Alcatraz Prison


Published on

by Caroline Underhill

Published in: Travel
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Alcatraz Prison

  1. 1. Photo from CAROLINE UNDERHILL -1-
  2. 2. HISTORY OF ALCATRAZHISTORYAlcatraz Prison was opened for civil war prisoners in 1861. It was later used fordangerous and high risk prisoners in January 1934. It housed some well knowncriminals such as Al Capone. There have been various attempts to escape fromAlcatraz, but there were none that succeeded.Alcatraz was eventually closed in March 1963; it held only 312 prisoners – when I dida survey asking people to guess of how many prisoners were held at Alcatraz, mostpeople thought it was much higher.First known person to reach the island was Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775.Alcatraz translated is, “The Island of Pelicans”. Modern Spanish it translates to“Gannet”.ATTEMPTED ESCAPESNOTABLE ESCAPE ATTEMPTOn June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglinand Clarence Anglin were able to use an escapeplan, which involved chiseling away theconcrete walls with simple tools such as ametal spoon and a home-made electric drillmade from a stolen vacuum cleaner. Theydisguised the noise of the drill by playingaccordion music. They hid their escapeactivities behind a false wall which fooled theguards.They eventually escaped through a fan vent. The three prisoners made a make-shiftraft from stolen raincoats to attempt to cross the water. They gave themselves extratime to escape by leaving papier-mâché dummies in their cells. The prisoners mayhave entered San Francisco Bay at 10pm, but the official report states they drowned.Mythbusters who investigated the event however, concluded such an escape wasplausible. -2-
  3. 3. ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (THE FILM)In 1979 the film “Escape from Alcatraz” was made, as the title says, it was based onthe escape as explained above, well known actors such as Clint Eastwood playedFrank Morris one of the escapees.WHEN ALCATRAZ WAS USED AS A PRISONAlcatraz Island was first used for the purpose of building a lighthouse on. Thelighthouse is still a working lighthouse.By 1850 the first military prisoners were held there. By 1861 Civil War prisoners werekept there, Alcatraz Island chosen because of the cold conditions and the icy coldwaters would make it hard for escapes. Then in 1867 a purpose built prison was builtto hold long term military prisoners. Due to the Spanish – American war thepopulation was greatly increased from 26 to 450 prisoners.The San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 meant that civilian prisoners were held onthe island for safety. A massive new concrete cell block was then built in 1909, thiswas finished in 1912. In 1933 Alcatraz was taken over by the Federal Bureau ofPrisons, which was transferred by the United States Department of Justice. It wasused for the worse and hardened criminals of that era. This was to stop the highcrime rate of the 1920’s and 1930’s.SOME FAMOUS PRISONERS WHO WERE HELD THEREThe prison housed prisoners that had been transferred from other prisons, usuallydue to their behavior; it was also built with high risk prisoners in mind, because ofwhere it was located.These prisoners were famous because of their crimes. • The Birdman of Alcatraz , Robert Stroud, spent 17 years at the prison, 6 of them were in segregation. He was not allowed birds in his cell although it has been claimed otherwise. • Al Capone, it is said he used to pay off the guards and still run his rackets in prison. Also known as Big Al he served 4 and a half years there. He was moved to a Correctional Institute he was moved due to an illness known as tertiary syphilis. • George “Machine Gun” Kelly wasn’t a very much liked prisoner because he Kelly, boasted of robberies he didn’t commit although the Governor classed him as a model prisoner. • Alvin “Creepy Karpis” Karpowicz he was one of the longest serving prisoners Karpowicz, in Alcatraz, serving 26 years. His were some of the worse crimes committed by any other prisoner serving a prison sentence at Alcatraz. Often getting into fights with other prisoners he wasn’t classed as a model prisoner. He never tried to escape surprisingly. -3-
