Prison Architect – Single Cells, or Dorms? What’s the Difference?

A getting started guide to prisoner housing options. What do cells and dorms each offer, and what is best for you to use in your prison. Based on many hours of gameplay deadicated to the persuit of housing options.

Single Cells

  • Prisoners privacy need is met, and it seems that most of my single cell guys have it fully green most of the time, keeping them a bit calmer and they very, very seldom attack guards or workmen entering their cells during lock-up. 
  • I’ve yet to have an escape tunnel get very far before being detected in a single cell, I’m guessing the game mechanics take into account that one guy digs slower than six. 
  • You get to see the occupants cell quality entitlement, meaning you can ensure prisoners are assigned the correct levels and can the add or remove improvement objects as needed. I’ve yet to see any evidence that a prisoner having the correct level makes them any more or less well behaved, the only thing it seems to have an effect on is not allowing prisoners to have higher than they are entitled to…. and my OCD about this 
  • Of course, they take up much, much more room. 

Dorms – (Small)

  • Privacy needs for those who have them are always dropped low, this really makes your prisoners pi**ed off. They often attack guards or workmen entering the dorms, even when all other needs are met, but this one seems to really get to the guys who have this need. 
  • They seem to dig tunnels much, much faster. I’ve had 10 escapes so far on my current prison by day 30. Six of these were from a 6 man dorm. (never you mind the other four…. I may or may not have left a gate unlocked for workmen and forgotten to lock it back up, and thre guys may or may not have just walked out unquestioned) Even the tunnels I’ve found coming out of dorms are much longer than any I’ve found from single cells. 
  • When they do dig their way out, you lose the full dorm of prisoners, not just one from a single cell….. I other words, you need to be on high alert for tunnels. I try to remember to do a full toilet search every 2-3 game days in 4-6 man dorm wings. This is doing a good job of keeping would-be ecapists under control. mega-dorms will likely need daily searches, and I don’t know as yet if you would lose all cell occupants – in my case 56 – I’m going to allow them the chance to dig out at a later time and see if they all make a run for it together 
  • Prisoners fight in their cells. Then the guards run in to sort it out and they end up being attacked. If you are running a punishment-heavy prison with lots of angry prisoners, this often gets out of control FAST. The prisoners who were not fighting can take the change to leg it out the jail door and then riot in the main body of the jail, while the guard is being beaten up by the prisoners who were fighting. You NEED to make sure you have guard patrols in dorm wings to stop this happening. 
  • I have tried to observe various security levels and reputaions to see if they have an effect on negative in-dorm behaviour. It seems they do. When having a mixed security dorm wing, the dorms that contained 1 or 2 high security prisoners were always resulting in fights, but the med security only dorms had this happen much less – but they do still fight. Those with negative reps also seem to cause dorm problems much more often. Some prisoners just are not suited to dorm life and will cause no end of trouble for you to combat. 
  • If you haven’t gotten and C.I’s yet… prepare for all your snitches and ex-law enforcement to snuff it pretty sharpish. Not even their cells are safe for them. You need to find these guys fast when using dorms. Go put a bunch of guys in solitary and get some C.I’s …. lots of C.I’s; you’ll need them if you want to avoid too many D.I.C’s. 
  • The huge bonus being you can cram so many more prisoners into such a small space to generate that revenue. If you’re willing to add the extra security to your prison to combat the dorm problems then they are far superior IMO. You just have to be well aware of the goings-on of your prisoners. Perhaps try to have low-med security in dorms, with high-super in cells. 

Dorms – (Large)

It’s worth a note that I’ve only fully played with four and six capacity dorms so far, I’ve just built two 56 capacity ones that are slowly filling up, will update if I find any effects of these mega-dorms.

  • The first and most annoying thing I’ve found with these, when they are first built they, of course, have no occupants (giving you the extra 3x quailty rating of 12 squares per prisoner), and the chairs/showers/TVs ect all meet the quota for 1x object per X prisoners. This means you get all the improvement items and your mega-dorm will have a very high cell quality rating, that will drop down when it gets some prisoners living in it…. but you can’t assign any prisoners too it because all avalible cells are too high a quality for new receptions. The only way I’ve found to combat this is to turn off the cell quality assignment settings until the dorms are full and drop back down to a lower rating. This however messes up the rest of your prison as prisoners get assigned the wrong cells by the guards, that then have to be reassigned after you’ve filled your mega-dorms and turned on the cell ratings setting again. That thing I mentioned before about entitlement/quality…. now you have to go over your whole prison and figure where everyone’s been moved to and fix it all again……… hella annoying.
Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13512 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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