“What’s your name, Prisoner?”
“In Alcatraz, you address the guards as ‘Sir’. What’s your name, Prisoner?”
“Zoë Dawes Sir!
I am about to spend the night in one of the world’s most notorious jails, Alcatraz; situated on a hostile island in San Francisco Bay, but for one week only, in a dodgy looking backstreet in King’s Cross, London.
Having been made to feel completely ill-at-ease, I am photographed; full-face and side on. Now I know how Hugh Grant felt. Next I have to hand over all my worldly goods, including my iPhone (oh no, they mean business) and am given a pile of dreary looking clothes. Grey sweat pants, white T-shirt and blue shirt (don’t these guys know how important colour is – grey is so last season.)
Whistle. “Prisoner No 1 coming through.”
“This is your cell. Make your bed, read the regulations and no talking. If you wish to use the washroom, you ask the guard.”
The metal door bangs shut, the key is turned and I am incarcerated for the next 12 hours. It’s a tiny, scuzzy cell, 9 feet by 5 feet, ghastly green, peeling paint, flea-bitten mattress, filthy toilet and sink, 2 tiny metal racks and bare electric light. Oh lordy, what have I done to deserve this? Outside the cell a guard sits at a table, staring meanly back at me every time I look out. Better do as the guy says. Make the bed – undersheet, pillow and 2 blankets – they look a bit scratchy.
Now what? Let’s have a look at these regulations.
Regulations for Inmates – U.S.P. Alcatraz
Hmmm, wonder just what their Unique Selling Point is?
GOOD CONDUCT means conducting yourself in a quiet and orderly manner and keeping your cell neat, clean and free from contraband.
Don’t really do that at home … Well, OK, it IS probably free from contraband.
PRIVILEGES. You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.
Good philosophy for life really!
DISCIPLINARY ACTION may result in the loss of some or all of your privileges and/or confinement in the Treatment Unit.
Oh, don’t like the sound of that. Better behave myself.
Whistle. “Prisoner No 2 coming through.”
Guy looks like the head of a drugs ring, or maybe a bird fancier.
Whistle. “Prisoner No 3 coming through.”
Guy looks like he’s a mass murderer, or maybe a tax dodger.
An hour later, I’ve read all the Regs, studied the me