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www.britannica.com/place/Alcatraz-Island#:~:text=The island had little vegetation and was a,first lighthouse (1854) on the coast of California.
- The island had little vegetation and was a seabird habitat when it was explored in 1775 by Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala , who named it Isla de los Alcatraces (“Isle of the Pelicans”). Sold in 1849 to the U.S. government, Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse (1854) on the coast of California.
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The island had little vegetation and was a seabird habitat when it was explored in 1775 by Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala, who named it Isla de los Alcatraces (“Isle of the Pelicans”). Sold in 1849 to the U.S. government, Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse (1854) on the coast of California.
Alcatraz was home to the Pacific Coast’s first lighthouse. When a small lighthouse on top of the rocky island was activated in 1854, it became the first of its kind on the West Coast of the United...
Feb 12, 2020 · Alcatraz Island is a designated National Historic Landmark for its significant contribution to the nation's history. The following links provide excellent sources for students as well as for those planning a visit and wanting to know more.
- There have never been any confirmed prisoner escapes from Alcatraz. This one shocked me! With the popularity of the 1979 movie, Escape from Alcatraz, about a group of three men who used spoons to escape “The Rock,” I’m positive I’m not the only who believed this myth.
- The island was home to prisoners as early as the 1850s. When San Francisco was put on the map during the Gold Rush of the 1840s, Alcatraz was used for military prisoners.
- It is technically possible to swim to shore. In 1962, one inmate managed to squeeze through a window and swim to shore. Unfortunately, he was so tired by the time he reached land, that the police found him lying unconscious at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- At any given time, there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz that included both women and children. The families of the guard staff lived on the island, of course.
- Early Years as a Military Prison. In 1775, Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala (1745-97) mapped and named rugged Alcatraz Island, christening it La Isla de los Alcatraces, or Island of the Pelicans, due to its large population of sea birds.
- Doing Time as a Federal Prison: 1934-63. In 1933, the Army relinquished Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department, which wanted a federal prison that could house a criminal population too difficult or dangerous to be handled by other U.S. penitentiaries.
- Famous Inmates. Among those who did time at The Rock was the notorious Prohibition-era gangster Al “Scarface” Capone, who spent four-and-a-half years there during the 1930s.
- Escape Attempts from Alcatraz. Over the years, there were 14 known attempts to escape from Alcatraz, involving 36 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that of these would-be escapees, 23 were captured, six were shot and killed during their attempted getaways, two drowned and five went missing and were presumed drowned.
Alcatraz was the "supermax" federal prison of its day, a far cry from its modern, heavily fortified equivalent in Florence, Colorado with motion detectors and cameras, 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors, pressure pads, and twelve-foot-tall razor wire fences. TripSavvy / Ellen Lindner
- Spanish explorers discovered Alcatraz Island in 1775. They named it La Isla de los Alcatraces, which means “Island of the Pelicans.” Prisoners later called it “The Rock.”
- In 1850, President Millard Fillmore (1800–1874) reserved Alcatraz Island for military use. A fortress was built on it and about 100 cannons were placed around the island to protect San Francisco Bay.
- The largest group of Native Americans imprisoned at Alcatraz was 19 Hopi “hostiles.” They were imprisoned because they refused to farm the way the U.S. government wanted them to.
- The "Escape from Alcatraz Marathon” is held every year to show that it is possible to escape from Alcatraz and live. Created in 1980, it includes a 1.5-mile swim to San Francisco, an 18-mile bike ride, and an 8-mile run.
Sitting like a beacon in the middle of the San Francisco Bay of California is Alcatraz Island. Though most prominently known for the years it served as a maximum-security prison, the “Rock’s” history stretches far beyond those infamous days, and its legends and stories continue to find their way into American lore.
Each cell in B & C block was 5 feet by 9 feet. Cells at Alcatraz had a small sink with cold running water, small sleeping cot, and a toilet. Most men could extend their arms and touch each wall within their cell. The cells in D Block (segregation) were more spacious, but still the least popular. In D-Block, inmates were confined to their cells 24-hours per days, with the exception of one visit per week to the recreation yard, and these visits were alone.
There were 336 cells in B & C Block. NPS states that there were originally 348, but 12 were removed when stairways were installed at the end of each cellblock. There were 36 segregation cells, and 6 solitary confinement cells (actually known as confinement chambers by many inmates) in D-Block. Two cells on the end of C-Block were used as restrooms for the guard staff. The cells in A-Block were only used a few times for (rare) short term lock-up periods when an inmate did not require full solitary confinement seclusion, but needed to be fully isolated from other inmates. Records indicate that Clarence Carnes, Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson were all imprisoned in A-Block (separated by multiple cell lengths) following the 1946 Riots and while standing trial for the deaths of two Alcatraz Guards from the 1946 Escape Attempt. Otherwise, A-Block was used for materials storage.
