One For You, Alpha 19 For Me: Prison Architect Adds Taxes


After recent updates added bulletproof vests and shotguns, it was probably inevitable that Prison Architect would continue it’s escalation towards more and more exciting additions with each alpha. The trend continues in alpha 19 with a broad revision to the game’s finance systems, which introduces new rules for borrowing, the need to pay corporation tax, and the ability to sell shares in your prison to investors.

Video update below while I try to explain why I’m not being sarcastic.

Alright, I’m being a bit sarcastic.

But Prison Architect’s progression curve is linked to your ability to make money. If money is slow in trickling in – and it always was, unless you cheated or took loans – then your ability to build and expand your prison was slowed. When that’s the core thing that’s fun about the game, the obstacles that slow your progression need to be damned interesting to counter the frustration or boredom.

The largest change in alpha 19 is that it introduces the export room, which can be used to sell the goods your prison produces. You were already able to sell those items, but now you receive the money as soon as they’re shipped off by delivery trucks rather than waiting for midnight. That should hopefully leave fewer hours of the day where you’re broke and just waiting for pay day.

Beyond that, it’s a set of very nerdy sounding updates that add, among other things, a bunch of new grant types and requirements, more uses for your accountant employee, and, yeah, the need to pay 30% corporation tax on all your profits. Unless you’ve unlocked an offshore tax haven.

See the full change list over at the Introversion blog.


  1. GernauMorat says:

    For profit prisons. Lovely. I know its a game, but the theme of this one really bothers me. Am I alone in this?

    • Harlander says:

      For-profit prisons bother me. The existence of games about them doesn’t so much.

    • JohnnyPanzer says:

      I’m with Harlander on this one. If you feel this way, then surely you must be even more bothered by every single game revolving around the concept of warfare?

      If anything, PA takes it’s responsibility more seriously than most games, considering that they provide you with the tools to build all kinds of prisons. If you want to build a prison modeled after, say, Swedish prisons, it’s just as easy as building a San Quentin. You can build a perfectly functional rehabilitation center using nothing but grants.

    • mistwolf says:

      it SHOULD bother you, but that’s part of the point of the game. The US prison system is already mostly outsourced to for-profit companies, who are pushing fun legislation like being able to ‘rent out’ inmates to pay for things, while not actually paying them. Making inmates slaves! And since they get paid by the head from the government, they contribute heavily to politicians and legislation that increase people sent to prison, and things like mandatory minimums.

      In short, if the game bothers you, write your congresscritter, since the game is far less odious than reality actually is now!

      • Koozer says:

        Wait wait wait, prisons run for profit are actually real? Jesus. That’s like making money out of healthca…wait a minute.

        • mistwolf says:

          I am blessed to live a dual citizenship life so I can compare things health care between different systems. Sadly, the US being so ‘great’, people assume they have the best everything, so there are plenty of people here trying to follow them down the road of best intentions.

        • P.Funk says:

          Healthcare is a service to a user of a system, even if its an essential service. Prisons inhabit a totally different ethical realm, or they ought to. Other than being committed for all kinds of whacky disorders that inhibit your ability to make sound judgments, healthcare doesn’t resemble the notion behind the penal system. But you’re surely smart enough to see that.

          Basically when your business is depriving humans of their freedom for reasons society has decided are valid in order to rehabilitate them associating the entire motivation for this system with profit is like taking an enormous ethical leap backwards as we muddy the waters of how to deal with this already muddy concept.

          Its pretty obvious that the US’ private prison system is a self fulfilling entity that basically lobbies to have people put in prison for no reason other than to legitimize the billing of the government for more monies for a service that is unneeded to the degree its grown. Its not like we have corporations tied to the health care system actually lobbying the government to deliberately put arsenic into playgrounds to get more cancer patients so they can get more money.

          If you ended the war on drugs and changed all those laws to match a reasonable modern Western nation’s view on things then you’d find a lot of people without work.

          Prisons as industry is just… so fucked up.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        Actually, a lot of your information is skewed or incorrect.

        For-profit prisons certainly exist, but the terms get a bit muddied when you conflate all of the different profit schemes in American prisons.

