Narrative & Level Design

Fallout: Lonestar

Van Buren Prison

Example from Fallout: Lonestar, as other works fall under NDA.

Van Buren Prison - WIP


Van Buren is a worn, steel-reinforced, robotic automated prison facility, still functioning two-hundred years after the end of the Great War. It was designed to be an efficient means of incarceration and rehabilitation for the modern world, utilizing the latest in thinking-machine computers and combat-ready robotics to replace costly human officers and staff.

Van Buren consists of three panopticon prison blocks with identical floor plans


There are three main goals associated with Van Buren Prison:

1:  Establish a large criminal element existing in the Pass. 
2:  Give pre-war exposition on the criminal justice system.
3:  Create a space for a functioning prison, jailbreak, & Revolution stronghold.


“Morals reformed—health preserved—industry invigorated—instruction diffused—public burthens lightened—Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock—the gordian knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied—all by a simple idea in Architecture!”
-  Jeremy Bentham

Van Buren Prison is the only functioning model of the Bentham Automated Panopticon Prison System (BAPPS). As crime rates in the 21st century steadily rose, penitentiaries became a larger draw on governmental budgets. Architect John Bratteli designed the BAPPS on behalf of the Department of Corrections, combining Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon design with modern advances in computing, surveillance, and robotics. 

Each prisoner would be rehabilitated individually by robotic counselors and tutors programmed by the leading minds of psychology and education as part of the recently developed Challenge, Opportunity, Discipline, and Ethics (CODE) program.

"Bratelli named the program, and subsequent prison, “Van Buren”, after his favorite president Martin Van Buren, who had abolished debtors prisons."
- The Texas Criminal Justice System, A History (2075)

Editor's Note: Martin Van Buren voted against the annexation of Texas.


Nestled against the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, Van Buren was spared much of the initial physical force of the nuclear explosion.


The Van Buren system is programmed with key protocols that limit what Van Buren can and cannot do:
- Van Buren cannot allow harm, either through action or inaction, to come to a prisoner that is not mandated by said prisoner’s sentence.
- Van Buren cannot perform executions, even if mandated by a prisoner’s sentence.
- If the warden is incapacitated, Van Buren will go into lockdown mode and await warden reassignment from the Department of Corrections. All security robots will operate in sentry-only mode until order is returned.

As prisoner after prisoner died in their cells, Van Buren deduced that the deaths were not caused by disease or foul play. The population count eventually registered 150 dead and 1 terminal (Van Buren could not account for ghoulification). If the population count registered zero inmates, the prison would have defaulted to an unsecured state, as there would be no one left to incarcerate. The prison went into lockdown mode, awaiting instruction from the Department of Corrections.

Prisoner Health

Automated medical resources include six Auto-Doc systems (two per block) and all Protectron guards are outfitted with emergency first aid, such as epinephrine, stimpak, and anesthetic autoinjectors.


Van Buren is generally self-sufficient, but requires food from outside sources. Towns and settlements can barter for reduced sentences, increased sentences, and visitation rights with food supplies. Food acquired this way is liquidated, separated into base nutrients, and distributed.




Van Buren Prison- Level 1  - Main Facilities

Van Buren is designed to restrict prisoner movement when not in their cells. All prisoner movement is restricted to assigned cell blocks and the Central Processing building. This severely limits prisoner access to the facilities building.


A rarely used part of the facilities building (specifically after the war) the Admin section is used to make pleas on behalf of prisoners or exchange food supplies for sentence adjustments.

Cell Blocks

Three panopticon prison silos are arranged around a central processing tower. Each cell block consists of five stories or “rings” containing ten detachable cells or “Bratteli Chambers” which provide all of the prisoner’s needed facilities, and four lifts used by automated guards to reach catwalks and patrol the rings.

Observation Spires

Below the retrieval arm, in the center of the cell block, is a spire of security cameras and television monitors. The monitors once gave notifications and played local television, but now give notifications and play local radio.

Central Processing

This section is for prison suit readjustments and protectron recharging and general maintenance that can be performed by other protectrons.

Delivery Entrance

An elevator ramp was used to allow supply trucks directly into the Sub-Level 1 storage facility.

In Prep / Out Prep

Prisoners are attached to conveyor belts wherein robotic arms fit incoming prisoners with prison suits, or remove them from outgoing prisoners.

Security Checkpoint 1

Just after the main gate, identification is checked against facial markers.

Security Checkpoint 2

Weapon scans are performed. Any weapons are secured and returned on exit.


On each surface level, skyways connect cell blocks to the central processing tower on rings one, three, and five. Connecting ring one to processing, three to medical, and five to psychiatrics.


Two yards connect Cell Block 1 to Cell Block 2 and Cell Block 1 to Cell Block 3. This allows problematic prisoners to be separated by greater degrees when needed, allowing for an entire cell block to act a buffer.

Due to the aforementioned budget cuts, the yards are the only areas available for prisoner exercise. They contain no equipment and are paved in concrete. Recreation time is often feared by the inmates as sandstorms blow through the fencing.

Prisoner Movement

Should a prisoner require medical attention. Their cell would detach from its respective ring where it would wait to be attached to the retrieval arm above the observation spire. Once secured, the arm will align the cell with the skyway tunnel on the third floor ring, which connects to Medical.

In the event that a high-security prisoner requires relocation, the entire cell can be moved through the skyway and directed by central processing to a new cell block.

Utilizing tracks on each side of the walkway, a cell can move along it towards its intended destination.

Van Buren Prison - Level 2 - Medical
Automated medical resources include six Auto-Doc systems (two per block) and all Protectron guards are outfitted with emergency first aid, such as epinephrine, stimpak, and anesthetic autoinjectors

Van Buren Prison - Level 3 - Psychiatrics
Upon internment, and once each month afterwards, each prisoner is escorted to the psychiatric assessment facility and is forced to take the computerized evaluation given by Van Buren.

Van Buren Prison - Sub-Level 1 - Utilities
Built to allow trucks to deliver supplies and equipment into the prison in a secure fashion.

Robot Service and Repair
Precision robot arms perform repairs, adjustments, and augmentations that protectrons cannot do to one another.

Van Buren Prison - Sub-Level 2 - Warden Habitat
Just above Van Buren’s computer core and reactor, the warden’s habitat provides everything a warden might need during their shift or during unexpected shift extensions. The habitat is rated vault secure and cannot be broken into, or out of, by force.