prison locks

I've heard that the locks on Alcatraz Federal Pen would become non-functional if the wrong key was used. Does this type of lock have a name or was this only a Federal Pen thing?

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I don't know much about prison locks, but that sounds counter productive to me. How would officials get the door open if they needed to in a hurry?

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Bob DeWeese, CML

Ive got a reproduction key that was once used in Alcatraz. They look like a flat steel key with cuts that you would see on a safe deposit box.

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Jeremaih Chubb developed such a lock and called it the 'detector'. If a lever is lifted too high, a detector lever operates to jam the lock. It is reset by turning the proper key (or a special key) to throw the lock bolt slightly further (there being another set of slots on the levers to accommdate this). There would seem to be a logistical problem with detention use as a supervisor would need to be called if the prison officer accidentally tries to use an incorrect key on his ring.

As mention previously in this group, lock cylinders have been modified to try and 'trap' illegal masterkeys. Of course alternative access to the area in question would be required.

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There was a scene in the movie. The guys were trying to get off the island. Gilligan (or whatever the con's name was) couldn't find key number 107. so they figured to try the other keys. However, the lock was designed to jam if someone used the wrong key.

The cons ended up in a mechanical access chase while the guards were shooting machine guns into the access.

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Stormin Mormon

I am impressed peter you know your locks, i have 2 detectors in my collection a fine example of english craftsmanship.

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The 1884 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has a marvellous section on locks. I have not checked recently, but the growth of other technologies means less space is likely to be devoted to locks.

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I was recently at Alcatraz. The cells were single occupant, and the inmates were generally the most hardened. I doubt that prisoner safety was a big issue.

Each row of cells had a mechanical locking mechanism in the form of a bar that extended along the top of the cells. A gate in the bar at each cell door allowed the door to open. The bar was moved by a long lever at the end of the block. Each lever locked down about 1/2 of the cells on that level of that block. There's a good shot of the bar at

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Some of the cells also had an individual lock, which looked like a lever type lock although I could not see clearly into one. I'll bring an ottoscope next time. They used normal keys for some of the locked cabinets and such. I noted a few YALE locks in some of the doors.

The real security was the guards and their guns on catwalks overlooking the cell blocks. They were allowed to shoot back then.


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looks like the tour was informative...

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