The Prison Architect Guide of Guides

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Jan 21, 2020
  • Prison Architect
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Getting started in Prison Architect: From Novice Guide to useful tips and tricks for all Wardens

All you need to know for your journey from zero to experienced warden!

If you're new to Prison Architect, this guide will review the planning tool, teach you how to manage your prison, and go over all the features and options in the game. We’ve divided the guide into four sections: Part 1: Beginner will take you through your first few hours in Prison Architect and help you understand the most important basics of the game, while Part 2: Intermediate, Part 3: Advanced, and Part 4: DLC are handy references for all the features you’ll use as you progress through the game, with a focus on the in-depth knowledge and useful tips.

Good luck as you begin your management career!

Beginner Guide:
Basic Tips
  • Fog of War
    • The "Fog of War" is a visibility system. It makes unmanned areas of your prison invisible. It also makes rooms that are not covered by CCTV appear slightly darker.
    • Fog of War makes it a lot harder to see what all the inmates are, so it's not recommended for beginners.
    • Fog of War can now be turned off mid-game via the Map Settings menu.
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  • Prisoner intake
    • Prisoner intake is the process of receiving and incarcerating prisoners into your prison. It is managed by the intake page in your reports folder. You can control the following things from this screen:
      • The number of prisoners you receive each day.
      • How many prisoners of each risk category do you receive.
    • When the game starts, prisoner intake is automatically enabled. We recommend pausing intake so you have more time to plan and build your prison before your first inmates arrive.
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Planning tool
The planning tool is an excellent way to plan the layout of your prison. Using the planning tool is easy — just go to the planning tool in the menu and select whether you to place walls, paths or doors.

Tip: Make sure you stop the prisoner intake, so you don’t end up with prisoners waiting on the road.

Walls and Foundation
It can be easy to get walls and foundations confused in the beginning. Four walls are not a foundation, but a foundation does contain four walls. When building a prison, make sure to start with foundations, which are standard indoor areas.

Foundation = Indoor area. Creating foundations is the first part of the process of constructing a new building. Foundations create "indoor zones" which are necessary for some types of rooms. Some rooms, such as Deliveries, Storage, Garbage, Yard, Shower, and Workshop, don't need to be inside.
Wall = A standard wall that can be placed both indoor and outdoor.


Tip: If you place a foundation alongside an existing building, it will share that building's wall automatically upon completion of your zone definition.
Grants are an excellent way to get more money to continue expanding your prison and can also be an indication of the next step you should take in building your prison.

Types of Grants

Starting GrantStarting Grants are grants that are available to you when you first start a new prison, there are no requirements to accept these grants.
Locked GrantLocked Grants have Prerequisites (prior conditions for something else to happen) that need to be completed to unlock.
Hidden GrantHidden Grants are like Locked Grants, and some have extra requirements to show up.

Tip: Start with the Basic Detention Center and Administration Center grants.

Some rooms, workers and items are locked behind bureaucracy. Hire a Warden to unlock additional features and workforce.

Daily Income
Daily income is essential to get a steady influx of cash. You don't want to expand too quickly and find yourself running out of money. If your daily income is low, you won't be able to hire new staff members and can have trouble finishing your building.


To get a stable daily income, you need to start small and create a few cells so you can open up the intake. This will help you increase your daily income, and you will soon have the money you need to continue expanding.

Tip: If you have the Going Green DLC, you can export excess electricity from solar and wind power to increase your daily income.

Electricity is needed for many objects in your prison and is provided by the Power Station. You will also need Capacitors to provide enough energy.

If the power goes out, this can indicate that you have exceeded the maximum energy the generator can produce. You can expand the total power usage by adding Capacitors around the generator. Each capacitor adds another segment to the power bar of the generator it is connected to.

Just don't forget to turn the power on again!


If you connect two generators in the same electrical loop, you’ll get a short circuit, causing the power to shut down. You can identify the different circuits by their color.

Insecure cells
If you get a notification that your cells are not secure, make sure you don’t have a cell room in a doorway.

If you get a notification that your rooms, yard, or cells are not secure, that means that prisoners can escape from those areas. Make sure all your rooms are located behind closed doors.

You can receive this error message if you accidentally assign a doorway as a cell.

Water distribution

The Water Pump Station is the source of water. It requires a direct power connection in order to work. Large pipes and small pipes are used to convey water from the Water Pump Station to objects.

When placing water pipelines, we recommend using larger pipes to transport the water to an area in need of water, then using smaller pipelines to connect to utilities.

Large pipes offer a significant increase in tunnel digging speed, while small pipes only provide a small boost in tunnel digging speed. Because of this, we recommend only having small pipes in your cells.

If you have crates and boxes lying around in your prison that aren't getting carried away, that means that you’re missing a storage area to store all your materials.


If you create a storage area, you will have the space to store materials and crates, and you will see workers picking up all the boxes around your prison

Tip: If you have the Going Green DLC, you will have access to Storage Shelves You can use them to get more room, and your storage area will look cleaner too.


Stay tuned for more!
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Why can't this game of mine be opened?
The game can't be opened either, click to start the game and it will flash back, seeking a solution! ! !
Why does it crash when I click on play?
I can't play this game either
It seems to be an issue with an update to Win10 where some users might have a missing file (redistributable). Installing the 2015-2022 VC++ redistributable provided by Microsoft should resolve the problem: