A maximum-security stay in London's pop-up Alcatraz

Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:18pm EDT
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By Ethan Bilby

LONDON (Reuters) - As the hours approach towards incarceration, the nerves begin to fray. The few belongings packed in preparation for a stint in the big house seem paltry: a towel, a book, and even a roll of toilet paper.

But you can't prepare to think like a prisoner.

"Inmates" at London's Hotel Alcatraz, lose everything they've brought with them when they walk in the door, even the clothes off their backs, as they enter a mock-up of the notorious U.S. island prison made famous by inmates such as Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

The hotel may be a publicity stunt for the British premiere of "Lost"-creator J.J. Abrams' latest science fiction television series, "Alcatraz," but guests were quickly disabused of the notion that this is anything other than a night in the slammer.

Mugshots were taken. Uniforms issued. Belongings surveyed. Pockets were checked for contraband.

A guard sitting at a manual typewriter stared up on a Wednesday night and asked for a name.

"Here in Alcatraz, you will address the guards as sir!" he growled.

The Alcatraz experience followed the role of the "escape-proof" original -- the prison system's prison -- where those who didn't obey the rules were sent to break their will on an island in San Francisco Bay, California.   Continued...

Reuters reporter Ethan Bilby sits in his cell in Hotel Alcatraz, a four cell temporary hotel, modelled on San Francisco's famous prison, in Kings Cross in London, March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris