Life as an Alcatraz inmate was tough. The cells were tiny, measuring just five by nine feet (1.5 m by 2.75 m). Solitary confinement meant 24 hours a day in a dim cell, only briefly escaping to the recreation yard.
Inmates had limited rights, guaranteeing only food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The library, a privilege for well-behaved inmates, allowed them to request reading materials. Other privileges, like chess or family visits, were earned.
The Rock Islanders, a prison band, added some musical relief. Inmates could buy instruments but were only allowed to practice between 5:30 to 7:30 PM. The cells contained just a cot, washbasin, and toilet, and prisoners weren’t allowed to bring in outside items.
The first warden imposed a strict silence rule, allowing inmates to smoke but keeping them quiet otherwise. Metal detectors and strict counting routines were in place. Inmates’ correspondence was monitored, and visitation was a limited privilege, restricted to blood relatives. Despite the strict rules, some attempted daring escapes, with a few prisoners disappearing into the treacherous waters surrounding the island. Life on Alcatraz was no vacation; it was a stark and challenging existence.
Top image: Alcatraz prison cells. Source: Ilias Kouroudis / Adobe Stock.