        There are a large number of private-run prisons. These are prisons that are run by for-profit companies, with Corrections Corporation of America (yes, that’s their name, feel free to check out their website, too) being the largest and most notable player in the field. CCA contracts typically stipulate that they will guarantee 95% or higher occupancy. CCA is also a major lobbyist for mandatory minimum sentencing.

        The other way in which privatized industry has been established off of prison is the use of prisoners to make goods and provide staffing solutions. The vast majority (I would say all, but I don’t know if that’s true) of state and local prisons use their prisoner employees to manufacture and then sell goods under the name of state-owned LLCs. For example, in Virginia there is the Virginia Corrections Enterprise. VCE primarily sells office furniture and uniforms. The state government of Virginia is contractually obligated to buy furniture from this company when establishing offices. If VCE cannot meet full demand for an order, the state entity may then request bids for other contracts. Basically, if there a new State Health building being built in Virginia, the furniture must be bought from VCE and can only be bought elsewhere if VCE is unable to provide it.

        There are also a number of prisons that use inmates as “staffing solutions” for other companies to augment their existing workforces, most typically for technical support and other customer-care solutions. For example, United Airlines used to use prison labor for their customer complain contact line. The inmates were basically just screeners and then they passed the calls on to the non-inmate employees that could actually resolve the issue.

        While these inmates don’t get paid much, (anywhere from $0.10 to just around a dollar, last time I checked back in the mid-2000’s) they do get paid. It is not slave labor. There is a lot wrong with the prison labor systems in America, but it is not slave labor.

        -edit- I’d also like to note that the previous is just a few examples, and not all uses of prison labor are horrific for-profit schemes, either.

        In Vermont, there are several inmate-run dairy programs that provide low-cost milk to the poor and free milk to food banks and other gov’t run institutions, like hospitals. Other states, but not all, have similar programs. Besides VCE, in Virginia there is a farmland program that raises and slaughters cattle. This provides enough beef for all of the state-level prisons and also provides some beef for low-income schools.

        As I said in the beginning, there are actually many for-profit schemes or ways in which prisons use inmate labor to offset costs to other institutions or to directly profit.

    • AbigailBuccaneer says:

      I was kind of waiting for the game to make some sort of political point about for-profit prisons, and it just… hasn’t.

      • Sam says:

        It’s really interesting to me how the game doesn’t directly comment on the morality of what’s going on within its systems, yet the creators are clearly aware of it. Like how the tutorial teaching you how to hook up electricity systems just so happens to be powering an execution, or the unlockable tax haven.

        Awful things can happen in your prison, and I think it’s a sign of maturity in the game’s design that they are just allowed to happen without moralising comment. It’s up to the player to realise what they’re doing, and see how the systems of rewards are pushing them as the manifestation of a corporate entity to do these terrible things to people.

        I certainly think the game would be weakened by some morality meter (the player’s cursor can turn red and spiky!), but further exploration of the effects on prisoners and their families could be valuable. Reports of what happens to prisoners and relatives after they leave your institution, and just generally more stuff to humanise the prisoners.

        • Eggman says:

          What Sam said. The point is in your in-game actions and how they contrast (or don’t contrast) with your real life opinions.

          To OP: few people are actually aware of what’s going on in these for-profit prisons. Isn’t it a good thing this game raises awareness of this?

          • GernauMorat says:

            Eggman -Fair enough, and fair point on awareness. I don’t have any objection to the games existence, and certainly I do far worse things in games in pretty often (plenty of slaughtering natives in EU4 for one), but this somehow presses my particular buttons!

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            I’d say that anything that get people to pay attention t the issues of privatized prisons is a good thing, but I’d argue that Prison Architect does little to nothing to inform people on the issue. If people don’t know about this, then it’s because they have deliberately and selectively ignored it. This issue, at least in America, has been front-page news in major publications several times.

            Awareness has already helped promote a few good measures, such as restructuring suggested sentencing guidelines for crack-cocaine to be more in line with those of cocaine and there have been pushes in Congress to repeal and/or minimize numerous minimal sentencing statutes.

    • AngusPrune says:

      The Theme X genre of management sims is pretty much running out of gathering places to manage. It was either prison or megachurch, and this way probably provokes less outrage.

