Creating the Inescapable Prison

Alcatraz is a rocky island located just inside the entrance to San Francisco Bay. A Spanish explorer named Juan Manuel de Ayala mapped the island in 1775 and called it La Isla de los Alcatraces – the “Island of the Pelicans” (Cavendish).

In 1850, US president Millard Fillmore made the island available for military use. During that time, a huge military fortress was built. Many cannons were put on the island to protect San Francisco from invaders and the island housed the first operational lighthouse on the west coast (History). It took many hard years to complete the project, but when done, is was “established as the United States’ western symbol of military strength.” (History of Alcatraz). (Millard)fillmore

By the late 1850’s, the military started to keep prisoners on Alcatraz. It was the perfect location, experts believed, because any escapees would not survive the long swim to the mainland (History).

In 1909, most of the fortress was torn down and rebuilt. The work was done by the prisoners (Cavendish); soil was transported from Angel Island and some of the prisoners were trained as able gardeners (History of Alcatraz). They planted many varieties of  flowers and trees to make the island more pleasant to the eye (History of Alcatraz). The routine of the prison became more relaxed over the years, so the prisoners were permitted to built a baseball field on the island (History of Alcatraz).  Even so, many civilians in San Francisco disliked having a military prison in the middle of the beautiful bay.

In 1934, the prison closed because the cost of running it had become too high. It shortly reopened, however, because the Great Depression triggered a “severe crime surge during the late 20’s and 30’s” (History of Alcatraz). Gangs were everywhere and a high security prison was needed.

The project of refurbishing Alcatraz began with Sanford Bates and Attorney General Homer Cummings at the helm. Robert Burge was assigned to make the island impossible to escape and look “outwardly forbidding” (History of Alcatraz). It was in April, 1934 where the work began.

Alcatraz was updated with strong steel bars that were more efficient instead of the soft, square ones (History of Alcatraz). The builders put electricity into each cell and the utility tunnels were cemented off so prisoners could not hide or escape through them. Gun galleries were installed that allowed “guards to carry weapons while protected behind iron rod barriers.” (History of Alcatraz). These galleries were raised off of the ground so it was out of reach for the inmates but the guards could follow all of the activity on the ground below (History of Alcatraz).

In the Dining Hall, containers of teargas were put in the ceiling and could be activated from the gun gallery or from towers outside. The cell house had over 600 cells and not one of them were connected to an outside wall. So if a prisoner got out of the cell, he would have to find a way out of the cell house (History of Alcatraz).

With the island of Alcatraz having a new face and upgrades, it was officially ready to get America’s worst criminals.

alcatrazdininghall(Jarosz)

Works Cited

Cavendish, By Richard. “Alcatraz Prison Closes.” History Today. History Today, 3 Mar.

  1. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

Federal Bureau of Prisons. “Alcatraz Origins.” BOP. Federal Bureau of Prisons, n.d.

Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Alcatraz.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 19

Sept. 2016.

The History of Alcatraz. “Dreaded! Grim! Mysterious!” Alcatraz History. Alcatraz History,

n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Jarosz, Wojciech. Alcatraz Dining Hall II. Digital image. Wojciech Jarosz Photography. Wojciech

Jarosz, 25 Sept. 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Millard Fillmore. Digital image. NNDB. NNDB, 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

<http://www.nndb.com/people/579/000026501/>.

The Rock Today

After Alcatraz closed its doors in 1963, Native Americans occupied to the island for some time. They were driven off the island by Federal Marshals, resulting in Alcatraz being deserted once more. One year later, Alcatraz was taken under the wing of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972. Today it is one of the most popular places to visit for tourists; there are nearly 1  million visitors per year (History.com).

There are many opportunities to tour the island. The tours are mostly self- guided, making the tourists able to view the island as they please (Fritscher). The tours are extremely popular also, for “more than one million visitors from around the world visit the island each year” (Federal). Once a year, there is an triathalon called the Escape from Alcatraz. This race was started in 1891 and snowballed from there. This race gives contestants a chance to do the impossible… escape from alcatraz. The triathlon attracts

alcatraz3
(Arroyo) Triathlon Racers Swimming Near Alcatraz

“World Champions, Olympic Medalists and the best amateur triathletes from 50 states and over 40 countries” (Active). The racers are dropped off by boat onto Alcatraz, forcing them to swim the brutal one and a half miles through the freezing bay. When they reach the shore, they run a quick half mile to the bikes, where they take off over the Golden Gate Bridge (Active). The bike ride lasts for 18 miles. Finally, when the contestants could not be more tired, they are faced with an 8 mile run. At mile 5, however, there is the obstacle called the “sand ladder”, in which consists of “sand and about 400 uneven log steps” (Active). Though very challenging, there are over 1700 runners who wish to escape from Alcatraz.

