could also check out musical instruments for one hour per week. Some inmates entered Alcatraz not knowing a note of music but left as accomplished musicians. Mob boss Al Capone studied multiple musical instruments while incarcerated there, learning the banjo so well that he later wrote songs for it. Capone formed a prison band with the warden’s permission. Later, the prison also formed a classical music group. Even the dirt the federal government had shipped to the island for construction went to another good use—gardens. One of the secretaries at the prison noted what a cathartic hobby gardening provided and convinced the warden to allow prisoners to maintain gardens. Prisoners planted flowers, shrubs, and trees throughout the island, turning the Rock into a tiny island paradise planted with bluegrass, lilies, poppies, and roses. When a prisoner broke rules or started trouble, they went to an advanced solitary confinement. Two levels existed—the Hole and Strip Cell. The Hole consisted of five cells—cells 9 through 14 of D
Block. Each allowed the prisoner only a sink and toilet. A prisoner who was sent to the Hole ate in their cell and only left it once per week for a ten minute shower and an hour in the exercise yard. Going to Strip Cell meant going naked into a cell in D Block that had no cot or toilet. A hole in the floor provided the only means of relieving oneself. At night, a guard brought a James Aloysius Johnston (1874–1954) was the first and longest-serving warden of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, serving from 1934 to 1948.
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