One tourist attraction in San Francisco that I heartily recommend to visitors is the tour of Alcatraz, now part of a national park. The boat ride out is scenic, and the prison itself is historic, hosting many of the worst federal prisoners, people like Al Capone.
The prison is heavily deteriorated, part of it in ruins. Nevertheless, one gets a real sense of what prison was like. According to plans revealed in the San Francisco Chronicle today, it is going to gte even more realistic:
Back in the bad old days, when Alcatraz was the most famous prison in the country, guards would pull a series of big levers, the last a long steel bar. One of the guards would call out, "Rack 'em!" and all the cell block doors would slam shut. [....]
Now the National Park Service, with the help of Texas—based Southern Folger Detention Equipment Co., America's largest prison—hardware firm, is bringing back the sound of all the cell doors closing at once. [....]
Southern Folger is repairing and refurbishing all the mechanisms that control the doors on the cells in the main cell blocks. The company is contributing the cost, roughly estimated at several hundred thousand dollars. "We think Alcatraz is awesome,'' said Joe Tate, director of engineering for Southern Folger. "It is still king of the prisons.''
I am a strong believer in the value of showing kids what the downside of misbehavior looks like. Choosing the path of the straight and narrow becomes a little easier when one sees where a life of crime used to lead. The Alcatraz tour is always worthwhile, and will be getting a little bit better.
Thomas Lifson 8 09 06