Although, the most famous interpretation of the Rock is the 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz. Starring Clint Eastwood, the movie was showing the daring escape of three

download
(Snipes) Cover Page for the film Escape From Alcatraz

inmates. They shoveled their way through their concrete walls with spoons, make paper mache dummies, and create a makeshift raft out of coats. This whole plan took a couple of months. They avoided detection and disappeared without a trace. After seeing this unbelievable movie, people were enthusiastic about the island and critics gave the rating of “one of the best films of 1979” (IMDb).

Overall, Alcatraz has left an outstanding mark on America. It is a popular place to visit; plus, a national landmark, letting it attract attention from all over the world.

Works Cited

Active. “ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ TRIATHLON 2017 – Random Drawing.” ACTIVE.com, Active.com,www.active.com/san-francisco-ca/triathlon/races/escape-from-alcatraz-triathlon-random-drawing-2017. Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.

Arroyo, Rocky. Swimmers racing by Alcatraz. Digital image. Funcheap. Funcheap, 12 June 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Federal Bureau of Prisons. “Federal Bureau of Prisons.” BOP: Alcatraz, UniCor, http://www.bop.gov/about/history/alcatraz.jsp. Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.

Fritscher, Lisa. “History of Alcatraz Island.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, traveltips.usatoday.com/history-alcatraz-island-11753.html. Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.

History.com Staff. “Alcatraz.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/alcatraz. Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.

IMDb. “Escape from Alcatraz (1979).” IMDb, IMDb.com, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079116/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.

Snipes, David. Escape From Alcatraz Cover Page. Digital image. 7PoundBag. 7PoundBag, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2017. <http://7poundbag.com/2015/12/01/escape-from-alcatraz/&gt;.

The Fall of The Prison

There are many rumors as to why the Rock closed its doors. Some of the people wondered if the disappearances of the Morris and the Anglin brothers (Fritscher). However, the decision was made prior to the escape. The prison officially closed on March 21, 1963. The place was shut down by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Kinney). In the peak of Alcatraz, it had held over 200 prisoners, and had the highest form of security (History.com).

The main reason for decommission, was the cost of maintaining the penitentiary. Since the island was a mile and a half from the mainland, “all food and supplies had to be shipped in, at great expense” (History.com Staff). Even drinking water was shipped in, which resulted in a million gallons a week. Due to the salty sea air, the building complexes were crumbling to ruins. After about 3 decades of operation, the costs became to high, and it was cheaper for the government to decommission the

Inmates Transferring
(Pinterest) Prisoners Getting Transported

prison instead of keeping it running (History.com Staff). Alcatraz was abandoned by all and was left for the birds. The remaining prisoners were shipped to other federal prisons around the United States (History.com Staff).

In 1969, 6 years after abandonment, Native American tribes inhabited the island, they “hoped to create a cultural center and educational complex on the island” (Fritscher).  Their main reason for moving onto the island was to protest federal policies. The Native Americans offered to purchase the island for 24 dollars in glass beads and red cloth. The tribes on the island received much support, but they were assaulted by vandalism and arson. Due to the attacks, their small government could not financially support the repairs. The Native Americans were removed by federal marshals controlled by Richard M. Nixon in 1971 (Fritscher). The in-habitation is now known as the Occupation of Alcatraz, and is considered a milestone in Native American history (History.com Staff).

Overall, Alcatraz was one of the most famous prisons of all time. It was ar

Indian Occupation
(Native Village) Indian Occupation

ound for 30 years; starting as a military fortress, then transforming into the most secure prison in its age. It held the most volatile inmates, including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. It is now viewed as a valuable American monument.

 

 

Works Cited

Fritscher, Lisa. “History of Alcatraz Island.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, traveltips.usatoday.com/history-alcatraz-island-11753.html. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.

