I just loved looking at what people can do with the tools at hand.


The circular walls of of Kumpla shouldn’t exist, because the game is built on straight lines. Nevertheless, the designer teased circles out of the otherwise unwieldly building blocks. It’s not based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, which is a shame, but instead there’s a fictional backstory of scientists using prisoners as slaves to help build an anti-gravity device. It seems like it should be oppressive, but there’s weight benches in the cells and a common room, so it’s not a total hellhole.

Nikola Tesla Tribute

Another circular layout. This prison is designed as a tribute to Tesla’s AC motor, mirroring the wrapped coils of the wires with the pathways. Aside from celebrating one of the greatest people ever to have been portrayed by David Bowie, the layout is apparently mostly efficient, and only the workshops need some streamlining to get it up to speed.

Paradise City

This isn’t flashy and it isn’t based on anything in particular, despite the name suggesting it should have green grass (it does) and pretty girls (it does not). It is a big and well-balanced prison that’s fun to fiddle with. If you’re not very good at the game, poke around this one and see what makes it tick along.

Star Trek Prison

I love the backstory of this: the USS Enterprise has been decommissioned and sent to the surface of a planet to be used as a prison. It’s in a bare state with minimal prisoners and plenty of empty beds awaiting intergalactic evildoers, and it’s up to you to turn it into a working prison. My favorite detail is the electric chair: from the view we have, I think it’s been placed in the same position as the Captain’s Chair. Make it so.

Tower Of London

Wow. This is a giant and surprisingly faithful recreation of the Tower of London. The medieval design allows the prisoners plenty of space to roam when they’re not all tucked up in their freshly laundered prison sheets. This isn’t just a taxing prison on the population’s lungs: the size of the map will make weaker PCs wheeze like they’ve just been shivved in the shower. Despite the size, it’s actually a tad overstaffed. If you need a few extra FPS, you can sack a few guards without too much trouble.

Town of Cathnicle

This feels like it’s part of a thought experiment: what would happen if you gave prisoners a place to live and work in, and not just a prison? The result is Cathnicle, an almost impossible to maintain town with a town hall, a hospital, a police station, a park, a church, a graveyard, a morgue, restaurants, laundromats, factories, as well as apartments for the prisoners. The money it costs to keep the prisoners living as free men should will almost always prove too much for you to win.

The Turtle

There are many design principles that architects apply to their work, but I don’t imagine ‘making it look like a reptile as viewed from above’ is likely to win many awards. That’s what The Turtle does, and while it’s a cute little prison design, it’s also apparently prone to riots. That seems like a challenge to your despotic abilities, if you ask me.

Cell Block Ideas

This is just showing off. It’s a small prison that can house up to 128 prisoners at a time. It’s the internal structure that makes it worth downloading: there are ten different cell designs here, but even as it’s showing off all the different ways you can house tattooed hard-men, it’s an efficiently designed prison as well.

The Kestrel – FTL Prison ship

After the horrors of fleeing from the rebels, FTL’s Kestral has been recomissioned as a prison transport ship. You’d think this would throw up a bunch of design challenges, but it’s not as cramped as the original game’s ship. There’s room here for a decent number of cells, should you have the skill to shape the left over space into an efficient criminal catcher.

Green Park Forced Retirement Community
Just another well-designed lock-up, but one with a murky description that pitches the place as a “retirement community”. It sounds like a great place to live in practice, and it actually works pretty smoothly as a prison, but really this is here so you can click the link and enjoy the lengthy reworking of prison life as a gentile community endeavor.


  1. Hahaha says:

    Alpha 13 looks to add some good stuff. Unfortunately not going to play until full segregation is in (high/med/low)

    • Montavious says:

      Um, cant you use the deployment option to do that now? Was released a couple alphas ago wasnt it?

  2. PatrickSwayze says:

    Seeing that Kestrel styled prison is enough to cough up I think.

    Anyone, how’s the music for Prison Architect? Should I crank up the FTL soundtrack instead?

    • Gap Gen says:

      A Prison Architect / FTL mashup would be awesome. Send a prison ship out to explore the galaxy, have riots break out on the ship, fistfights between alien boarders and big men with MUM tattooed across their foreheads.

      • Sgt.Knumskull says:

        had smt like this also in mind. story a la FTL: get to sector x with a ship full of the universe’ scum from all kinds of different xeno races. :D

  3. Nenjin says:

    The SFX are more about ambiance than actual music. I think there’s music for when riots start, but other than that, it’s mostly just background noises and atmospheric touches.

  4. BTAxis says:

    Though I bought into the alpha during the steam sale, I sadly still haven’t put any sort of time into this game yet. I watch the alpha update videos though, I like listening to those guys talk.

  5. PopeRatzo says:

    You know who else is really good at Prison Architect?

  6. themes_and_conventions says:

    There are many design principles that architects apply to their work, but I don’t imagine ‘making it look like a reptile as viewed from above’ is likely to win many awards. That’s what The Turtle does, and while it’s a cute little prison design, it’s also apparently prone to riots. That seems like a challenge to your despotic abilities, if you ask me.

    This is real arcatecture

  7. iucounu says:

    A gentile community endeavour? What, is it run by anti-semites?

  8. daphne says:

    RPS, you guys should do an interview with the post-Prison Architect Introversion: The Introversion that’s no longer perpetually broke, and is okay for the forseeable future. That’s definitely something new, both for them and those who’ve been following them for more than ten years now. I hope you consider it!

    • hatseflats says:

      Do you mean they’re still broke, but that will change when the game is released and becomes a hit? Or are they already swimming in money due to alpha access?

      I’m kind of waiting until the final game, playing a game with parts of content missing or bugs tend to sour the experience to the point I don’t enjoy the final product.

  9. Turkey says:

    Predicting a lot more dong based architecture once the early access stuff ends.

  10. Caiman says:

    but I don’t imagine ‘making it look like a reptile as viewed from above’ is likely to win many awards

    Ah, but you would be wrong!

    (Timsah Arena in Turkey opening in 2014, and Gagudju Crocodile Hotel in Kakadu National Park, completed in 2003, the latter the recipient of a design award).

  11. Voronwer says:

    You just posted this because I’m trying to resist the Steam sale, didn’t you? *twitches*

  12. Hiraether says:

    Panopticanned!! XD WAhahahah! That’s Brilliant. All of you go study Michel Foucault & understand just how funny that french play on words actually is. I really like the Kumpla because it reminds me of Foucault’s philosophies on the perfect prison, mostly concerning Bentham’s Panopticon, but multiplied. I hope someone more skilled then I recreates his work in Prison Architect.

    Btw, we should all be a bit frightened that Panopticon isn’t in spell-check & vanishing from common parlance, as some would very much like our society reduced to one.
    “They’re tryin’ to build a prison.” Ya’ dig?
    Prison Architect is going to be a cult classic, just watch.

    Ty, Craig Pearson, I just joined RPS because of your intelligent story. :3