The Alcatraz Escape Chapter 2: The Curse of the Rock

The Alcatraz Escape Chapter 2: The Curse of the Rock

Hannah Barham

Alcatraz was America’s most secure and most brutal prison. The conditions were not helping either. First off, the waters surrounding The Rock were extremely cold, almost the same temperature as the waters that the Titanic sailed on in 1912. The inmates were allowed hot showers, but it wasn’t out of kindness for the inmates. Guards believed that once prisoners got used to showering in hot water, the chances of them surviving the cold waters would be very slim. Now let’s look at the conditions that made Alcatraz unbearable for the prisoners.

The cells on Cell Block B and C were about 5 feet by 9 feet. According to some inmates, if they stood in the middle and outstretched their arms they could touch the walls on the side. In Block D, the inmates were forced to stay in their cells for 24 hours a day with one visit per week in the recreation yard. But even then, those were in isolation. There were also segregation cells and solitary confinement cells. As far as visits go, Alcatraz inmates were allowed visitors, but with that came heavy restrictions. No physical contact, no discussing world events or prison life, and the inmates spoke through an intercom to the visitors. There was also a rule that the inmates were not allowed to speak to each other. Not a peep. The only time they could talk was at meal times and recreational time. You can only imagine how loud that silence would be for..22 hours a day. On the plus side, not everyone was sentenced to Alcatraz right away. You had to “earn” your way to Alcatraz. To give you an idea what kind of inmates were housed at Alcatraz, Al Capone was an inmate at Alcatraz. The inmates inside of the prison were undoubtedly dangerous, and they had definitely earned a one way ticket to Alcatraz. The prisoners all followed a basic routine. This schedule went as follows (This was from

“06:30 AM: Morning whistle. Prisoners arise, make beds, place all articles in prescribed order on shelf, clean wash basin and toilet bowl, wipe off bars, sweep cell floor, fold table and seat against the wall, wash themselves and dress.

06:45 AM: Detail guards assigned for mess hall duty; they take their positions so as to watch the prisoners coming out of the cells and prepare to march into the mess hall with them. The guards supervise the serving and the seating of their details; give the signal to start eating, and the signal to rise after eating.

06:50 AM: Second morning whistle; the prisoners stand by the door facing out and remain there until the whistle signal, during which time the lieutenants and the cell house guards of both shifts make the count. When the count is found to be correct, the lieutenant orders the cells unlocked.

06:55 AM: Whistle signal given by Deputy Warden or Lieutenant; all inmates step out of their cells and stand facing the mess hall. Upon the second whistle, all inmates on each tier close up in a single file upon the head man.

07:00 AM: Third whistle signal; lower right tier of block three (C-Block), and lower left ear of block two (B-Block), move forward into the mess hall, each line is followed in turn by the second and third tiers, then by the lower tier on the opposite side of their block, followed by the second third tiers from the same side. The block three line moves into the mess hall, keeping to the left of the center of the mess; block two goes forward at the same time, keeping to the right. Both lines proceed to the serving table; the right line served from the right and occupies the tables on the right; the left line to the left, etc… As each man is served, he will sit direct with his hands at his sides until the whistle is given for the first detail to begin eating. Twenty minutes allowed for eating. When they are finished eating, the prisoners placed their knives, forks, and spoons on their trays; the knife at the left, the fork in the center, and the spoon on the right side of the tray. They then sit with their hands down at their sides. After all of the men have finished eating, a guard walks to each table to see that all utensils are in their proper place. He then returns to his assigned position.

07:20 AM: Upon signal from the Deputy Warden, the first detail in each line stands and proceeds to the rear entrance door of the cell house to the recreation yard. Inside detail, or those not assigned any detail, proceed to their work or cells.

07:25 AM: Guards and their details move out in the following order through the gates:

) Laundry

) Tailor Shop

) Cobblers Shop

) Model Shop

) All other shops

) Gardening, and labor details

The guards go ahead through the rear gates and stand opposite the rear gate guard. There they count prisoners passing through the gate in single file and clear the count with the rear gate guard. The detail stops at the front of the steps on the lower level road. The guard faces them to the right and proceeds to the shops, keeping himself in the rear of his detail. Upon arrival in the front of the shops, the detail holds and faces the shop entrance.

07:30 AM: Shop foreman counts his detail as the line enters the shop and immediately phones the count to the lieutenant of the watch. He also signs the count slip and turns it over to lieutenant making his first round.

07:30 AM: Rear gate guard drafts detailed count slip, phones it to the lieutenant of the watch, signs it, and proceeds with it to the lieutenant’s office.

09:30 AM: Rest period during which the men are allowed to smoke in places permitted, but are not allowed to crowd together.

09:38 AM: Foreman or the guard gives whistle signal; all of the men on each floor of shops assemble at a given point and are counted, and return immediately to work. This assembly is quickly done, the count is written on a slip of paper, signed by the foreman or guard, and then turned over to the lieutenant making his next round.

11:30 AM: Prisoners stop work and assemble in front of the shops. The count is taken by the foreman or the guard. The foreman phones in the count and signs the count slip, turning it over to the guard, who proceeds with the detail to the rear gate and checks his detail in with the rear gate guard.

11:35 AM: In the recreation yard, the mess hall line is immediately formed in the same order as in the morning. The details proceed in the same lines to the mess hall.

11:40 AM: Dinner routine is the same as for breakfast, except at the completion of dinner, when the details immediately proceed to cells.

12:00 PM: Noon lock-up cell count; the detail guards remain in front of cells until the prisoners are locked up in the count made.

12:20 PM: Unlock and proceed the same as before going to breakfast. Except that the prisoners marched in a single file into the yard, number three (C) cellblock first. Shop details again form in front of their guards.

12:25 PM: Details are checked out of the rear gate the same as in the morning

12:30 PM: Details enter the shops and are counted by the foreman and the guard. Procedures are the same as 07:30 AM.

02:30 PM: Rest period; the procedure and count are the same as in the morning.

04:15 PM: Work stopped; the procedure and count are the same as 11:30 AM.

04:20 PM: Prisoners into the gate, with count.

04:25 PM: Prisoners marched into the mess hall, with count.

04:45 PM: Prisoners returned to their cells.

04:50 PM: Final lockup.

05:00 PM: Standing count in the cells by both shifts of the lieutenants and the cell house guards.

08:00 PM: Count in the cells.

09:30 PM: lights out count.

12:01 AM: count by lieutenants and the cell house men of both shifts.

03:00 AM: count in the cells.

05:00 AM: count in the cells.”

Now that we have covered Alcatraz and its seemingly impossible breakout, let’s go deeper into the plan.