Kinney, Aaron. “Alcatraz Island History.” The Mercury News. The Mercury News, 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff. “Alcatraz Closes Its Doors.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 21 Mar. 2009. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff. “Alcatraz.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/alcatraz. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.

Native Village. Indian Occupation on Alcatraz. Digital image. Native Village. Native Village, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

Pinterest. Remaining Inmates Getting Transported. Digital image. Pinterest. Pinterest, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

The Escapes (AKA: Attempts) of Alcatraz

 

Over the years, Alcatraz has seen 14 escape attempts involving a total of 36 men. Out of all those men, 23 were captured, 6 were shot and killed, and two drowned. Officially, there were no successful escapes; however, 5 men were pronounced “missing and presumed drowned” (Alcatraz History). According to some claims, some men planned an escape over

dummy-for-alcatraz
(History Channel) A dummy the prisoners used to trick the guards.

the course of months. They removed their ventilation vents in their cell and make dummies to replace them. They made it into the Bay on inflatable rafts made out of rain coats (History.com). Many belief that they made it to freedom, but bits and pieces of their rafts lead officials to belief that they drowned on their way to land (History.com).

 

Most of the escape attempts happened during the work hours. However, three prisoners escaped from the isolation unit by sawing through the bars (Alcatraz History). They took out an officer by hitting him with a hammer, but they were stopped by the officer in the watch tower (Alcatraz History).

Another strategy the men used was taking hostages. They took officers and tried to use them to receive their freedom. On one of two occasions, the guards that were taken hostage were able to convince the prisoners that it was not possible to escape, so they surrendered (Alcatraz History).

Perhaps the most famous escape attempt was the Battle of Alcatraz. This battle was the most violent attempt the penitentiary has ever seen. The escape attempt lasted two days-March 2nd to March 4th (Zim). The battle resulted in the deaths of five people – two guards and three inmates – and eighteen people were injured.

There were a few instigators of the attempt, including: Bernard Paul Coy.  Bernard had robbed a bank earning him a twenty- six year sentence. He was transferred to Alcatraz in 1938.

bernard-coy
(Thompson) Bernard Coy’s mug shot.

Coy worked as cell house orderly, giving him access to all of the cell block. He is considered the ringleader of the Battle of Alcatraz (Zim). Over the months of preparation, Coy learned the guard routine and possible escape areas.

 

To get the ball rolling, Coy and his accomplice overpowered a guard in the kitchen and proceeded to release all of the prisoners from their cells. However, they did not get much support because, other than three prisoners, the inmates “smartly returned to their cells” (Zim). Coy and his accomplices exchanged gunfire with the watchtowers, letting all of San Francisco know that something was going on at Alcatraz.

The inmates soon realized that their plan had failed. However, they decided that they would not go down without a fight (Zim). The Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard were called in for reinforcements, men stormed to cell block to rescue the hostages, but they were forced to retreat (Zim). Finally, after nearly forty- eight hours, the gunfire ceased.

Overall, there were many escape attempts, all of them failed, but the most violent attempt was the Battle of Alcatraz.

news-article-on-alcatraz
(Topeka) A news article on the Battle of Alcatraz.

Works Cited

 

Alcatraz History. “Alcatraz Escape Attempts.” Alcatraz Prison Escapes – Page 1. Ocean View Publishing Company, 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

History Channel. Dummy Prisoners Used to Trick the Guards. Digital image. NY Post. Nypost, 10 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

History.com Staff. “Did Anyone Ever Escape from Alcatraz?” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

Thompson, Miran Edgar. Bernard Paul Coy. Digital image. Murderpedia. Murderpedia, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

THE TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL. Item # 585026. Digital image. Rare and Early Newspapers. Rare and Early Newspapers, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

Zim. “Battle of Alcatraz.” History By Zim. N.p., 6 May 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

The Famous Prisoners

There were a lot of famous prisoners in Alcatraz, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Stroud. However, most of the prisoners on Alcatraz were not well- known gangsters (Alcatraz History). The prisoners had four rights “food, clothing, shelter, and medical care” (Alcatraz History). The other necessities and comforts had to be earned.

