The Sims 3 Prison Experiment

The Object: to see how Sims would react to a situation where they were locked up with very little access to outside [or human] influences.

Main Overview

The People: 
One warden and seven inmates. All the inmates had at least one negative trait and no career-building traits. This was changed over the 3 trials, leaving a space open for another person.

The Prison:
To design something of this size and scope and run it, to cover the initial cost of the prison, and the people were all "motherloded" on a simple lot and then moved in. 
I took a 64x64 lot and built a wall/fence that extended to each corner.  The prison has a large yard, room for 16 prisoners [sadly not possible], a shower room, and a large garden. The administrative building, located at the front of the prison, housed the warden, with a bedroom, bathroom, study, entertainment room, office, and entry way. A single door access on the front, locked with only the Warden allowed access to the private area of the building. The prison mess hall was also located in the administrative building, accessible by everyone. Each room (2x3) in the cellblock contains a single bed and a toilet. Each prisoner is the only one with access to his room. This is the only toilet access in the prison. Each prisoner is responsible for the proper flow of his toilet.
The warden's "house" was in the administrative building, and included everything he needed to build character, knowledge and strength. Only he had access to these systems.
There is a separate shower room that everyone shares containing four showers.

The rear of the Administrative Building.

The Cellblock [left] and Shower Building.

The Lock System [this was crucial to the whole experiment working, and one of the reasons I decided to try a prison - with the possibility of locking doors to specific people, there could be ways to manipulate them. This was one of them]: The warden has keys to the following: front door, back door to yard, kitchen, all unoccupied cells. These are all marked "lock, everyone but me".  Each prisoner has a lock on his/her door that only they can access. It's is also marked the same.

Cells Overview.

The Restrictions [I decided that, since this was a prison, I would try to make it seem as much like a prison as possible, to see what the sims would do]:
All food is prepared by the warden, and no leftovers are stored. The warden has exclusive access to the kitchen, and once food is prepared, brings it to a counter in the mess hall. The prisoners eat when the warden eats. No television or radio allowed, although there are chess tables and an art easel, as well as a garden. There is no lights out period, but if an inmate gets off schedule they may not be awake to eat when the warden eats. 
No outside career-building opportunities are allowed. Any and all wishes, unless they were to interact with another inmate or do something to better their time there, are not allowed. If a prisoner wants to learn how to garden, that's acceptable, however if an inmate wants to get a job, that is not allowed. 
Reading is allowed, and making prisoners learn gardening and other skills can be helpful, if that is the desired intention. Making prisoners clean and plunge toilets is also an encouraged behavior.

Warden's Quarters in Administrative Building.

The Kitchen: Locked to only the Warden, he prepares food and then leaves it on the counter in the Mess Hall.

The 3 Trials: 
The first trial run was done with limited knowledge of how the sims would react. Design of the prison was crucial to the system working. Most difficult was integrating the kitchen into the prison, yet still have its access limited to only the warden. The overall design of the first prison, while suitable, wasn't optimal. The warden's living space was very small, and prohibited him. The second prison had a larger, more accessible living space, while keeping most of the same elements of the first prison.
A bulk of the time during the simulation was spent working on the wardens skills. He was a natural cook, computer nerd, genius, handy and clean to help speed along his progress. He progressed as expected, and built his skills quickly. Since he wasn't employed, he instead encouraged gardening and spent sparingly outside of the prison, with exceptions of groceries and books that were needed. 
His contact with the prisoners was limited to mealtimes, as he was usually busy with other things. 

Gardening day or night.

The prisoners, for the 1st trial, were all men, each given one negative trait and other more normal social traits. 
They received almost no help during the game and were left to roam free. They started by getting to know each other, having standard agreements and disagreements, and eventually picking friends and enemies. Some painted, some played games, and some, once encouraged, did quite a bit of gardening.
Each cell has a bed and a toilet, and since this is the only toilet access a prisoner has, they're responsible for keeping it clean. At the beginning, most don't care and use it until it clogs. By the third day or so, each prisoner will have to spend a majority of the day [when they're feeling like it] cleaning their toilet. That wasn't easy to do. Most were pretty depressed by day three.
The most difficult adjustment came at mealtimes, since many of the prisoners didn't do much, so they didn't have regular sleeping patterns. Some got on night shifts, while others were up early. After considerable time, they all got to a point where they were roughly on the same sleep pattern. That is, until I gave the warden a lifetime reward of No Hunger, or whatever that slower metabolism trait is called. This changed the entire face of the simulation. The longer times between meals, sometimes only one-a-day, meant that the prisoners were hardly eating. They were already all stir crazy and, by this time, fighting. After a few days of the warden's lifetime reward, the prisoners started to starve. While sleeping one night, 2 prisoners died from starvation, but the Grim Reaper decided to only take one. The surviving prisoner became very difficult and fought with everybody. He couldn't be in the same room with people without there being tension.
There were no romances, although there were people having wishes for them. One prisoner with a Green Thumb and a Loves Outdoors was able to spend his whole day gardening, which was great for food stocks and extra cash in sales. 
As prisoners finished art projects, those were hung in their cells. 
As the warden was created as an adult, when he died of old age, everyone in the prison, who were created as young adults, starved. The gardener was the last alive, eating rations from his backpack.

