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Prisoners are people, usually raiders, hostile tribals, or your own colonists undergoing a mental break, who have been taken captive. They are unable to leave their prison barracks and can only use facilities (such as a food dispenser or shelf) on their own if they are placed inside the prison barracks.

Colonists generally will not take food from prisoners' cells. However, colonists experiencing a "food binge" mental break may steal food from anywhere they can reach, including forbidden areas.

Animals that are allowed to venture into prison cells will occasionally eat food left for prisoners.

Taking a Prisoner

In order to take a prisoner, you first need a fully enclosed cell1 where you want the prisoner(s) to stay and at least one unclaimed bed or sleeping spot per prisoner. In order to make a prisoner's bed, you need to click the bed/sleeping spot and click the button that says "Set for prisoners". The bed will turn orange, with an orange outline of the room indicating what will be considered a cell. Setting one bed for prisoners will set all beds in that room as prison beds. Cells cannot be shared with non-prisoners. Also, note that changing bed settings while a colonist is already carrying a captive may cause your pawn to release the other and generate the need to recapture which can as well result in the death of the outsider.

  • Raiders cannot be captured until you incapacitate them first (downed), then right-click on them and select 'Capture <name>'. This will order the colonist to drag the raider to an unclaimed prison bed or prisoner sleeping spot.
  • Incapacitated pawns can be captured, without the need to draft a colonist.
  • To arrest a non-hostile: first draft a colonist, then right-click the target to arrest, and select 'Try to arrest <name>'. This will order the colonist to chase after, then escort the target person. Sometimes the target will 'refuse to be arrested' (with a top of screen message) and your colonist will not reattempt to capture the pawn unless you direct them to do so again. While conducting an arrest, if the drafted colonist has a mental break, the colonist will release the prisoner allowing an attempt to escape if not incapacitated. Be careful with Transport pod crash events, as some of the occupants may already belong to a friendly faction which you may not want to upset. This action can be done on colonists as well as visitors, as well as mental breaking pawns to minimize damage they inflict, though they may fight to prevent being arrested. Arresting any non-hostile pawn has a chance for success determined by the arresting pawn's Arrest Success Chance stat.

Prisoners can be marked as 'guilty' through some actions, such as attacking the colony, killing/downing a colonist or attempting escape. During these times, executing that prisoner incurs a lesser mood penalty. The 'guilt' marker lasts 24 hours.

1 The nutrient paste dispenser counts as a wall for the purpose of enclosing a cell.

Captives from your attacks

Those you imprisoned by attacking others will be taken with the return caravan and will also be used to load your spoils of war. Sometimes, you may arrive back home near bedtime and your colonists will "wisely" choose to sleep first and then escort prisoners to their cells, but leaving them outside gives them a valuable chance to escape, so make sure no prisoner is left unattended.

Hosting a Prisoner

Prisoners, like colonists, require food and medical attention or they may die. If the cell is broken, the prisoner will make an attempt to escape but can only be recaptured if the Taking a Prisoner conditions are met.

A solution to instantly meeting the conditions can be to convert one or more of the colonists' beds (provided the colonist have a private room with a claimed sleeping spot or bed) into a prison bed, and if necessary add enough sleeping spots in the same room to house all prisoners, while the real prisons are being built.

Multiple prison beds can be built in the same prison room, so several prisoners can be held in one room for "compact prisoner storage", but if the door or wall is broken or one of them decides to break out they will all escape at the same time. Prisoners without their own rooms will suffer a mood penalty, the same as colonists.

Keeping Prisoners Content

Prisoners, just like your colonists, are more likely to have a mental break if they are in a bad mood. To counter this, you can provide them with conditions that boost their mood. This can be done in several ways, but here are some common and easy ones:

  • Provide individual prison cells.
  • Provide a table and chair for prisoners to sit at.
  • Provide a comfortable bed (using a skilled constructor to make good or better quality beds).
  • Use marble tiles (or if underground, smooth stone) for flooring to provide a slight beauty boost.
  • Give fine meals or better.

These will generally help tide your prisoners over until they are recruited or processed. Note that for prisoners that were captured from raids, there could be other attacks where friends or family of the prisoners are killed, giving a rather severe mood debuff depending on the relationship between the prisoner and the killed people. Additionally, those captured from raids will likely already have mood debuffs from their comrades dying in the fight against your colony. Counteracting these are rather difficult without using more work-intensive or costly measures such as providing luxurious comfort or lavish meals, although surprisingly, some will have +4 mood buffs from their rivals being killed in the battle.