One of the many famous inmates was Al Capone, the most infamous gangster in American history (History). He was born in Brooklyn, New York 1899 to poor Italian immigrant parents (History.com). Starting at a young age, Capone started his life of crime (Alcatraz History). By the age of twenty, Al moved to Chicago, Illinois and was managing a popular night club. By 1924, Al Capone was a part of many “projects” and was “believed to be earning over $100,000 per week” (Alcatraz History).

As a wealthy and powerful figure, Al Capone tried to do some good in the world. He made trips to City Hall, established soup kitchens, and tried to ensure the safety of the city’s youth (Alcatraz History). The police were embarrassed by Capone’s power,  so their solution was to focus on his illegal actions they even “[set] fires to his places of business” (Alcatraz History). The civilians thought that Capone was a modern-day Robin Hood. The police thought otherwise, and they tried to arrest him for the murder of a police officer, Billy McSwiggin. He quickly went into hiding (Alcatraz History).

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(Terminus) Capone’s Wanted poster.

In 1929, many people wanted a part of Capone’s profit, mostly his rival, “Bugs” Moran, who tried to assassinate him. Al Capone and his partner, Jack McGurn, decided to take care of him. They quickly murdered Moran’s men in cold blood, now known as the Valentine’s Day Massacre (History.com). This made Al Capone “Public Enemy Number One” (History.com”).

Finally, the police brought Al Capone in for tax evasion. His sentence was 11 years, and a $50,000 fine (Alcatraz History). He was transported to Atlanta, where Capone kept his power in prison. The authorities moved him to Alcatraz in 1934 (Alcatraz History). He tried to

al_capone_in_florida
(Miami) Al Capone’s mug shot in Florida.

manipulate the system, but it was impossible. Al Capone finally gave up and said: “‘It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked’” (Alcatraz History). Capone spent 4 ½ years on Alcatraz, but he was said to have syphilis. He was transported to a prison in Southern California and was released in 1939. He died in 1947 (Alcatraz History).

Another well- known prisoner on Alcatraz is George “Machine Gun” Kelly. In 1928, he was caught for smuggling liquor and was sentenced to spend three years in Leavenworth Penitentiary (Alcatraz History). After he was released, George met a woman named Kathryn Thorne who was also a seasoned criminal. Together, they became inseparable and married in 1930 (Alcatraz History). Kelly’s wife soon became a bad influence to him making him pull greater stunts giving him the title “Public Enemy Number One” (Alcatraz History). Many people believe that Kathryn Thorne made “Machine Gun” Kelly. The two of them robbed banks in many different states (Biography.com).

In 1933, George and Kathryn planned a scheme to kidnap a wealthy oil tycoon and businessman named Charles Urschel. They stormed into his house and took him to an abandoned ranch and demanded a $200,000 ransom (Alcatraz History). After eight days,

machinegunkelly
(Memphis) George “Machine Gun” Kelly’s mug shot.

Kelly received the money and let Urschel go. However, the businessman was clever and made sure that his fingerprints were all over the place and tracked where he went throughout the ordeal (Alcatraz History). George and his wife were now on the lam. They ran from state to state and tried to stay two steps ahead of the police. They went to Memphis and stayed at his friend’s house, but the police surrounded the house and apprehended George and Kathryn (Alcatraz History). They were tried and sentenced to life sentences on October 12, 1933 (Biography.com). The couple was separated and sent to different Federal Prisons. Kelly bragged that he would escape from jail and break out his wife. These threats were not to be ignored, so George “Machine Gun” Kelly was transferred to Alcatraz, making him one of the first prisoners (Alcatraz History). His term on Alcatraz was uneventful, and in 1951, he was returned to Leavenworth – where he started – and died in 1954.

stroud-hx-1
(Alcatraz History) Robert Stroud’s mug shot.

Robert Stroud, aka the Bird man of Alcatraz, also received a lot of attention. He was initially convicted of the murder of a bartender by shooting him to death. His sentence was manslaughter and was sent to serve his time in McNeil Island (Alcatraz History). His behavior was too unpredictable and he viciously stabbed a hospital attendant. The attendant survived the ordeal, but Stroud was given a 6 month extension and was transferred to Leavenworth in Kansas (Www.AlcatrazHistory). In 1916, Robert Stroud was not allowed to have a visit from his brother, Stroud’s solution was to stab the guard in front of eleven hundred inmates in the Mess Hall (Alcatraz History). He was sentenced to death by hanging, but was able to get out of it by constant begging from his mother. Instead, he was sentenced to solitary confinement for life (Alcatraz History). In his time in Leavenworth, Stroud became fascinated with birds and was allowed to breed them in adjoining cells. He studied canaries, wrote multiple books, and even invented medicines for birds (Alcatraz History).

