Prisons and Law Enforcement

Your colony’s laws and policies won’t have much of an effect on your population’s behavior unless there are consequences for disobedience. The prison and law enforcement systems are what give your statutes teeth.

A video demonstration, showing most aspects of the prison system.


  • Prison areas are used to contain elements of your population of that have broken laws. They need to be set up correctly in order to function.
  • Prison orders are used to issue work directives that are meant to be carried out by your prison population. This helps you get some use out of convicts.
  • Prison guards are used to monitor your prisoners. Their presence decreases the likelihood of escape or other untoward behavior.
  • Police officers are used to apprehend criminal NPCs and transfer them to your colony’s prison system.

Prison Areas


Top-down view of a prison area. The pair of light structures that are walled off are inside a prison area.


Viewing the confines and interior spaces of the area. Note its prison area designation and the stockpile present.

Prison areas are area designations that you set up to contain prisoners. In many respects, prison areas are just like any other area designations, and you use the same mechanisms to designate them. There are a few important things to keep in mind when designing your prison areas:

  • In order to minimize escape attempts, make sure that your prison area is walled off. You’ll want to make sure that walls are 2 tiles in height, in order to make sure that convicts can’t scale them.
  • It’s usually best to have a single point of entry for a prison area. This will make it take few guards to block potential escape paths. If you have multiple doors leading into your prison area, it only takes 1 open path for a prisoner to calculate a high chance of success for an escape attempt
  • You’ll want to make sure that your prison area has structures that contain rooms. Light structures are sufficient, so long as some sleeping area is present that ensures that prisoners are indoors. Lack of indoor sleeping areas will drastically increase the likelihood of escape attempts.
  • You can (and should) stack other area designations on top of your prison area designation. One location can be within multiple area designations, and sub-areas contained within prison areas have meaning to your prisoners. For example, each prison area should have a socialization area contained within it, so that your prisoners have a place to socialize. Without one, their human requirement for socialization won’t be met, and they’ll succumb to the effects of isolation.
  • Make sure your prison area has a stockpile within its boundaries. This stockpile should, at a minimum, contain food and drink for your prison population. The stockpile should also contain items that prisoners will need to carry out their prison orders. For example, if you issue prison orders to raise crops, make sure that necessary seeds are available to carry out the planting directives.
  • Make sure you have a warden bureaucrat who’s working daily. He’s responsible for deciding when prisoners get released, according to the criteria specified in the colony’s laws. Without a warden, prisoners will never be released.

If your prison area meets all the requirements above, it should be a productive, safe, and well organized place for your prisoners.

Prison Guards, Police Officers, Prison Management


A view of the prison management interface.

Outer Colony gives players control over many aspects of their prison and law enforcement system. In order for prisons to work, you’ll need to employ workers in your system. You’ll usually need a prison guard to prevent aggressive or dangerous prisoners from escapint. To initially apprehend criminals, you’ll need an active police officer. Once prisoners are a part of your system, you can choose to free them at any time, pardoning them of their offense, or to execute them, if you so desire.

All these features are controlled from the prison management interface. To access it, select “Prison Management” from the colony configuration menu at the top of the main interface.

Assigning Guards

Prison guards and police officers have specific duties that work outside the normal management of workers via orders. Instead of constantly creating orders for these workers to do their jobs, they’re instead assigned a specific duty timeframe, during which they’ll work as a prison guard or a police officer. During their specific duty’s specified time, they’ll automatically create goals for themselves to do sensible things. Prison guards will stand guard in prison areas, making sure prisoners don’t attempt to escape. Police officers will automatically apprehend criminals whenever they become aware of an NPC breaking a law.


Assigning a specific duty to a prison guard.

To assign a guard, select the name of an eligible person from the eligible guards list and click the “Assign as Guard” button. This will bring up a dialog that allows you to specify the hours of their guard duty. Make sure these hours overlap with the guard’s work shift hours in its activity configuration. Prison guards and police officers will ignore specific duties if they’re on a leisure shift. Clicking OK on the specific duty will make your prisoner work as a prison guard during the specified times.

Assigning Police

Mechanically, assigning a police officer works the same as assigning a prison guard. The only difference is the duties performed. A police officer will apprehend criminals during his work shift, instead of guarding your prison area.

Freeing Prisoners and Executing Prisoners

Under normal circumstances, your colony’s law configuration will govern when prisoners are released or executed. You’ll need a warden bureaucrat for these policies to take effect, but so long as you have one and he’s working daily, these aspects of the system will run automatically.

However, under certain circumstances, you may want to intervene. Perhaps a brilliant engineer who’s vital to arms production has been incarcerated for a minor offense, like consuming degenerate media. You can use the prison management interface to free him immediately from his prison term and get him back to work. Simply highlight his name in the prisoners column and click the free prisoner button. The same mechanism can be used to execute a prisoner who’s done some kind of severe wrong, is a repeat offender, or if you need to make room in an overcrowded prison area. Remember, though, that there are consequences for inflicting death, and this is often a poor choice.

Prison Orders


Specifying prison orders.

Once incarcerated, your prisoners don’t have to be entirely dead weight. By specifying prison orders, you can create directives that are explicitly intended to be carried out by your prison population. This way, despite the fact that it’s tying up resources in prison guards and police officers, your prison system can at least be somewhat productive.

To specify an order as a prison order, simply check the prison order checkbox in the toolbar, as shown in the screenshot above. Any order you issue with this box checked will be carried out by your prison population.

It’s important to note that only some sorts of orders should be given to prisoners. For example, I often use my prisoners to grow crops, as it’s a simple, easy to control activity that keeps them productive. Some orders are very bad to give to prisoners. If you use your prisoners to manufacture weapons, then they’ll have opportunities to use those weapons. Some orders are bad in less obvious ways. If you issue prison orders that involve retrieving items from stockpiles outside your prison area, the prisoners may leave your prison area to retrieve the items. This time outside the designated area may not be covered by a prison guard, which may make them calculate a high chance of success in their escape attempt, causing them to flee.

As a rule of thumb, try to issue simple, sensible prison orders to keep your prison population both productive and under control.

Colony Features That Won’t Work Without a Prison

It’s important to keep in mind that there are some functions within a colony that can’t work without a prison. For example, if your colony has no prison area, your soldiers will never accept surrender of enemy troops, resulting in summary executions, regardless of the military policy you’ve specified. Needless to say, this would be highly problematic, as committing these kinds of atrocities has far reaching effects.

The same logic applies to law enforcement. If you specify prison sentences for crimes but have no prison, the punishment can’t be inflicted, rendering the law meaningless. As such, it’s a good idea to set up a prison area as soon as you can, especially if you’re going to be establishing laws or fighting a war. If a person needs to be incarcerated as part of enforcement of a greater policy, then that policy can’t work without a prison area.

Posted in Combat, Game Design, NPCs