Mental Breaks

Unfortunately, prisoners will likely have a mental break during their stay with you. This is not a big deal, as prisoners rarely do anything productive, but there is a rather high chance of them going berserk. This is a rather concerning problem, especially if the prisoner is one you wanted to recruit. The prisoner will start by punching those around him, which would include any other prisoners that are housed in the cell of the berserk prisoner. If they survive from fighting the other prisoners, they will proceed to punch the weakest (lowest hp) part of their cell to get out. Once out of their cell, they will harm any colonist or colony animal that they come across.

To prevent the berserk prisoner from damaging your base and your people, you can draft a melee attacker by the door to stop the prisoner from progressing. Another option if you wish to preserve the door is to draft the melee attacker into the doorway, where there would be a fight. If you wish to keep the prisoner intact and alive, using a couple of unskilled melee instead of one skilled melee is recommended. Another, labor-intensive option without the risk of injury is to restrict a pawn with good construction skill to the area where the prisoner is trying to break through, keeping the door or wall repaired until the break subsides.

Prisoners Interaction

Only wardens and doctors can interact with prisoners. Interactions are determined by the option chosen selected in the Prisoner Interface. If a prisoner is incapacitated, a doctor is required to feed the prisoner.


Determines if your colonists will take care of prisoners, or just let them die.

Medical care

Determines the level of medical care administered to the prisoner. The range is similar to doctoring colonists: no care at all, to doctor care only, to medicine levels available.

Medical operations

You can also operate on any prisoners, the same way you operate on colonists.

This allows you to do things such as handicapping the prisoner to make them unable to escape (installing a peg leg then removing it), harvesting their organs, administering drugs or euthanizing them.

Social Interactions

Determines what social interactions wardens will have with prisoners.

No interaction

Wardens will not interact with the prisoner, causing no effect to relations.

Reduce resistance

Wardens will have a conversation with the prisoner, reducing their resistance towards recruiting and making them easier to recruit. This also causes an increase in relations between the warden and the prisoner, as well as the Social skill of the warden, improving the chance of recruiting them later on. If resistance is already at zero, wardens will continue to interact with the prisoner but will make no attempt to recruit them unless otherwise instructed.

During interaction with prisoners, wardens will gain Social rapport with each prisoner over time, making recruiting easier and lasting past their recruitment.


Wardens will try to convince the prisoner to join the colony, with a chance to succeed, depending on each prisoner's recruitment difficulty percentage, their current mood, faction, how many colonists you currently have, as well as your storyteller.

If there is remaining resistance, it will be reduced instead, akin to the 'Reduce resistance' option. Proper recruitment begins only when resistance is at zero.

To maximize the recruitment chance by fulfilling the prisoner's needs: make sure the cell is beautiful (potted plants, carpet, art, etc.), lit, spacious, with a comfortable bed, and has a table and chair for the prisoner to eat off of. The carpet and plants should be done early on, as it is a big bonus for little effort. Have a separate cell for each prisoner, both to remove the "sharing rooms" debuff and to prevent them from killing one another. Feed prisoners your best food, set your colonist with the highest social rating as Warden, and wait.


Wardens will take the prisoner outside and free the prisoner, who will then promptly leave the map.

Releasing an arrested colonist will have them rejoin your colony.

Releasing a prisoner from another faction will give +12 goodwill with their faction once they leave the map, provided he or she didn't belong to a pirate faction. Note that this bonus only happens as soon as they "leave the map". If that prisoner can't walk, then he or she can't leave the map. To prevent this, only prisoners capable of walking can be released. If they are incapacitated and you want to release them, then you have to heal them before releasing them if possible.


The warden will kill the prisoner, causing a -5 mood debuff for any colonist without the Psychopath trait for 10.0 days, unless they are considered guilty. Executing guilty prisoners only causes a -2 mood debuff.

Note that euthanasia also kills the prisoner but only gives a -3 mood debuff and trains your doctors, too. Guilty prisoners euthanized will still give a -2 mood penalty.



Megasloth getting sheared at the exit of a prison door, holding it open for a prisoner to escape.

If there is an exit towards open space or you leave the prison door open, the prisoner may escape.