In 1942, Robert Stroud was transported to Alcatraz. He spent a total of 17 years on “The Rock”, 6 years in segregation, or apart from the other inmates, and 11 in the prison hospital (Alcatraz History). He became known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”. In 1959, he went to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri. He was found dead in 1963 from natural causes (Alcatraz History).

All in all, there were many famous inmates on Alcatraz, but most of them were unknown gangsters and bootleggers.

birdmancartoon-1
(Taraya) Robert Stroud with his canaries.

 

Works Cited

Alcatraz History. “Famous Inmates.” Alcatraz History. Ocean View Publishing Company, 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Alcatraz History. Robert Stroud, AZ- 594. Digital image. Alcatraz History. Alcatraz History,

2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Biography.com Editors. “Machine Gun Kelly.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television,02

Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

History.com Staff. “Al Capone.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 27 Jan.

2017.

Memphis Police Department. Mug Shots, Machine Gun Kelly. Digital image. Wikipedia.

Wikipedia.org, 5 Apr. 2009. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Miami Police Department. Mugshot of Capone in Miami. Digital image. Wikipedia.

Wikipedia.org, 29 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Taraya. Birdmancartoon. Digital image. Fold3. Fold3, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Terminus. Al Capone Wanted. Digital image. Pinterest. Pinterest, n.d. Web. 30 Jan.

“Www.AlcatrazHistory.com.” Www.AlcatrazHistory.com. Ocean View Publishing

Company, 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Living as a Guard

The guards had an interesting life on Alcatraz. Their job was a “civil service position” (101). To qualify for the job, they had to pass a government test. Since Alcatraz held the most notorious of criminals, it also housed the best management staff and officers (101). They brought over their families and lived in “Building #64, three apartment buildings, one large duplex, and four large wooden houses for senior officers” (Alcatraz History). Families had their own bowling alley, a small convenience store, and a soda fountain shop for the younger people living on Alcatraz (Alcatraz History). The families did most of their shopping in the city of San Francisco. They took the ferry,

building64
Building 64   (Buildings)

which made twelve scheduled trips a day (Alcatraz History). The children took the ferry to San Francisco every day to go to school. A former guard’s son, Steve, noted that Alcatraz “was a beautiful place’” (Tanner). The warden lived with his family in a large house next to the cell block.

There were about 300 civilians living on the island, 60 to 80 of which were children (Stofman). Usually, there were about 90 officers at once and they worked three 8 hour shifts. The shifts of the guards were divided into colors: green, red, and yellow (History). The yellow shift worked a ten hour period from seven a.m. to five p.m.  The red shift worked from five p.m. to twelve a.m., and the green shift worked from midnight to 7:00 a.m. (History). They had sick leave plus vacation days (Map west). The guard to prisoner ratio was 1:3 which was a lot more than other prisons.

220px-alcatraz_guards
Guards in front of a cell (SF Gate)

Many people have fond memories of their lives on Alcatraz Island: “‘I have nothing but happy memories from living here,’ said Ernest B. Lageson, the newsboy of the island, as well as the son of an Alcatraz officer said: ‘We did the same things you would do in the city’” (Stofman). The families of the guards all had a good relationship with one another. Pat Mahoney, a former guard on Alcatraz, recalled “‘We had big parties here,’ he said in an interview. ‘If there was a problem on the hill, we’d go up there and take care of it and come back to dinner’” (Tanner). Even though the thought of living on Alcatraz was not pleasant for the people in prison, the guards and families enjoyed their lives.

kids-560x219
Kids on a cannon on Alcatraz (Gunaxin)

Works Cited

Alcatraz History. “Alcatraz- Quick Facts.” Alcatraz History. Ocean View Publishing Company, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Buildings Survey Historic American. Alcatraz, Building NO. 64. Digital image. Landmark Hunter.com. Landmark hunter, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Gunaxin. Kids sitting on cannon. Digital image. Gunaxin.com. Gunaxin, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

