Prison facilities designed to house notorious criminals have undergone incredible evolution over the centuries. In this day and age, bars and guards are insufficient, and prison security measures are as advanced, and sometimes as primitively simple, as they can be. But did you know that Alcatraz was the only prison to have hot showers?
At the time, Alcatraz was one of the few federal prisons that allowed hot showers to keep prisoners from acclimating to cold water and escaping through San Francisco Bay.
The Average Cell in Alcatraz
Each cell in the B and C blocks measured 5 feet by 9 feet. Alcatraz cells included a small sink with cold running water, a small sleeping cot, and a toilet. Most men could reach out and touch every wall in their cell. The cells in D Block segregation were larger, but they were still the least popular. Inmates in D-Block were confined to their cells 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for one visit to the recreation yard per week, which was done alone. (Source: Alcatraz History)
How Many Cells Were There in Alcatraz?
B & C Block contained 336 cells. According to NPS, there were 348 initially, but 12 were removed when stairways were installed at each cell block’s ends. In D-Block, there were 36 segregation cells and six solitary confinement cells, also known as confinement chambers by many inmates. The guard staff used two cells at the end of C-Block as restrooms. The cells in A-Block were only used a few times for rare but short-term lock-up periods when an inmate needed to be fully isolated from other inmates but did not require full solitary confinement seclusion.
According to records, Clarence Carnes, Sam Shockley, and Miran Thompson were all imprisoned in A-Block, separated by multiple cell lengths, after the 1946 Riots and while on trial for the deaths of two Alcatraz Guards during the 1946 Escape Attempt. A-Block was otherwise used for material storage. (Source: Alcatraz History)
Did Alcatraz Allow Visitors?
Yes. Inmates were allowed one visit per month, which had to be approved directly by the Warden. No physical contact was permitted, and inmates were not allowed to discuss current events or any other aspects of prison life.
Inmates communicated with visitors via intercom, and most of the time, a correctional officer monitored the conversations. Alcatraz Captain Phil Bergen stated that they didn’t always have time to monitor the discussions, but the vast majority did. Inappropriate behavior during visits would result in losing visiting or other privileges. (Source: Alcatraz History)
The InfamousAlcatraz Prison Escape
According to NPS records, 36 prisoners were involved in various attempts. Two inmates were able to escape the island but were quickly apprehended. Seven inmates were shot and killed while attempting to flee. Two inmates drowned, and five others are missing and presumed drowned. Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers made the most famous escape. (Source: Alcatraz History)
Why was Alcatraz Closed?
Primarily due to rising costs and deteriorating facilities. Alcatraz was the most expensive prison in terms of operations of any state or federal institution. It was determined that other institutions could perform the same function at a lower cost. (Source: Alcatraz History)
Image from ParksConservacy