Yes. Inmates were granted one visit per month and each visitation had to be approved directly by the Warden. No physical contact was allowed and rules dictated that inmates were not allowed to discuss current events, or any matters concerning prison life. Inmates talked with visitors via intercom and a correctional officer monitored the conversations during each the majority of the time (Alcatraz Captain Phil Bergen stated that they didn't always have time to monitor the conversations, but the vast majority were). Inappropriate conduct during visits would result in a loss of visiting and/or other privileges.
At any given time, there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz that included both women and children. The primary living areas for families were Building #64, three apartment buildings, one large duplex, and four large wooden houses for senior officers. Families enjoyed their own bowling alley, small convenience store, and soda fountain shop for the younger island residents. Families did most of their shopping on the mainland since the prison boat made twelve scheduled runs to the Van Ness Street Pier each day. The Warden lived in a large house adjacent to the cell house and actually used inmates with good conduct records for cleaning and cooking.
Actually, yes. Willie Radkay (he shared a cell next to Machine Gun Kelly), indicated that having your own cell was a great advantage over other federal prisons. By having your own cell, it reduced the chances of being sexually violated and the privacy aspect was also a cherished benefit. He also stated that the staff (the majority of the time) treated the inmates respectfully though they rarely spoke to one another. Furthermore, the food was the best within the entire prison system and considered his time at Alcatraz to be better than at any other penitentiary.
The common theme expressed by most inmates was the rule of silence which was discontinued in the late 1930's. In the earlier years of Alcatraz, inmates were not allowed to talk to one another except during meals and recreation periods. Some inmates commonly emptied out the water from their toilets and created a primitive communications system through the sewage piping. This rule was considered harsh and inmates were disciplined for even minor violations of this code. Inmates also state that the island was always cold. Most agree that cells on their higher tiers with window views were more popular since they tended to be warmer than the ground level cells.
There were eight people murdered by inmates on Alcatraz. Five men committed suicide, and fifteen died from natural illnesses. The Island also boasted it's own morgue but no autopsies were performed there. All deceased inmates were brought back to the mainland and released to the San Francisco County Coroner.
The highest number ever recorded was 302, and the lowest number 222. The average number of inmates during the 29 years of service was around 260. There were approximately 1545 total men imprisoned there and the NPS indicated that while 1,576 number were issued, over thirty convicts were returned to Alcatraz with different numbers issued. On average, the time of residence was about eight years. Men were never directly sentenced to Alcatraz and usually had to earn their way. There were only two men ever paroled directly from Alcatraz to the free world.
See the escape info link on this site that provides brief descriptions of each attempt. The NPS records indicate that 36 prisoners were involved in various attempts. Two inmates actually successfully made it off the island but were quickly captured. Seven inmates were shot and killed trying to escape. Two drowned and 5 inmates have been unaccounted for presumed drowned. The most famous escape was that of Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers. All three were successful in swimming off Alcatraz, but all three are believed to have drowned. See the escapes links and also the Alcatraz short history narrative for more detailed information. The book ALCATRAZ - A Definitive History available for purchase on this web site has one of the most detailed accounts of this attempt ever written.
Primarily because of rising costs and deteriorating facilities. Operationally, Alcatraz was the most expensive prison of any state or federal institution. It was determined that other institutions could serve the same purpose for less cost.
None. Stroud had bred and studied birds at the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Stroud was imprisoned at Alcatraz from 1942 until 1959. It was determined that Stroud was abusing his research privileges and sent to Alcatraz. Stroud was widely disliked by many fellow inmates and correctional officers. See other links for more detailed information. See his short biography in the Famous Inmates section here on AlcatrazHistory.com.
The cellhouse had been built on top of a 19th century fortress that was used by the military to protect the Bay. Below A-Block was a set of cells that were know as the Spanish Dungeon. These cells had been used primarily during the military prison era. In the late 1930's it is alleged that the dungeon cells were occasionally used for unmanageable inmates. Many correctional officers have agreed they had heard, or were aware that some extremely unmanageable inmates were handcuffed to bars in the dungeons for short periods of time. A-Block was used frequently as the segregation unit before D Block had undergone the transformation into a lock-down unit.
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