  2. Great Cthulhu says:

    Am I the only one who initially read “… adds Texas“?

    Somehow seemed quite appropriate too. :-)

    • torchedEARTH says:

      No, you aren’t. It’s that thing where as long as the first and last letters of a word are in the right place, then if you read quickly your brain makes all kinds of assumptions. Stupid brain!

      link to

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Prison Architect, featuring Joe Arpaio!

  3. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    A thousand upvotes for that headline pun.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      I wrote it just for you. Thanks for noticing.

      (I am very proud of it.)

  4. rawdog says:

    This looks like a great game for mobile gaming. Does anyone know of anything good / similar? I need something for a long flight.

  5. Tom Walker says:

    One day – perhaps on the RPS bicentennial in 2073 – someone will think to search the site for VIDEOGAMES and this post will be the only result.

  6. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Is that the daily swastika delivery in the first image?

  7. Ooops says:

    Do you think now would be a good time to jump into the Prisons Architect bandwagon? Does it begin to resemble a full-feature game, or are the early access bumps still all too obvious.

    I’ve been meaning to play this game, I’m sure I’ll love in in the end, but I’m afraid to have that experience spoiled prematurely by running into something too obviously unpolished.

    • Nevard says:

      I’ve decided that as tough as it might be, I’m going to limit myself to watching the dev diaries until they decide the game is officially complete. Any earlier than that and I will definitely burn myself out before they add something cool and I will not experience it.

      • JohnnyPanzer says:

        Not trying to be snark (honestly), but do you apply the same logic to launched games? Do you hold out on buying in case a future patch could add something cool?

        If you like builder games, I really think you’d be happy with your purchase. Also, they add new builds in a pretty hectic pace, so you’d get something new and cool every month or so.

        • Harlander says:

          The difference is that a fully-released game has been described as feature-complete, while one in alpha or whatever hasn’t.

          • JohnnyPanzer says:

            True. My brain went haywire for a second there.

          • Nevard says:

            Basically that yes.
            While a game is in early access there are likely to be significant changes and additions, with comparatively short intervals between them compared to the releases of DLC, content patches and Expansions that are applied to full games. Not to mention that… it’s not necessarily going to work properly anyway.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Basically, yes. I wait for a collectors edition with all the dlc added and bugs ironed out.

        • Tssha says:

          Yeah, I myself have gotten myself burned out on a game in full release, BEFORE the main patch came out that fixed everything broken…or at least, everything majorly broken. So I know what you mean, there.

          It’s a tricky decision, so I don’t blame anyone for the side they come down on. I only dislike those who blame others for “ruining it for everyone” by doing X, because “they’re only encouraging more of this” in developers and game development. Such aggrandizing I cannot stand…

    • JohnnyPanzer says:

      I’ve had it since alpha 9, and I considered it a full feature game from the moment I loaded it up.

      Depending on your taste, you should be able to pour a few thousand hours into it at this stage.

      edit: To clarify, this game and Kerbal Space Program could have launched as full featured indie games months ago and while reviews surely would have mentioned that more content could have been included, few would have gone as far as to call the games unfinished.

      In these cases, I truly think that the alpha status says more about the developer’s stance on honesty than the state of the actual games. They know they have more to offer, and they refuse to call it complete until THEY consider it complete. But both games packs more content and pollish then most AAA titles currently on the market, and have been doing so for a long time.

      • The First Door says:

        I really, really don’t agree with you on this. I adore PA and I’m enjoying me time with it, but it really hasn’t ever yet been ‘fully featured’, let alone polished. There are (acknowledged) building and pathing bugs all over the place, especially when your prison gets larger. Just last night my builders refused to build a door in an exterior wall until I demolished a hole in a different wall, for example. The object interface is frankly a bit pants still, with it being difficult to find what is required for a room before you build it, let alone being able to guess how large the room needs to be, and many of the rooms until recently didn’t even have a real purpose!

        To answer Ooops though, this alpha is a good place to jump in, I think. The new grants make it much easier to work out what you should be building and when, as they have dependencies built in. That means the game is better at showing what is required to get an initial small prison working, before letting you start working on the more complex mid game stuff. Just bare in mind it is just a sandbox still. Unlike something like Rimworld, it’s not very clever as balancing what it throws at you yet. From what I remember, you get to pick either to get prisoners each day, or only when you want them.