  4. 4. • James “Whitey” Bulger, he only served 3 years for bank robbery. While there he got close to Clarence Carnes AKA Choctaw Kid. • Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson Godfather of Harlem and African- Johnson, American gangster, he was one of the prisoners included in the famous escape. Serving sentences for racketeering and bootlegging as well as other gang crimes. • Mickey Cohen he was part of the Mafia and served a 15year sentence for Cohen, these crimes. 2 years into his sentence he was hit with a lead pipe, by another prisoner which left him paralyzed. • Arthur R “Doc” Barker the son of Ma Barker, a member of the Barker-Karpis Barker, gang. Served a sentence for kidnap. Barker along with Henri Young and Rufus McCain attempted to escape Barker was shot and killed by guards. • Rafael Cancel Miranda, was imprisoned for offences surrounding the attack Miranda, on the U.S Capitol Building by the Puerto Rican National Party.DAILY LIFE INSIDE ALCATRAZDaily life in Alcatraz was apparently not as many other prisons, considering it wassupposed to be a federal prison for high risk prisoners.The day would start at 0700 hours, when the cellhouse bell would be rang. Prisonerswould then be expected to get dressed, clean their cells and stand quietly, facingforward.By 07.30 inmates would be taken to breakfast. There were no restrictions on howmuch they could eat.At 07.50 breakfast would finish where there would be a headcount as well aschecking all cutleries was returned, so this was also counted. Prisoners who went towork were taken to the Recreation Yard to be given their daily task and details ofwork. Prisoners who did not have work would be taken back to their cells.At 10.00 hours there would be an eight minute break once again there would be aheadcount.Then again at 11.35 hours the industries were signaled to end work, there would beanother headcount and prisoners taken back to their cells through a metal detector,also known as a “Snitch Box”.Lunch began at 12.00 hours ending at 12.20. Cutleries would be counted andprisoners taken back to their cells for a short period.By 13.20 another count of prisoners would be carried out; then back to work.There was another break and headcount through the day and work would finish at16.00 hours with more headcounts etc. -4-
  5. 5. By 17.30 the prison would be shut down till the next morning when all would berepeated.Prisoners were allowed visits once a month. During the visit, prisoners and visitorswould talk through an intercom system, which was monitored by wardens.Prisoners were only allowed the basic essentials, food, water, clothing, medical anddental care. Privileges were given but taken back just as quickly for some of theslightest reasons.CELLSThe typical cell was 5 foot by 9 foot on B and C block, which had a toilet, runningwater and a cot type bed. Some prisoners could put their arms out and reach eachside of the cell.In D block which was for segregation, the cells were slightly bigger. D block housedprisoners who were segregated from the rest of the prison and would be kept in theircells for twenty four hours a day. Inmates on D wing were only taken out once a weekto the recreation yard. This was done one inmate at a time.The prisoners were also segregated by race; black prisoners were kept in the uppercell blocks, while white, Latino and Asian prisoners were kept on the lower cellblocks.NUMBERS OF PRISONERSAt the most the prison held 312 and the lowest was 222. There were 1,576 prisonerswho went through the gates of Alcatraz in all its time as a Federal Prison. On averagethere were 260 prisoners held at any one time. Although the size of the prison wouldhold more if necessary.THIS TABLE SHOWS THE RESULT OF A CLASS SURVEY PRISONERS HELD AT ALCATRAZ-PEOPLES GUESSESmore rthan 500 301-500 151-300 90-150 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -5-
  6. 6. WHEN AND WHY ALCARTAZ CLOSEDEventually closing in March 1963, the prison was far more expensive to run costing$10 per day per prisoner compared to $3 per prisoner per day in other prisons; it wasclassed as too expensive to run. Another factor was the pollution it was causingwhere sewerage was being let out into the San Francisco Bay. The concrete buildingwas also affected by the salt water coming from the sea causing damage to theprison.CONCLUSIONAfter the prison closed the prisoners left there were transferred to another purposebuilt prison. The Island and Alcatraz prison attracts thousand of sightseer’s everyday.Alcatraz still stands as it was left in 1963, people visiting often leave saying “If thesewalls could talk”.Although several attempts were made to escape from Alcatraz it is said that nonewere successful.In the 2000 census there was nobody said to be living on the island. Alcatraz wasnicknamed “The Rock”. This is probably because of its designated area where it wasBuilt.Photos from a collection with permission from Mair Havard -6-
  7. 7. Photos shown previously of outside Alcatraz Prison, Administration Department,Upper and Lower Cells layout and the cells as they still are to this day which oncehoused some of Americas most well known notorious criminals.SOURCESwww.wisegeek.comwww.alcatrazhistory.comPhoto from from a collection with permission from Mair -7-