The most comfortable part of the men’s cellblock is the drunk tank, or bull pen. This is a small open area where overnight “guests” were sometimes kept until they were sober enough to be released. It was also the area where long term detainees were allowed a little freedom from their cramped cells.
The current cells, probably completed by 1871, originally each had four iron bunks in them. As the bunks rusted out, they were replaced with cots, but enough of the originals remain to see the rigid structure.
There is so little space in the cells that only one person could easily stand at a time. The others would have had to remain in their bunks. It is difficult to imagine the torment of trying to live and sleep in such crowded conditions.
There was no heat in the cells. The only warmth came from a pot-bellied stove in the bull pen. One electric light bulb provided the only light. The jail was freezing cold in the winter and probably equally uncomfortable in the heat of summer. Escape attempts were numerous and understandable.
In October of 1929, according to the Nevada Daily Mail, a grand jury called the jail “an insult to civilization and a disgrace to the county”, yet it continued to be used for another 31 years.