5 Prisons for Law-Abiding Citizens

visit prison - Eastern State Penitentiary
Flickr, Celine Aussourd

In this lull between fun summer TV like “True Blood” and the fall premieres of network television shows, many people have been binge watching the Netflix comedy, “Orange is the New Black.” Set at a women’s prison in Rockland County, New York, the series has generated new interest in jail. (From the outside, at least.) Here are five notable prison museums around the world with flexible visiting hours for an easy escape.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA
Built as an “inescapable” prison on an island off San Francisco, Alcatraz has had quite a few famous inmates, including Al Capone. The federal prison was closed in 1963 and has been a museum for several decades. In addition to the prison museum, it also has the country’s oldest lighthouse and a permanent exhibition on the historic Native American occupation. Tickets are a steep $30 and up per adult, but they include transportation, since you can’t make it off “the Rock” alive.Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
Another stop on Al Capone’s “jail tour,” this Center City Philadelphia jail has been the set for several films including “Twelve Monkeys” and the Transformers sequel, and many TV shows about ghosts and jails. The self-guided audio tour (narrated by Steve Buscemi!) details the history of the prison, active from 1829 to 1969. Regular tickets are $14, and look out for special events; the Halloween Haunted House is especially popular.

Gestapo Headquarters and Pawiak Prison, Warsaw, Poland
Telling another part of the Holocaust, these two related historical sites in Warsaw show what it was like to be interrogated and imprisoned in the gruesome Nazi occupation. Part of the Polish city’s excellent collection of museums, they are free to visit and well-maintained, though very somber.

Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa
The isolation of the small island near Cape Town made it a fitting site for a leper colony, a military training station and a place for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was the most famous of former inmates for 18 years; he was one of dozens imprisoned during apartheid. Tickets are about $22, including ferry transportation to and from the mainland, a bus tour of the island and “interaction” with a former prisoner. President Obama visited the island and museum this summer, and was “deeply humbled” by the experience.

Tuel Sleng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The secret prison of Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia in the 1970s and leader of the Khmer Rouge, Tuel Sleng is now a museum cataloging the genocide perpetrated there. The museum contains the 6,000 detailed photographs and records of inmates left by prison staff, though as many as 30,000 were said to have been detained, tortured and murdered there. The museum is preserved as it was found in 1979, and is an important site, along with the “Killing Fields,” documenting and memorializing the victims of this dark regime.

Would you visit a prison?

Travel Technology: No Netflix streaming outside the U.S.

During my recent European vacation, I left my netbook at home and instead relied on my iPad for travel entertainment and on-the-road research.

With no individual in-flight entertainment screens aboard my Delta 767 flight, I was especially grateful for the TV episodes that I had downloaded onto the iPad. Other than the fact that my iPad kept toppling over when the person in front of me shifted in his seat, it was like having a personal seat-back entertainment system.

It is easy, however, to forget that the tools that I rely on for domestic travel aren’t always readily available for international travel. For example, instead of forking over $8 for the hotel’s pay-per-view channel, I often use my Netflix account to stream movies in my hotel room. (After spending hours walking around during the day, I find it relaxing to fall asleep while streaming a movie or some TV shows.)

Unfortunately, when I logged into my Netflix account from my hotel room, I received this message: “Watching instantly is not available outside the U.S. We noticed that the computer that you are using is not located within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only in those locations.”

I ended up downloading more episodes from iTunes, which was painfully slow using the hotel’s Wi-Fi.

As it turned out, Netflix wasn’t the only travel tool that was unavailable on my trip — I couldn’t access Yelp in many cities (I kept getting the message that there were no nearby restaurants even though that clearly wasn’t the case). Interestingly enough, Foursquare had a few check-ins — unfortunately many check-ins appeared to be several months old, so I didn’t feel like I could trust that as a travel resource.

Lessons Learned: Had I known that I wouldn’t be able to use my Netflix account while overseas, I could’ve saved time by downloading extra movies and TV shows before I left on my trip. I also should’ve done more advance research on where to eat instead of assuming that Yelp restaurant reviews would be available. Instead, I had to resort to Google searches, old New York Times travel articles — and following the crowds (a travel tip that never seems to let me down).

[Photo by Amy Chen]

Work for Netflix, travel when you want


Let me guess: you want to travel more, but you don’t get enough vacation time. You’d love to take that month-long trip through Asia or just sit on a beach for an extra week every year. Those of us who don’t really take a whole lot of vacation time would love to get a bit more of it, even if it means working from the road.

Well, if you want to satisfy your thirst for travel, freshen up your resume and get yourself a gig at Netflix. The company’s vacation policy will make you drool: there isn’t one. Let your boss know when you’re hitting the road, and make sure your work gets done. It’s pretty straightforward. Some employees will go several years without taking an vacation time … and then take six or seven weeks off at a stretch!