Dropping items right in the door holds it open, giving opportunistic prisoners their chance.

This method can be used to get rid of unwanted colonists without mood penalty.

Social fights

Like colonists, prisoners can also initiate social fights with other prisoners that they are locked together with. They rarely do so with wardens, whose rapport-building won't cause negative reactions from the prisoner, though if they insult or slight the warden there will still be a chance.


Colonists can escort prisoners from hospitals where the bed settings were both for prisoner and hospital to another cell exclusively set for prisoner only without risking accidental release.

Escorting a prisoner from one cell to another.


Prisoners can be recruited into your faction if you set the 'Social Interactions' setting to 'Recruit'. Wardens will come in and chat with the prisoner, then end their chat with a recruitment pitch. Most of the time the prisoner will refuse to join.

During each recruitment attempt, a warden will build rapport with the prisoner 5 times, ending with a recruitment pitch.

For every recruitment pitch made there is at least a 0.5% chance that the prisoner accepts, no matter how difficult it may be.

Recruitment difficulty

Each prisoner has their own recruitment difficulty. It has several factors:

  • The maximum difficulty is 99%, while the minimum is 10%. The average is 50% with a standard deviation of 15%.
  • For each level of technology between your faction and the enemy's, the difficulty is increased by 16%.
  • The storyteller will change the recruitment difficulty of prisoners depending on your existing population.


In addition to recruitment difficulty, each prisoner has a resistance stat. For recruitment to commence, resistance must be at zero; if not, recruitment attempts will instead reduce resistance until it reaches zero.

It can be reduced by the 'Reduce resistance' or 'Recruit' interaction.

Starting resistance is based on the recruitment difficulty:

  • At 10% difficulty prisoners have no starting resistance.
  • At 50% they have 15.
  • At 90% they have 25.
  • At 100% they have 50.

This is multiplied by the storyteller's 'population intent' factor- the greater your population, the less the storyteller will want you to have an increase in population, and hence the higher the starting resistance:

  • At -1 intent the resistance is multiplied by 2.
  • At 0 the resistance is multiplied by 1.5.
  • At 1 the resistance is multiplied by 1.
  • At 2 the resistance is multiplied by 0.8.

Finally, the resistance is multiplied by a random factor between 0.8 and 1.2.

Resistance reduction

The amount of resistance reduced per attempt is dependent on some factors.

If a factor is causing the reduction to lower, it will be shown after the resistance reduction is complete, alongside the amount reduced.

The base reduction is 1.0, scaled by the Wardens Negotiation Ability and it is affected by the below:

Opinion towards warden

Opinion of the prisoner towards the warden can greatly affect resistance reduction. This is usually increased by the warden building rapport with the prisoner.

  • At -100 opinion, the resistance reduction factor is 50%.
  • At 0 opinion the resistance reduction factor is 100%.
  • At 100 opinion the resistance reduction factor is 150%.

Current mood

The mood of the prisoner when the resistance reduction is made also matters. A well-fed prisoner in an impressive cell will give a fine mood to work with.

  • At 0% mood, the resistance reduction factor is 20%.
  • At 50%, the resistance reduction factor is 100%.
  • At 100%, the resistance reduction factor is 150%.

Recruitment chance

The chance for each individual recruitment pitch to succeed depends on various factors. Many of them are post-process curved.

Recruit prisoner chance

The base chance that a recruitment pitch succeeds is equal to 50% of the warden's Negotiation Ability.

Talking and hearing has a 90% importance on this stat, meaning that a warden with impaired talking and hearing will have lower chances of success. In addition, colonists incapable of talking or social cannot attempt to recruit a prisoner.

Recruitment difficulty

Obviously the prisoner's recruitment difficulty is taken into account.

  • At 0% difficulty, the base chance factor is 200%.
  • At 10% difficulty (lowest possible), the base chance factor is 180%.
  • At 50% difficulty, the base chance factor is 100%.
  • At 99% difficulty (highest possible), the base chance factor is 2.196%.
  • At 100% difficulty, the base chance factor is 2%.

Opinion towards warden

Opinion of the prisoner towards the warden can greatly affect recruitment chances. This is usually increased by the warden building rapport with the prisoner.

  • At -100 opinion, the recruitment chance factor is 50%.
  • At 0 opinion the recruitment chance factor is 100%.
  • At 100 opinion the recruitment chance factor is 200%.

