Prison Architect Adds Women’s Jails

Prison Architect [official site] emerged from its long stint in Early Access earlier this year and recently clinched the Best Management Game accolade in RPS’s Advent Calendar 2015. Now it has, finally, added female prisons. Luckily, there’s more to it than simple sprite swapping, as Introversion’s Chris Delay and Mark Morris detail in the accompanying video featured below.

“We didn’t want to just swap the graphics, we wanted to do more,” explains designer Delay. “The criticism that’s often leveled is that women are kind of one dimensional,” adds producer Morris. “Or, worse than that, that they’re like an idealised male view of what a woman should be in a game rather than just characters. Simply changing the sprite back does not make a woman’s prison. We’ve had many conversations over the years about how we might sensitively do this.”

In essence, Morris and Delay want this update to have meaning – not just against external discourse but to the game itself. Female prisoners have different needs compared to their male counterparts, for example, and their needs trees function in a slightly different manner. For female inmates, keeping a watchful eye on both Family and Hygiene needs is more important, and women in the game don’t fight as effectively against guards of the opposite sex.

As is the case in real life, some female prisoners have young babies and are entitled to look after them within the prison, thus new facilities by way of Mother and Baby Units have been introduced. Likewise, Family Cells are new, which are set apart from regular rooms and are equipped with cots and integrated showers.

Similarly, Nurseries serve to house a number of mothers at once where they’ll live and eat with their wee ones. This directly affects the game’s underlying systems, as, logistically, the Nursery now becomes a direct supply and demand point for the Kitchen. This also means that mums living in these quarters will live an almost separate existence to the rest of the prison population, thus I’m intrigued to see how this affects their relationships with both one another and everyone else.

Prison Architect’s Steam users will be updated automatically while non-Steamers can grab Update 2 here. Full update details can be found this-a-way, which also include alterations to the game’s modding API, as well as a few minor bug fixes.


  1. InfamousPotato says:

    Man, that’s kinda… depressing. I mean, I’m glad introversion is doing this. I applaud their work. But even reading about virtual mothers who have to raise their kids in prison…

    • Kitsunin says:

      Really doesn’t seem any more depressing than anything else in Prison Architect.

    • Cropduster says:

      Well watching personal tragedy slowly give way to dehumanizing systems management is kind of Prison Architect’s MO.

      Glad to see they’re still actively doing stuff with this great game.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      How does this differ from any other game?

      PS, my new game, watching Star Trek or James Bond and all the likes, and thinking about everyone’s family. Everyone’s.

      “Nice one Jim, you gone and done blown up half the enterprise and dropped a cruiser on Starfleet. :( “

    • pepperfez says:

      Extra depressing: In implementing prison nurseries, PA gives an unrealistically generous representation of the US prison system. Only nine states actually have such facilities. In the others, children born to incarcerated mothers (and they will be born, because most states forbid prisoners from having abortions) are placed directly into foster care and often never see their mothers again.

      • Hahaha says:

        Lucky it’s not trying to portray usa prisons then

        • James0 says:

          Really? I get an extremely American vibe from the whole thing. Which other country has a history of executing people with electric chairs, or having prisoners manufacture “license plates”? The tutorial levels even feature an Italian-American mafia family.

        • Scripten says:

          If I’m not mistaken, I think they are going for a faux-American prison system, seen through the lens of non-American eyes and cinema.

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        My information on Prison Architect is entirely based on the Three Moves Ahead podcast so a grain of salt is required buutttt…
        … Prison Architect does not give you any obligations beyond “Prevent the prisoners from escaping (and preferably prevent people that are not supposed to die from dying)”. Nurseries are one of the many options you have to make your prisoners’ life easier, but nobody outside your prison actually seems to care, which is depressingly realistic.

  2. Jediben says:

    If you think I’m going to treat female prisoners any differently than the males purely on gender grounds, you are very much mistaken: that would be sexist. Everyone gets 22 hours of solitary with an armed guard outside, baby or no!

  3. peanutbutter11 says:

    I’ve seen Orange is the New Black and I know that there aren’t any nurseries in prison. They get sold the the Chinese and that’s that. We all know it happens.

    • Beanbee says:


    • asmodemus says:

      Watch Wentworth instead.

      Vastly better and much, much nastier ;)

      • Lars Westergren says:

        After seeing many good but grim and violent crime shows on HBO and Netflix, the comparative mildness and good humor of Orange is the new Black is a relief.

        I’ve only watched the first three or so episodes, I realize it can get dark too. Please don’t spoil it for me.

    • Nizzemancer says:

      Well…Based on the prison-films I’ve seen this is a lesbian gangbang waiting to happen.

  4. fuggles says:

    “The criticism that’s often leveled is that women are kind of one dimensional” – How dare you sir?! That is not my experience at all.

  5. Sarfrin says:

    So to avoid idealised versions of women they’ve introduced caring for babies, (presumably “feminine”) hygiene and being weaker than men?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I read this with an increasing sense of dread.