The rest of the Yard. Solitary Confinement is in the far corner.

The 2nd trial run had some modifications to the building, specifically more for the warden's lifestyle, as well as a smaller, more purpose-driven kitchen. 
I increased the amount of negative traits to three, and made the prison co-ed. Also, to consider the future, I trimmed the prisoners down to six to leave an open spot in case the warden found a spouse. I added a Friendly trait to the warden and intended to have him interact with the prisoners more. I also made the prisoners tinker with their toilets until they got them to a self-cleaning state.
Because of the increase in negative traits, the prison started out rough and got worse. There was a lot of sneaking, fighting, arguing, yelling. Not very many green status bars. 
The warden had a few different traits, being made a bit more "normal" and not so talented at everything. He was Good, Nice, Friendly, a Natural Cook, and Funny. Despite these traits, he had difficulty socially, as many time he'd chat with a prisoner and get along, only for that prisoner to snap due to the amount of negative traits they had. They'd eventually do something rotten that would take away all the progress that had been made. An effort was made to go out of the prison, but the world I was working in for the test didn't have many people in it. 
There were no deaths before their time. People came close, but all were fed. I decided not to give the Time Between Meals lifetime wish to the warden this time around, and the simulation ran smoothly. 

The 3rd trial run was a full test: all negative traits for all prisoners, and prisoners who started fights would be put into solitary confinement [a small room, w/bed, toilet, sink, stove, locked by the warden]. Because I took a more active approach in what the prisoners were doing, the warden's skill-building suffered. While he was able to learn cooking quickly, he did nothing of significance in his life. And although he hadn't ever met his lifetime wish, he had success with book publishing and art sales. On the 3rd trial he was barely efficient enough to take care of the place, and often spent his time doing menial cleaning tasks. 

With all the negative traits, most of the managed to get along surprisingly well, considering the circumstances. In fact, running with less negative traits gave more results of negative occurrences than with more.

The Warden preparing food.

Some of the people:

The Sniveling, Cowardly Pick-Pocket - Probably the best problem starter. Never a dull moment when he was around. He took everything that wasn't his, hoarded it, was hated by everybody, and was the root of most problems. 

The Black Widow - Great Kisser, full of romance, yet completely Evil. She was desired by everyone yet hated by many. Frequently the cause of intense jealousy and fights.

The Lone Outdoorsman - Doesn't like talking, doesn't like being inside, has a Green Thumb. Probably the most productive member of the yard.

The Sensitive Artist - I couldn't resist this one, although I ended up hating the character. Completely whiny, always complaining, never doing anything, yet wanting to be the constant center-of-attention.

The Wimpy Businessman - Using "Coward" as a trait makes the game very interesting. The rest of the character can be just about anything, but adding Coward in there guarantees social problems.

Assorted Thugs, Mugs and Ne'er-Do-Wells - These were usually done through a random draw of the characters in development, with a few minor tweaks to their wishes, dreams and traits. I used randomly-generated characters frequently and tried to keep them true to the experiment. Through the different trials I tweaked things differently. By the time the third trial was underway, all the prisoners were custom built.

Standard feelings after a conversation.

How The Game Acted:

Since the locking system was crucial to the whole experiment, it had to work, and it was very successful. Designing the access ways and restricted areas proved to be an interesting challenge. 
How To Lock Doors: While playing, select a character, then select a door in the house. You'll be given options that can affect who uses the door and who doesn't. 
I have used the locking system to successfully create apartment buildings, complexes and multi-family homes, all with exclusive access to particular people. I think it's one of the game's best features, and adds many levels of possibility.

One difficult aspect was keeping my hands out of the prisoners' business. The less interaction I had with the prisoners, the more interesting the game was. Toilet training was one of the longer and more difficult aspects, as they all needed it. Watching a prisoner die, come back to life, then lead a hellish existence afterward was very interesting. 

The first Prison. The yard was smaller, the Warden's Quarters [located in smaller building at right] were very cramped. 


  1. Ooh, this brings back some memories! Inge Jones made a complete prison system for TS2 with so many features, including automatically locking cells, a feeding system and much, much more, I can't remember. It was complicated but beautiful (er...)!

    Now I want to do something like this with TS3 as well - thank you, there goes my evening/week ;)

    1. Thanks, Madame! Yeah, it was fun, and I probably could have done more designy stuff, but once I figured out the lock system I pretty much gave up on all the other simmy goodness. But what a blast!
      Thanks for looking!

  2. This looks like a lot of fun! Awesome!

  3. This was unbelievable and very detailed. Thanks. will be trying this. I am impressed with your diligence.

  4. Thanks Riaz! Hope you have fun with it. It was fun to do. I put my version of the prison on the sim exchange if you're interested.

  5. Plz put a Tutorial on how to make a prison for sims 3

    1. Its funny because you posted at 1:23 am and that translate to 123.

  6. I'm gonna try my own prison. Thanks for the inspiration Mikey!!