Monday, December 21, 2009

prison/ hotel

from our dear Ranger Dave...
from Reuters last year -

"Visitors to a German city can get that jailhouse feeling, by spending the night in a former prison turned hotel. At the "Alcatraz hotel" in Kaiserslautern, guests who want to spend a night behind bars can expect to pay around 50 euros, or 70 dollars (USD), for the experience."

I slept in a cell on our overnight... but I can't see myself paying to sleep in a cell (even if it's a former cell-turned-small modern hotel room).  But I am impressed how the lawyer-owners stayed true to the building's history, and are probably making a lot of money; we all know how popular Alcatraz Island is with the international tourists.

But what does the popularization of prisons say about our cultural awareness of incarceration?  Do you think any guest of the hotel has ever known anyone who's gone to prison?  Do you know anyone who has gone to prison?  What would inmates think of a hotel making money off of stylized prison cells-for-rent? 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

day in the life of...

super condensed version of the DAILY ROUTINE from Rules and Regulations handbook gives a sense of the to-the-minute specificity imposed.


7:00 A.M. Morning wake-up bell.

7:20 Count Bell. Stand up by your celldoor, facing out, remain there until the bell signal sounds again, indicating the count is correct. Absolute silence must prevail during all counts.

7:30 Breakfast.

8:00 Outside work call.


11:45 Outside details leave shops on signal and proceed in column of twos to the cellhouse. Do not carry on loud and boisterous conversations. Do not jostle or indulge in horseplay with others.

12:00 Noon. Dinner.

12:30 P.M. Count Bell.






4:35 Count Bell.

4:40 Supper.

5:30 Final Lock-up Count.

9:30 P.M. Lights out, retire promptly. All conversations and other noises must cease immediately.

rules and regulations handbook: alcatraz U.S.P.

Of 53 items in the Regulations book, these are some of note…

You are required to work at whatever you are told to do.



Loud talking, shouting, whistling, singing or other unnecessary noises are not permitted. You are permitted to hold QUIET conversations and to play games QUIETLY with your adjoining neighbor ONLY.

Do not exceed the ration. Do not waste food.

Boisterous conduct will not be tolerated in the dining room.

You must eat all that you take.

You are not permitted to wear your hair in an unusual manner or have any special haircut.

You must be clean shaven at all times. No special beards, mustaches, or goatees are allowed.

Do not take issue with an Officer, foreman, supervisor or civilian employee on account of any order he may issue to you. IF it should seem to you that such person is exceeding his authority or abusing his office, do not argue. Follow his instructions and report the matter to the Associate Warden after the duty is performed.

Guitars and other stringed instruments may be played in the cellhouse in a QUIET manner only between the hours of 5:30 P.M. and 7:00 P.M.. No singing or whistling accompaniments will be tolerated.

SPECIAL PURCHASES: There is no commissary at Alcatraz. The institution supplies all your needs.

One pack of cigarettes may be issued to each inmate in good standing, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening.


The Panopticon (designed by Jeremy Bentham. 1785), was the ultimate realization of a modern disciplinary institution. It allowed for constant observation characterized by an "unequal gaze"; the constant possibility of observation. Perhaps the most important feature of the panopticon was that it was specifically designed so that the prisoner could never be sure whether s/he was being observed. The unequal gaze caused the internalization of disciplinary individuality, and the docile body required of its inmates. This means one is less likely to break rules or laws if they believe they are being watched, even if they are not.

Foucault builds a case for the idea that prison became part of a larger “carceral system” that has become an all-encompassing sovereign institution in modern society. Prison is one part of a vast network, including schools, military institutions, hospitals, and factories, which build a panoptic society for its members. This system creates “disciplinary careers” for those locked within its corridors. It is operated under the scientific authority of medicine, psychology, and criminology. Moreover, it operates according to principles that ensure that it “cannot fail to produce delinquents.” Delinquency, indeed, is produced when social petty crime (such as taking wood in the lord's lands) is no longer tolerated, creating a class of specialized "delinquents" acting as the police's proxy in surveillance of society.

Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."

Creates a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience."

As the watchmen cannot be seen, they need not be on duty at all times, leaving the watching to the watched.


Foucault: the birth of the prison

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault, 1975

(the book) traces out the shifts in culture that led to the prison's dominance, focusing on the body and questions of power. Prison is a form used by the "disciplines", a new technological power, which can also be found, according to Foucault, in schools, hospitals, military barracks, etc.....Four parts: torture, punishment, discipline and prison.

TORTURE: the public spectacle of torture was a theatrical forum that served several intended and unintended purposes for society. Intended: - Reflecting the violence of the original crime onto the convict's body for all to see. - Enacting the revenge upon the convict's body. Unintended: - Providing a forum for the convict's body to become a focus of sympathy and admiration. - Creating a site of conflict between the masses and the sovereign at the convict's body. Foucault notes that public executions often led to riots in support of the prisoner.

The theatre of public torture gave way to public chain gangs...the first step away from the excessive force of the sovereign, and towards more generalized and controlled means of punishment. But, he suggests that the shift towards prison that followed was the result of a new "technology" and ontology for the body being developed in the 18th century, the "technology" of discipline, and the ontology of "man as machine".

DISCIPLINE: The emergence of prison as the form of punishment for every crime grew out of the development of discipline in the 18th and 19th centuries…discipline concerned with the smallest and most precise aspects of a person's body. Discipline, he suggests, developed a new economy and politics for bodies.

"Historically, the process by which the bourgeoisie became in the course of the eighteenth century the politically dominant class was masked by the establishment of an explicit, coded and formally egalitarian juridical framework, made possible by the organization of a parliamentary, representative regime."

Foucault's argument is that discipline creates "docile bodies", ideal for the new economics, politics and warfare of the modern industrial age—bodies that function in factories, ordered military regiments, and school classrooms.


Friday, December 11, 2009

shifting tactics: rehearsal

nothing quite like gathering people in a room
and playing with the energy we bring
the surprise and discovery
(that is the opposite of blocking ;)

showed up to rehearsal with a draft of an idea
that with these few willing and ready troupes
we quickly shape into something

looking forward to sharing at the party TOMORROW!

short shakespeare monologues in coversation
Paulina responds to Angelo, Caliban calms Lady Macbeth, Hermione vs. Claudius...

Prospero and Caliban dispute the island
"and here you sty me in this hard rock, whilst you do keep me from the rest o' the island"
"thy vile race...wast thou deservedly confined into this rock, who hadst deserved more than a prison"

If you were standing at the threshold of death, the big goodbye, what would you say?
What is there to say?....

november 25th - sunrise

Sunrise Ceremony on the Rock
drums on the boat, we're inside the drum, walls buzzing
in the still dark morning, the throb of welcoming the day
circles are our natural orientation

on the Rock, bundled against the dripping fog and chill breeze
sage burning smoke warming the senses
as we walk to the fire on the Parade Ground
so many gathered at dawn to honor our ancestors
and each other

thanks and giving.

reminds me of the earth spinning, just a rock relying on the sun
thanks for the elements.
simple and and true.