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This article is about an older version of DF.

A jail is a room used by the justice system within your dwarven community, also known as a prison. They are designated from a constructed restraint, by querying the restraint, designating it as a room, and then setting it to be used for justice.

As your dwarves break the law, your Sheriff/Captain of the Guard, or any Fortress Guard, will place them in one of the designated restraints. However, should they be unable to (no jail, jail is full, or if the crime is terrible enough, AND if you have one already...), the Hammerer will come to give them a severe hammer beating, which will cause quite a commotion.

Jail 101[edit]

Constructing a jail is simple. Build a few restraints, such as cages, chains, and ropes. Designate them as jail cells. Ta-dah, you have a jail.

Unfortunately, being imprisoned tends to make dwarves unhappy... and unhappy dwarves throw tantrums, if they don't go outright berserk or otherwise insane.

Keeping your prisoners secure[edit]

The first thing to consider is the type of restraint:

  • Ropes, being made of plant fiber and therefore weaker than metal chains, can sometimes be broken by strong dwarves,[Verify] thus letting them escape and wreak more havoc.
  • Cages, strong as they are, don't permit the dwarf within to move around and make use of the surroundings. A caged dwarf, therefore, is forced to sleep on the bottom of the cage, has to be given food and water, and can't do anything besides wait for his prison term to end.

The best choice of restraint is therefore a good strong metal chain. A high-quality chain will also let the prisoner admire it, giving him a boost to his happiness.

Give them something to look at[edit]

With the choice of restraint made, now we worry about the surroundings. A chained dwarf, like a chained animal, can move around in a 3x3 square centered on the chain. This allows him to use things in that space and look at items bordering it:

  • A bed gives the dwarf a comfortable place to sleep.
  • A small stockpile of good food, such as prepared meals, lets the prisoner eat when he's hungry, instead of when your haulers are free to feed them, and lets you provide high-quality stuff instead of whatever random item the hauler grabs. You won't need barrels for this stockpile, so turn 'em off (q -> E).
  • Likewise, a small stockpile of alcohol lets the prisoner drink that, instead of being forced to drink water. Make it at least two squares, or your haulers will tease prisoners with just an empty barrel.
  • And, of course, a chair and table give him a place to eat and drink. Bonus points if you designate a private dining room and assign it to the prisoner.
  • Building all this out of high-quality furniture will let the prisoner admire it, gaining happiness every time.
  • Smoothing and engraving the jail's surroundings will also give the prisoner something to look at.
  • If you enclose the restraint in walls with a door, setting the door(s) to internal will let the prisoner admire those too.
  • A dwarf can admire its own restraint, so try a high quality bone and jewel encrusted steel or platinum chain.
  • Adding a well to each jail cell guarantees that your prisoners will never die of thirst if the jailer is a bit slow restocking their booze. And making the well from high-quality materials allows them to admire it, too!

Imprisoned Nobles[edit]

Eventually, save with the greatest of care and micromanagement, one or another of your nobles will run afoul of the justice system, and be imprisoned. As with a regular dwarf, this means they will be unable to make use of their regular offices and other rooms. If it turns out to be your bookkeeper, for example, then you can build a chair within his reach and designate it as his office, and that will let him continue to work. Similarly, an expedition leader or mayor, if imprisoned by a chain, can hold meetings with your liaison, and if you designate an office for him, might even be happy to do so.


You may decide that providing luxurious accommodations, jewel covered chains and fine dining to criminals while haulers sleep on the dining room floor does not meet your standards of dwarven justice. In such circumstances, chaining a dwarf atop a tower exposed to the elements will provide a useful lookout post. Dwarves chained in narrow hallways can also help detect ambushers, while those locked up in your dining hall make for excellent examples to the others. Should you desire to enforce capital punishment from time to time, place your prison chains inside small rooms with doors and a hole in the ceiling accessed by other dwarves. This will allow bucket-by-bucket water torture and drowning executions of any murderers or prisoners with elves in their preferences. Alternately, just lock them in a hideous dungeon to eat rats and drink from mud holes until a giant cave spider comes along and covers them in precious, precious silk.

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