        In short: If, like me, you enjoy building and experimenting, it’s really, really fun and now’s a good time to jump in with the new grants. But be aware that sometimes the AI will be a bit silly.

        • JohnnyPanzer says:

          Absolutely, I agree on all your points. However, I believe that most (if not) all of us have bought games that were considered complete and enjoyed them, even though they had bugs and content issues much more severe than those found in PA.

          The pathing bugs can be annoying, and sometimes walls can’t be demolished. There are plenty of bugs. Yet I have payed full price for dozens of AAA titles with much more game-breaking bugs over the years and in many of those cases I still enjoyed the game because the core gameplay was simply way too much fun to ignore. In my opinion, PA reached that state several months ago.

        • P.Funk says:

          I agree that there are bugs that inhibit that sense of total accomplishment because they are beyond your ability to control.

          My most annoying one right now is the prison laundry. Its just so damned inefficient because its not built for any kind of concurrent activity, rather it works on one consecutive procedural step after another. You can have 10 people working in the laundry but have them all standing around because someone is pushing one cart around filing it up with dirty laundry, but since its not full to its max he hasn’t returned it, but nobody else is filling up one of the other empty laundry carts because well… dumb. Then if the guy bringing the dirty laundry isn’t done for some reason the guys standing around aren’t distributing the clean laundry sitting there next to them.

          At a certain point an iteration in this game gets very dull if you can’t begin to perfect the routines of the whole system. Once you’ve built all there is to build and can’t go bigger without breaking the balance you want to tweak. Seeing half my cells packed with discarded soiled garments that nobody will pick up in the 7 straight hours of prison labour is all kinds of annoying.

          And don’t even get me started on the thing where they won’t stamp license plates all the time if you’re in the process of cutting wood, even if there are blank license plates RIGHT THERE ON THE FRIGGIN MACHINES.

    • hemmingjay says:

      The game is rock solid right now. Last month I wouldn’t have said it. With the addition of the economic system the game is pretty well balanced. It’s very easy to make $1500 a day or more from the beginning and much more later on.

      Some minor bugs persist but no game stoppers right now. They also continue to add content to an already impressive list.

      • jalf says:

        I guess for me the criteria is basically this:

        is it a game yet? Or more of a free-form tech demo?

        In other words, are there goals, purpose, progression in the game? Can I fail? Does it challenge me to actually play the game well? Or is it still just a matter of trying out the new toys added in each update and then… well, do it all over again in a different way until you get bored or they add yet more content?

        I’m not worried about the game being buggy, but I know that I will quickly burn out on it if it is completely aimless with no direction and no challenges (and no fail conditions)

        So by these criteria, is it there yet? (And don’t worry, I’ll definitely buy it sooner or later, so they’ll get my money regardless.)

      • P.Funk says:

        Immensely enjoyable should not equal “rock solid”.

        Too much stuff is still bugged.

  8. almostDead says:

    I have found this game dull as ditchwater to play, which may be much more a reflection on me. The biggest issue being there is lots of detail, but none of it really matters to filling up the screen with stuff and getting a ton of money.

    I spent some minutes on the website before trotting this out, but have they mentioned whether they are going to tackle race based gangs, and sexual violence, two topics I have noticed seem to matter a great deal in any TV show or documentary I have watched on America’s prisons.

    • hemmingjay says:

      It seems you are looking for a rape simulator. I’m afraid you have to choose Japanese language only games for that.

      Prison Architect is a Business Sim/Tycoon/Builder game and if you don’t like that blend then you won’t like it. With riots, constant new goals to reach, prisoners to try to rehabilitate, production for profit lines to setup, land purchases and expansion…..etc

    • Bronxsta says:

      Don’t worry. Prisonscape has got you covered. It’s a prison RPG with drugs, sexual violence, nudity, gang violence, etc.
      link to

      • almostDead says:

        Thank you. This looks interesting. How are you finding out about things like this?

  9. Donners says:

    Sorry to be this person, but ‘its’ does not have an apostrophe when used in the form it appears in the first paragraph.

  10. Sinlessmoon says:

    Taxes? The lone star state?