      • aleander says:

        Ah, I don’t actually like the way it works, but article kinda doesn’t get in the nuance: women have on average less bulk in the game (but have enough variance to compensate), there’re nurseries because they (according to the authors) are a thing in prisons, and hygiene — well, I guess there might be a practical socially-mandated reason for that as well.

        To be clear: I feel that outside of documentaries you can’t just say “only women’s prisons have nurseries in the real world, so that’s what we’ll do” and think you’re covered. Same thing about being weaker, maybe that’s what comes out from some research or something, but without going deep into why and how, I do feel that putting that into a game is harmful.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Look, I get that there’s a lot of sexism in the world, but it’s a fact that women on average don’t have the same muscle bulk as men, and the difference is very significant statistically. Per their weight there’s an average 6% difference, and considering the difference in average weight it’s greater than a 30% difference in total muscle mass. From a gameplay perspective, the idea is that women’s needs are more difficult to take handle, but they aren’t quite as dangerous. Realistic? Not entirely, but they did need to do something to make them meaningfully different, and it’s a clever way to handle that.

          Nurseries exist in real life to deal with the problem “what if someone is incarcerated while pregnant or with a very very young child?” I’m not exactly sure how that’s so much worse than someone with an older child being jailed, or a single father, but it is probably true that if the mother can take care of the baby for its first year or so, family is more likely to be able to handle things after that. It’s a growing phenomenon, too, and has a very significant effect on recidivism.

          • aleander says:

            Look, I get that there’s a lot of sexism in the world, but it’s a fact that women on average don’t have the same muscle bulk as men, and the difference is very significant statistically.

            Look, I get that it’s late and everyone would be rather playing ETS2 right now, but you really should consider actually reading what you’re responding to. Because you clearly didn’t.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Oh, I dunno about “didn’t read it” but “misunderstood the subtext” is apt.

            In the first paragraph, I misread? your verbiage as being very critical, mostly because of your second paragraph, which I now see isn’t exactly directed at PA. The way I read it was “PA only has nurseries because they are a thing in prisons (According to the authors, what? That’s a fact, although many more don’t than do.) and making women on average weaker is harmful (I guess without actively approaching things from a political angle, simply implementing reality is bad?).”

            Don’t get me wrong, making women weaker than men without going deep into things, that’s a problem, but making them on average weaker by the same amount as reality, that isn’t.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Brace yourself. Tumblr is coming.

        • Yglorba says:

          Oh, give it a rest already. Nobody cares about your dumb cultural crusades. You’re the one who always pops up in threads like these to shove your politics down our throats, not them.

          • ShatteredAwe says:

            I doubt people on Tumblr sit around waiting for things to get outraged by.

            But *certain people* seem to love sitting around trying to tir up false outrage, though.

          • Distec says:

            Oh brother. As if people don’t love to vomit up their own political opinions in RPS comments without prompting.

          • rabbit says:

            you’re talking, i assume, about the people who complain in the comments below any article with even a whiff of left-leaning politics.

          • Distec says:

            But of course. RPS comments are always being smothered with right-wing drive-by trolls. Nobody else can get a word in edge-wise!


          • rabbit says:

            i didn’t say that. but it happens often enough for me not be overly sympathetic when someone on the right moans about someone on the left doing the same thing.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Internet comments are pretty easy to not read when they’re not about a thing you’ve worked on. And while RPS still gets bad at times, it’s not a touch on the worst of it—most of the hostile comments under this article aren’t even about the game. Here is not the problem.

          The real dread is for Introversion getting hit hard because I honestly don’t know how you can do this without pissing off at least one of the bile-spewing angry pustulent boils of the Internet, and making women -4 STR baby factories (and, by comparison, men angry fighting machines that care not for their discarded offspring) does not seem like a way to avoid it, no matter how careful or innocent their intent, or how nuanced those differences may actually be.

          • Distec says:

            I can’t really see the “GG camp” – a shitty descriptor I use for lack of a better one – being upset by this. They’ve not really been the type to complain about genders having mechanical differences in games; that’s typically been a gripe that comes from the other direction. I don’t think anybody’s going to be in an uproar over PA adding women, despite whatever tabloid level, bullcrap headline may come out of this (“The MRA backlash against Introversion!”).

            I think it’s okay to hard code some differences in males/females for games like this, since the ultimate goal is to give the player interesting variables to work with and not make some statement regarding gender parity. But that’s why it seems so strange that they’re framing this development as more than that. I mean, do you really need to couch this in language about how you’re working hard to subvert the Ms. Male trope, and your game will have complex, three-dimensional prison ladies after careful and considered internal discussion? That seems thoroughly unnecessary and a bit like bullshit, honestly.

            Of course, with today’s zeitgeist I can understand why they feel the need to throw out that particular CYA. But if there’s a target on Introversion’s back as a result of this, it would likely be from the people who would love to hang them with their own words for failing to “deliver” on their stated intent.

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      Women take care of babies, have different hygiene needs and are weaker than men.

      Is this not a well known thing in Internet Land?

