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This article is about an older version of DF.

A jail is a special room used in dwarven justice. It is designated from a restraint or from a metal cage. If ropes are used, prisoners have been observed to be able to break free from time to time, especially during tantrums.[Verify]

Your fort's sheriff or captain of the guard will request chains, ropes or metal cages to be designated as jails, getting an unhappy thought if you don't have enough. The current number of ropes or chains needed is indicated on the z Status menu, under the Justice submenu. The number of them required is one-tenth the current population, rounded down to the nearest integer.

Due to a bug, unhappy thoughts about insufficient jails only happen for the first 3 months after arrival as a migrant, rather than starting after that grace period (Bug:5844). A patch for version can be found below which fixes this problem:

Happy prisoners[edit]

Prison is a great place for dwarves to become terminally upset. Generally inmates are still suffering from the bad thoughts that caused them to tantrum and become imprisoned in the first place. Just being in prison makes dwarves very unhappy, and since your other dwarves will only bring them water to drink, the lack of alcohol makes it worse. To prevent an infinite string of tantrums and ever-lengthening prison sentences, it is a good idea to make your prison a very nice place.

Cages can be useful if your dwarves are being jailed due to tantrums, as it will prevent them from inflicting any further damage while they cool off - by comparison, if they're chained up they might still be able to start fights with anyone that walks nearby, and they could even break their own chain and start smashing up your buildings.

On the other hand, caged prisoners cannot benefit from whatever decorations you may put in your jail - they will not be able to sleep in any beds or eat at dining tables you place, nor will they be able to eat or drink from any nearby stockpiles. A restraint (ropes or chains) allows them to walk around a 3x3 space, centered on the restraint.

Engraving walls and placing high-quality statues for the prisoner to admire are a good start. Dwarves will also admire their own chains, if they are high quality or made of expensive metal. In fact, any kind of high quality furniture can be used to potentially increase a dwarf's happiness. Even a door has a chance of improving their mood, if set as internal.

If you place a tiny alcohol stockpile next to the chain, the prisoner can help himself to alcohol, avoiding both the unhappy thoughts from alcohol deprivation, and the need for your other dwarves to supply him with water. Remember, a drunk prisoner is a happy prisoner. If you give him a food stockpile as well, dwarves won't need to spend time hauling for your prisoners directly, and they'll never get the "has been starving lately" thought.

Dwarves who are chained in a jail will be unable to sleep unless a bed is placed adjacent to the chain. Due to a bug, however, a prisoner will not sleep on a prison bed if he has an assigned and accessible bed elsewhere - locking the cell door will be enough to make the prisoner give up and sleep on the adjacent bed.

Dwarves prefer to eat at a table with a chair next to it, and if the table they're eating at is part of a dining room, they can receive a happy thought if the dining room is of high value.

You don't actually need a jail "cell" to have walls, as a cage restricts them to a single tile, and a restraint restricts them to a 3x3 tile square. It can simply be a row of restraints in a long empty hall. This has the benefit of being very easy to make, but can also be hard to control specific rehabilitation. Of course, it opens opportunities, like overlapping prison cells, so two dwarves can use the same bed, or benefit from the same statue garden. A single table could be used to set the whole prison hall as a dining room, allowing all of the dwarves to enjoy it from tables which have simply been constructed. In fact, arranging the restraints in overlapping squares, could allow four dwarves to have their moods improved by a single artifact statue in the middle! A very efficient use of high-quality goods.


It has been observed that some particularly capable dwarves when tantruming, and some animals, can actually break free from a rope. If this occurs, it is nice to have some form of protection or warning system, to keep said overpowered tantrumer from causing too much harm to the fortress, its inhabitants, or even the other prisoners in particular. Using lockable doors to control potential traffic is one method. If a dwarf breaks free, simply lock his cell door until you can get your captain of the guard nearby.

Another potential problem, due to extended unhappiness, is insanity of the violent sort. Building an actual prison complex to deal with such an issue, on the somewhat rare occasion it may arise, may be a good idea. For example, separating all of the cells from the fortress by putting the guard barracks between the two, or trapping the prison halls. Hey, at least you'll have a safe place to hide your last five dwarves from the invading siege!

Executing prisoners[edit]

If you don't want to rehabilitate your prisoners, you can always build your restraints in a death chamber. However, this means you'll lose all your unhappy legendary dwarves, and their loved ones will have very unhappy thoughts, potentially leading to a tantrum chain. If you don't want to take the time to wire up every cell to kill, you could always design only one execution chamber, and simply lock all of the other ones just before a criminal is to be imprisoned. One could have a lot of fun with various methods of execution. Water, magma, cave-ins, caged dragons, the list goes on! Hey, if the fort's going down, might as well have some MORE fun while you're at it!

Animal trapAnvilArmor standBagBedBinBucketCabinetCageCoffinContainerRestraintSeatStatueTableWeapon rack

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