Alcatraz

Alcatraz

     Alcatraz is located in San Francisco, around 1.25 miles offshore on a small island. Alcatraz was first used as the bay’s first lighthouse, but then the American military took over it and turned it into a prison. Following this, Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who constantly caused trouble at other prisons. At that point, Alcatraz was used for holding the nation’s top cruelest and most troublesome inmates from the public.  

 

     Around 1929, the blueprints of Alcatraz were being created and in 1934, the prison was finally created. In the same year, the first prisoner, Frank Lucas Bolt got sent to Alcatraz for a homosexual act. Between 1934 and 1963, it is calculated that around 1576 prisoners were imprisoned. There was no way to escape any farther than the island between all the guards and the cold sealife-infested waters of the San Francisco Bay. In Alcatraz, there are 336 regular prison cells and 42 solitary confinement cells. Inside each normal prison cell, there was only a tiny sink with cold running water, a simple uncomfortable sleeping cot, and a toilet. It’s proven that the cells were so small that most men could extend both their arms and be able to touch both the walls. The solitary confinement cells, or rather known as the segregation cells, had more room but were extremely isolated. Although, the food in Alcatraz was known to be extremely appetizing. Since San Francisco had fresh ingredients shipped daily, it’s shown that they would present the prisoners with gourmet meals to make the violent prisoners calm and happy while they are imprisoned. A regular supper menu would include soup, a green salad or vegetable, starches [bread or rolls, and potatoes, rice, or pasta], a meat entree, and dessert [pie, cake, or ice cream]. The food was prepared by the inmates under supervision by official officers that were trained in food service management. The prisoners there had a schedule too. It’s known that a total of 13 official counts are made every 24 hours. 

 

     It’s a common belief that Alcatraz was shut down due to the disappearance of Morris and the Anglins, the decision to shut it down was made years before they even disappeared. The physical structure of Alcatraz was starting to wear out and would end up costing a lot of money to get renovated, and after it had closed down, inmates were moved to a unit in Illinois. There was a point when Alcatraz was far too dangerous for the staff and the inmates. The structure was unstable and would collapse at any point in time if not dealt with properly, which they didn’t have the money for. In its earlier day escaping it would be near impossible, though it did not stop 36 inmates from trying, ending up in 14 separate escapes. 6 had been found, shot, and killed. The most well-known escape attempt, commonly known as “The Battle of Alcatraz” resulted in 6 prisoners attacking a number of guards to gain access to cell house keys and their weapons, which lasted around three bloody and brutal days, and it is commonly known because it’s one of the only Alcatraz fights that was recorded. Escape attempts were eventually a common thing, though fewer and fewer survived due to the harsh waters surrounding the area. 

 

     While several well-known criminals, such as Al Capone, George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, Alvin Karpis (the first “Public Enemy #1”), and Arthur “Doc” Barker did time on Alcatraz, most of the prisoners incarcerated there were not well-known gangsters, but prisoners who refused to conform to the rules and regulations at other Federal institutions, who were considered violent and dangerous, or who were considered escape risks. The average population was only about 260-275 (the prison never once reached its capacity of 336 – at any given time, Alcatraz held less than 1 percent of the total Federal prison population). Many prisoners actually considered the living conditions (for instance, always one man to a cell) at Alcatraz to be better than other Federal prisons, and several inmates actually requested a transfer to Alcatraz. But while USP 

     Alcatraz was not the “America’s Devil’s Island” that books and movies often portrayed, it was designed to be a prison system’s prison. If a man did not behave at another institution, he could be sent to Alcatraz, where the highly structured, monotonous daily routine was designed to teach an inmate to follow rules and regulations. At Alcatraz, a prisoner had four rights: food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Everything else was a privilege that had to be earned. Some privileges a prisoner could earn included: working, corresponding with and having visits from family members, access to the prison library, and recreational activities such as painting and music. Once prison officials felt a man no longer posed a threat and could follow the rules (usually after an average of five years on Alcatraz), he could then be transferred back to another Federal prison to finish his sentence and be released.

 

     There were no confirmed prisoner escapes from Alcatraz. This is because Alcatraz is surrounded by very rough seas and if you jump in, you will die. A total of 36 inmates put the supposedly “escape-proof” Alcatraz to the test. Of those convicts, 23 were captured, six were shot to death and two drowned. The other five went missing and were presumed drowned. Alcatraz escape of 1962, a jailbreak from the supposedly escape-proof maximum-security federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island, on the night of June 11, 1962. After six months of meticulous preparation, three inmates managed to break out, though it is uncertain if they reached the mainland. The escape is thought by some to have factored into the decision to close Alcatraz prison less than a year later. A guard making a routine cellblock headcount on the early morning of June 12, 1962, came upon three inmates apparently still sleeping in their cells. Further investigation revealed that the “inmates” were in fact dummy heads, made from painted paper-mâché with hair glued on, and that the actual occupants of the cells—the convicted armed robber Frank Morris and the convicted bank-robbing brothers Clarence and John Anglin—were nowhere to be found. The crafty trio chipped away at the rotting concrete cell walls with sharpened spoons. Their possessions were found floating in San Francisco Bay, but no bodies were ever recovered, leading some to speculate that they may have engineered a successful escape. 

 

     Alcatraz was very important, and it still is. Alcatraz is a popular tourist destination that anyone can go to. Adding onto that, on the tours of Alcatraz, they describe an even more layered history whilst showing the tourists the actual building; including the prison cells, showers, dining hall, and more. To this day, tourists from all over the world get to know more about the area of San Francisco because of Alcatraz and its history. 

 

Websites-

https://www.kqed.org/science/807056/escape-to-alcatraz-a-seabirds-edenhttps://www.parksconservancy.org/our-work/alcatraz-glance#:~:text=Daily%20life%20on%20Alcatraz%20was,be%20earned%20through%20hard%20work.

https://www.bop.gov/about/history/alcatraz.jsp

https://www.britannica.com/event/Alcatraz-escape-of-June-1962

https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-alcatraz https://www.dylanstours.com/alcatraz-facts/

 https://www.alcatrazhistory.com/daily.htm

https://www.alcatrazhistory.com/closing.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Alcatraz_escape_attempts

https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/alcatraz-escape

https://www.history.com/news/alcatraz-prison-escape-attempts