A prison hotel is a hotel whose building once housed a genuine jail or prison. The attraction for hotel guests is the opportunity to stay in a unique location. A prison hotel usually has been renovated with many modern amenities in comfortable rooms. These prison-themed hotels can be found all over the world, from the United States and Great Britain to Australia, Latvia and Sweden.
Some hotels not only offer rooms in former jails, but they extend the distinct atmosphere to other parts of their establishments. The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, for example, which once was the Charles Street Jail, has named its restaurant the Clink, and has their staff dress in faux prison uniforms. The distinctive atmosphere in a prison hotel can be attributed in many cases to architects who took care to retain original features during remodeling. At the Liberty Hotel, tiers of catwalks that once allowed guards to oversee prisoners now are used as balconies. In keeping with the theme, architects even retained the contours of wall holes that once anchored the prison bars. In Sweden at the Langholmen prison hotel, the original cell doors remain.
At the Karosta prison in Latvia, creature comforts are the last thing on hoteliers’ minds. This prison hotel aims to give guests an approximation of what it really felt like to be held in custody, offering real prison mattresses and benches. The Karosta, constructed in 1905, was once used by the KGB, Russia’s intelligence agency, to house Russian sailors who had run afoul of the authorities. In Australia, the guests at the former Mount Gambier Jail also stay in cells that have few updates.
There are also hotels that give their guests a choice between comfort and realism. In New Zealand, for example, the Napier prison hotel offers lodging in a dormitory, a refurbished cell or in a cell that remains in its original state with no extra comforts provided. A prison hotel in Germany, the Alcatraz, offers a modicum of comfort in the cells, with bathroom facilities sitting openly in the cell, just as prisoners experienced them.