Here's Why You Wouldn't Survive Being A Prisoner In Alcatraz

The United States Penitentiary known as Alcatraz, the National Park Service reports, was a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. The distant installation in San Francisco Bay held some of the most notorious criminals of the day, including Al Capone.

As History reports, the facility was intended as a sort of last resort, a prison that could handle those who had caused trouble at other jails. Capone, for instance, had previously been incarcerated in Georgia, but soon found that his time spent in Alcatraz would be much harsher. John Kobler's biography "Capone" states (per History) that the gangster once confessed to a guard, "it looks like Alcatraz has got me licked."

What was it about the dreaded jail, often deemed simply The Rock, that struck fear in the hearts of the most hardened villains? Here's why some didn't survive incarceration in Alcatraz.

As Alcatraz History reports, conditions were very uncomfortable. The average size of a cell was just five feet by nine feet, and they were as spartan as could be, containing only the absolute essentials. It was cold as well, owing to the prison's location. On top of this, the rules and regulations of Alcatraz were viciously harsh.

Well, at least the food was good

Worst of all, perhaps, was the rule that stated inmates could not speak to each other except during mealtimes (and their occasional opportunities for exercise in the yard). Couple this with the long stretches of the day they were confined to their cells for, and it's no surprise that, per Alcatraz History, some turned to trying to communicate through the bowls in the toilets of their cells, desperate for some kind of interaction. 

This particular rule was relaxed by the beginning of the 1940s, considered inhumane even by Alcatraz standards. Even so, slight infractions were punished very harshly indeed. Prisoners on Block D had to remain in their cells around the clock (except for occasional exercise)  and those who continued to be quarrelsome could even be condemned to this block's dreaded cells known as The Hole. Factinate reports that these inmates were beaten and left in almost complete darkness, with scant access to any food at all.

There were certain benefits to incarceration in Alcatraz over other prisons. The food, for instance, tended to be as elaborate as pork chops and balanced breakfasts (per Bon Appétit), as the Alcatraz warden once stated that "most trouble in prison is caused by bad food." However, the harsh restrictions, hard work and the status of fellow inmates made simply surviving there a trial.