The game recommends building a Holding Cell first thing, before trying to create individual cells for each prisoner. The Holding Cell can hold multiple prisoners, but obviously its capacity is not infinite.

How many prisoners can a Holding Cell hold? How can you alter its capacity?

3 Answers 3


I don't think there's any upper limit on how many prisoners a holding cell can hold. For the most part, it's meant to accommodate prisoners on a temporary basis while the guards are figuring out what hole to stuff them into. That said, it actually works quite well as a semi-permanent cell for the dozen inmates currently without a personal cell.

As long as their needs are being met, they won't riot any quicker than prisoners with their own cell. The only difference is if they start complaining, they have more of an audience, and their need for defense and [dev]weapon will go up, to protect themselves from the crazy dude who won't stop yelling. So throw some metal detectors along the path from your kitchen to your holding cell, and the worst that will happen is your cell floor will be littered with knives whenever you get new inmates.

Personally, my Holding Cell is 12x12 (including walls). I've thrown four benches, and two toilets into it. For some reason, the prisoners use it as the common room, as I've added some TVs and about a dozen beds to it, to facilitate the semi-permanent status of the inmates. Right after the Sleep activity, there's about an hour of Free Time. Most of my inmates with their own cells make a beeline to the holding cell...and take a nap. So, there's roughly three dozen prisoners in there at that point, and as long as nobody's complaining, there's no negative effect that I've noticed

  • 4
    In my experience (mainly with Alpah 15) the prisoners Privacy need increases more quickly when they are housed in a Holding Cell. So your comment they won't riot any quicker than prisoners with their own cell. may not be true. I've not had them riot (yet) as I've created new cells as needed, so they have not spent too long in the holding cell.
    – Tony
    Dec 30, 2013 at 2:58
  • Also, not all prisoners require Privacy. So if you have a contingent of communal captives, you can try to segregate them from the others and stash them all together (until a usable cell/dorm becomes available). Jan 3, 2018 at 4:35

Update for version 1.0:

There is still no upper limit to how many prisoners you can fit into a holding cell. When you add beds to the cell, multiple toilets and optionally some weight benches, tv's and phone booths it can become a permanent housing for a large number of prisoners. You don't need a bed for every prisoner, because they can take turns sleeping. The only need prisoners can not fulfill without a personal cell is "Privacy" and that's not a particularly important one.

However, having a large number of prisoners permanently contained in a small area can easily lead to riots and random brawls. So when you go for a holding cell strategy, make sure all other needs are covered to reduce violence... or go for full suppression and station an armed guard in the holding cell.

I made quite good experience with a prison where I stored a large population of min-sec prisoners in holding cells and only gave personal cells to mid-sec and above.

Update for version 1.1:

Update 1 added Dormitories which also allow housing multiple prisoners in one room, but limit the prisoner density to one per 4 tiles. Just as holding cells they do not allow prisoners to satisfy their Privacy need but otherwise are a perfect substitute.


I think it will hold as many as you can fit in...

BUT, it should be noted that Holding Cell's seem to be horrible in that they provide very little 'comfort' (and only when they are sitting on the bench) and no 'sleep'. they are pretty much breeding grounds for fights.

So while you may be able to put 10 guys in there, its probably not a good idea cos they will likely kill each other with in 2 days.

UPDATE: it seems you can improve the holding cell by putting beds in them thus allowing the inmates to take turns at sleeping. probs still not a good idea though.

  • ...that seems like a pointless question. you can change the size of the room your self. just make it bigger!
    – TrewTzu
    Sep 30, 2012 at 13:53
  • The question is not pointless. There is finite space. For a given size holding cell, how many prisoners can it hold? What other factors affect capacity? "Just make it bigger" is not an answer. How can I tell if it's not big enough? There are countless things relating to holding cells that you have left out of your answer. Oct 4, 2012 at 13:52
  • fine then. im pretty sure i read that in the alpha AI units dont mind being "stacked" e.g you could cram 30 in to a 5 by 5 cell and they wouldnt hate it any more then if there were only 5 of them. and no factors affect capacity, adding beds and tv's affects "bearability" in so much as they will hate it less. but no capacity change
    – TrewTzu
    Oct 4, 2012 at 14:15
  • 2
    Any reason you're not editing your answer with that instead of putting it in a comment? Oct 4, 2012 at 15:14

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