Current mood

The mood of the prisoner when the recruitment pitch is made also matters. A well-fed prisoner in an impressive cell will give a fine mood to work with. You may also wish to provide them with drugs and/or beer, which, in addition to improving mood, helps to mitigate the pain often associated with wounds the prisoner may have suffered. Be careful about leaving beer in their cell, though; beer can be equipped as a weapon, should the prisoner break free and attack your colonists.

  • At 0% mood, the recruitment chance factor is 20%.
  • At 50%, the recruitment chance factor is 100%.
  • At 100%, the recruitment chance factor is 200%.

Prison breaks

Prisoners have a small chance to decide to break out and escape. During this time, they are able to open all prison doors like your colonists, and will attempt to equip and use weapons and weapon-like utility items such as orbital bombardment targeter. Prisoner break events are rolled per prisoner, meaning that the more prisoners you have, the greater the chance of a prison break happening.

The chance for a prison break is multiplied by the number of exits the prisoner has.

In a break, all prisoners in that cell or barracks will escape. Prisoners from different cells may also join in, or choose not to do so.

To fight escaping prisoners with less risk of killing them, use blunt weaponry, unarmed melee, or a single colonist shooting them. Be careful about downed wardens as they will steal weapons from them, making them harder to fight. Place your exits away from the map edge, preferably facing a direction where your colonists can quickly respond to breakouts. Funneling all prisoners into 1 exit also helps in dealing with prison breaks by allowing wardens to deal with them 1 at a time.


Prisoners can be brought along in caravans, after capturing them from various sources, such as a faction base attack.

Prisoners can be formed as part of a caravan, but like everybody else they need to be capable of moving. Reforming a caravan as opposed to forming one from scratch removes this requirement, meaning you can bring any downed prisoners you find. Prisoners will carry 35 kg worth of items, like your colonists.

If a caravan has a hostile encounter, like ambushes or base attacks, the prisoner will proceed to wander around the map without attempting to escape. This often puts the prisoner at risk as they may wander into the crossfire getting themselves severely injured or killed. Hostile factions will also attack prisoners if they are captured from an enemy faction of theirs.

Unwanted Prisoners

There are several ways to dispose of unwanted prisoners, most of which involve killing the prisoner. Any colonist without the Psychopath trait will get a negative mood effect from a prisoner dying. Normally this effect is -5, but euthanizing a prisoner gives a lighter -3 penalty, and if a prisoner is considered guilty and is executed or euthanized, it will only be -2.

Enemies who had fallen in battle may not always be worth capturing. For example, a hostile whom during the firefight had their spine shattered won't be able to move at all, unless they get a Bionic spine.

Organ removal
You can remove one kidney and one lung without killing an otherwise healthy prisoner. Removing important body parts, like the heart, will kill the prisoner. Removing any organ will give all colonists without the Psychopath or Bloodlust trait a negative mood modifier.
Set 'gets food' to the false (x) and wait. The prisoner will have the negative thoughts and resulting mental breaks associated with hunger. This may cause prisoners in shared cells to attack each other, including them severely injuring/killing ones you don't want dead.
Selling To Slaver
If combined with organ removal this gets you the most silver. Selling a prisoner will give all colonists a -5 mood penalty labeled "A prisoner was sold" that lasts for 7 days and 12 hours and the seller a Social penalty.
Gifting To Slaver
Equivalent to releasing them. No mood penalty and it gets the unwanted prisoner off your hands, but the prisoner remains a slave.
Temperature control
Using heaters or coolers, lower/raise the temperature of the cell to a lethal level.
Manually killing them
You can draft a colonist with a weapon and order them to kill the prisoner by clicking 'B' and selecting the prisoner.
The execution in the prisoner interaction menu allows this.
Open the 'Operations' menu in the Health tab, then select 'Euthanize'. A doctor will come in and euthanize the prisoner. Similar to Execution, except it allows doctors to practice medicine and has a lighter mood penalty.
Financial gains aside, this can be the best option as you get free goodwill without negative mood effects. Not very useful against pirates as it does not result in increased goodwill, but it not only does prevent the mood debuffs that normally result from getting rid of unwanted prisoners it also gives all pawn a "heathy prisoner released" mood buff. Note that you only get the full goodwill bonus if they exit the map with any wounds treated.

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