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In Escape from Alcatraz, Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood), upon entry into Alcatraz (after being processed), is shown walking down the cell corridor naked (if memory serves me correctly, he is holding his prison outfit in front of him).

I wasn't able to find a video clip of only that scene, but I was able to find a partial clip.

Is that an accurate depiction of what new inmates were made to do or is that just dramatization?

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  • Answer by an ex-felon on Quora.
    – Rahul
    Nov 3, 2019 at 9:36

1 Answer 1

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According to the source novel, Escape from Alcatraz by J. Campbell Bruce, 'dressing in' (that is to say, being walked naked to the showers, save for a pair of disposable slip-on shoes) was a common feature of arrival at Alcatraz Prison, but after the shower you were allowed to dress before being taken to your quarantine cell.

On this January morning only the prisoner from Atlanta and his guardians were in the room, as visiting hours were in the afternoon—the one o’clock boat over, the 3:20 back. No guard was armed now, except the sentry at the door, who carried a gasbilly, a combination metal club and tear-gas gun. The prisoner’s manacles, midriff chain, and leg irons were removed, and he was ordered to strip to the skin for the ritual known as “dressing in.” Just as a physician had done before his departure from Atlanta, a doctor now conducted an orifice search: ears, nose, mouth, rectum. He was probing for contraband—dope, a coded message, even a tiny tool useful in an attempt to escape.

“A convict once tried to smuggle in a watch spring in his ear,” a guard remarked to a colleague. “Good to file through a bar, if you have plenty of time—and they got plenty of that here.”

The prisoner, still naked, was led back into the vestibule. Directly opposite was the command post of the most important man, while on duty, in the prison—the Armorer. His station, the nerve center of The Rock, is accessible only from the exterior, and he alone can open the door. On this inner side he is sealed off by steel plate pierced with gun slots and a narrow vision panel of bulletproof glass.

The party with the prisoner in the vestibule began the complex progression into the cellhouse. They approached a barred gate, but the turnkey could not open it: a metal shield covered the lock on both sides. At a nod from the turnkey, the Armorer glanced into mirrors set at an angle and surveyed a chamber beyond the gate, then touched a button that released the shield. The turnkey opened the gate and, once they had all entered, closed it, the metal plate instantly sliding back into place.

They now confronted a solid steel door. The turnkey peered through an eye-level slit, scanned the interior, then opened the door. They passed through, and he relocked it.

They faced still a third door, barred and cross-barred, the last barrier to the cellhouse. The prisoner stared in surprise. With its high windows and skylights, and its triple-tiered cell blocks, the place vaguely resembled a vast aviary. His nostrils caught a distinctive odor, and a familiar one: the mingled scent of disinfectant, itself not unpleasant, and of men packed closely together. His surprise came in the splash of color, bright even in the murky daylight: the cell blocks were painted a shocking pink trimmed in barn red.

The naked newcomer scuffed his zori-like canvas slippers—“scooters” to the convicts—down an aisle between two cell blocks, a corridor called Broadway. His custodial guide directed him to turn right at the far end, along a lateral corridor to a stairway that took him to a basement room containing thirty-five showers. The officer on duty there noted the prisoner’s tattoos: a devil’s head on the upper right arm, a star on each knee, with a “7” above and an “11” below the star on the left knee. “Superstitious, eh? Any more?” The prisoner held up his left hand: a star at the base of the thumb, a “13” at the base of the index finger. The officer said, “Shower up.”

The prisoner saw a single knob at each shower, indicating a single cold stream. He must have heard of this: stories of Alcatraz escapes usually mentioned how the convicts conditioned themselves with daily showers of frigid salt water pumped out of the bay. And, like most newcomers, he could well have fitted it into nebulous plans for an eventual getaway: a perfect conditioner to endure the icy waters, ranging from 51° to 60° Fahrenheit off Alcatraz, as he swam or paddled a makeshift raft. As others had, he braced himself under a shower head and turned it on full force for a quick drenching, to get the shock over with fast. He was shocked, but not by a chilling impact. The water was warm. It was premixed, the hot and the cold, by a guard at the end of the row.

After the shower he received a set of fresh clothes, including a pair of shoes.

This is confirmed in Alcatraz: The True End of the Line by former inmate Darwin Coon.

Five or six officers were standing in front of the prison. Without ceremony, they ushered us through a solid steel door with an electric lock. Then we had to wait for a key to be lowered down so that the officer could open a barred gate in front of us. We went into a room where they removed the handcuffs and leg irons. I was so happy to get those things off I didn’t care where I was. Then we were strip searched and marched naked to the showers. After that we were taken to fish row where we were each assigned a cell in an area that came to be known to us as Broadway.

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