      • Jediben says:

        Of course it isn’t: there are no womenz on the internet

      • darkath says:

        I guess those people would have been content with a sprite swap, mixed gender prisons, and women smashing the heads of guards when they dont have enough benches in the yard. Also trading babies for contraband.

      • ShatteredAwe says:

        “take care of babies, are weaker than men”

        Woah I wasn’t aware we were living in the 1950s. This comments section seems to have brought me back in time, amazing.

        • Snack says:

          It really isn’t that amazing, it’s just reality, something that 60 years couldn’t change despite the cultural shift.
          Are we to ignore biology now, how would that help anyone?
          link to

    • Rindan says:

      You sure do complain a lot without giving any solutions. What exactly would you have preferred to see?

  6. int says:

    Be ye wary of Joan “The Freak” Ferguson. She’ll root your arse for sure.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Phasma Felis says:

    I don’t think it’s a slur against women to observe that babies sometimes come out of them, and that (on average) they have trouble against men in physical fights. In the context of a prison sim, I can’t actually think of anything that would be more appropriate to differentiate between the sexes. (The hygiene focus is debatable.)

    The safest thing for them to do here would be to continue to ignore women’s prisons entirely. Adding that feature puts them in a crossfire between “these women aren’t different enough from men” and “these women are too different from men.” (And the ever-popular “how dare you spend development time on women without prominently exposed breasts.”) I feel like it’s a bold move on their part, and I’m not seeing anything that makes me think they’ve completely blown it.

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      It goes without saying, but there’s no difference whatsoever between men and women. That being said, we all know women are vastly superior, they told me so.

  8. Sakai says:

    Anita Sarkeesian no doubt celebrates this win for equality. :)

    • GWOP says:

      Gotta bring ‘er up on every topic on wimmin.

      You guys are obsessed with her.

      • machineageproductions says:

        Aw. We should celebrate the fact that they’ve learned a woman’s name. (No, Bayonetta doesn’t count.)

        • GWOP says:

          Yes, it’s an improvement over the Literally Who designations. Good on them.

          *pat* *pat*

        • Sakai says:

          I’ll have you know some of my best friends are women.

      • Sakai says:

        I’m not obsessed with her. You can put anyone else in her place, or just “feminists”. I don’t care. :) I just thought it was funny. :) As in i don’t believe this people care about equality one bit.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          Yes very clever, ‘feminist don’t care about equality’ haw haw haw. Aren’t they missing you at Reddit?

          • Sakai says:

            Some do actually, like Liana Kerzner. Though they are few and far between unfortunately. :(

          • rabbit says:

            spoken like someone who has very little idea of what the word ‘feminism’ actually means

        • ShatteredAwe says:

          If you’re not obsessed with her why did you even bring her up? Or feminism at all? All they’re doing is adding women to this game. This has literally nothing to do with Feminism or Sarkeesian.

          I swear RPS comments are just getting worse and worse.

  9. Distec says:

    Entirely uncontroversial.

  10. Herbal Space Program says:

    They should have added the rape mechanics before, now it is going to be a PR nightmare to implement.

  11. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    Gosh, thank goodness men and women are finally receiving equal representation! Now women get to be arsehole criminals too! Yay equal rights!

  12. Pink Gregory says:

    Continually pleased to see how Introversion are continuing developing PA; didn’t see this one coming, but I haven’t been following development for a while.

    That being said, much as I don’t think the ‘Name in the Game’ thing adds much to the game beyond a crowdfunding incentive, it’s a shame that, before now (do they still sell that, now that it’s out), no one could contribute a bio for a female prisoner.

    …actually I can imagine some of those being deeply, deeply unpleasant. Maybe that’s for the best.

    • Carcer says:

      Unless it’s changed, my understanding is that the name in the game list is still malleable – you can submit a different entry to replace your old one whenever. So even if they’re not still selling it, if they add the option you can go back and submit a different bio.

      FWIW, I don’t think adding the sex option will make the submitted bios any less pleasant than they already were, and it hasn’t stopped people from writing bios as if they were for female prisoners already.

  13. NephilimNexus says:

    For extra realism they can code it so that female inmates only get 50% of the prison term for the same crimes as men.

  14. James0 says:

    The last time I booted this up, I noticed that none of the prisoners have same-sex partners, but they do occasionally have multiple wives, girlfriends, mothers and fathers. Also they still hadn’t got rid of the rap sheets, which usually contradict the prisoner bios (“Bio: went on a killing spree and received a life sentence lol I’m so random. Convictions: Bribery (10 years)”) and otherwise add nothing to the game. Did they fix any of that yet?

    That stuff is the most disappointing aspect of the game for me. After a tutorial that actually has character development and makes you feel for (or at least feel something about) some of the prisoners and staff, the main game seems to go out of its way to make you feel as though you are operating a warehouse for naughty robots. Maybe seeing prisoners play with their kids will help a little.

  15. gbrading says:

    Kudos to Introversion, they didn’t have to do this and it seems like a pretty major change. Well done on them continuing to develop the game even though it is officially “out”.