History Alcatraz. “For Desperate or Irredeemable Types United States Federal Penitentiary Alcatraz.” The History of Alcatraz. Ocean View Publishing Company, 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Map west. “ALCATRAZ HISTORY – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – Alcatraz and San Francisco Tours and Tickets – Reserve Online.” ALCATRAZ HISTORY – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. Map west, 2 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Sf Gate. Guards in front of cell. Digital image. Pintrest. Pintrest, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Stofman, Lily. “Alcatraz Was Unique Home for Staff Families.” Our National Parks. University of Miami, 2 May 2008. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

Tanner, Adam. “Guards, Inmates Tell Alcatraz Story after Renovation.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 30 Apr. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

101 Alcatraz. “Correctional Officers.” Correctional Officers. Alcatraz 101, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

The Life of The Prisoners and How They Got to Alcatraz

Alcatraz was the home to some of America’s worst criminals. They had committed crimes like murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and even tax evasion (Mcgasko). However, not all of the prisoners were at Alcatraz because they had committed violent crimes; some were there because they had behaved badly at other federal prisons. As one writer put it, “they [were sent to Alcatraz because they] had bribed guards and attempted escapes, and a trip to Alcatraz was intended to get them to follow the rules so that they could return to other federal facilities” (Klein).

Once the prisoners were in Alcatraz, life was not glamorous.  There was a strict rule of silence, so the prisoners could only talk to each other for short periods during meals.  Breaking of this rule (and others) resulted in a stay in the dungeon (Grabianowski). It was also known as “The Hole”. While in the dungeon a prisoner would “see no light, hear no sounds, and see no person except for a brief glimpse at a guard twice a day” (Alcatraz-Torture). It was also cold and sometimes wet (Alcatraz-Torture). The morning whistle woke them at 6:30 a.m. and they made their beds. They put all of their dirty laundry in a wash basin and washed and dressed (Alcatraz History). They swept their cell clean and stood ready to go to the mess hall (Grabianowski).

daily-routine001005
(Alcatraz History)

Alcatraz’s first warden, James A. Johnston, realized that one major cause of prisoner riots was bad food (Klein). He prided himself “on serving good food, and inmates could return for as many helpings as they wanted” (Klein). The convicts were allowed to eat for 20 minutes, then the whistle was blown and they had to put all of their utensils on their tray. A guard would then come around to check if all utensils are properly placed (Alcatraz History). Afterwards, they went to their various jobs around the island (Grabianowski).

The prisoners basically kept the island running: they worked at the docks, did the laundry, and manned the industrial buildings (Grabianowski), including the tailor shop, the cobblers shop, the model shop, and the garden (Alcatraz History). The prisoner/workers had two 10-minute breaks a day, one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 2:30 p.m. (Alcatraz History). Throughout the day, the guards were doing a prisoner count: “a total of 13 official counts [were] made each 24 hours” (Alcatraz History). When the workday was over, the prisoners went to dinner and then back to their cells. The lights were out at 9:30 PM (Grabianowski).

Prisoners who behaved well received privileges on Alcatraz. Some prisoners got monthly movies or trips to the library, which contained 15,000 books and subscribed to about 75 popular magazines (Klein). The prison had a recreation yard and the inmates used it to play baseball, exercise, and simply hang around. Despite its fearsome reputation, some inmates at other federal prisons requested a transfer to Alcatraz because of the good food and the fact there was only one prisoner to a cell in Alcatraz. (Klein).

alcatraz_dining_hall_prisoners
(Sundstrom)

Works Cited

Alcatraz History. A Standard Alcatraz Cell. Digital image. Alcatraz History. Alcatraz History,

n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/daily.htm&gt;.

Alcatraz History. “Daily Activity Schedule.” Alcatraz Daily Routine of Work and

                 Counts. Ocean View Publishing Company, 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

“Alcatraz – Torture and Punishment.” Alcatraz – Torture and Punishment. Notfrisco2, n.d.

                Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://www.notfrisco2.com/alcatraz/punish.html&gt;.

Grabianowski, Ed. “How Alcatraz Worked.” HowStuffWorks. How Stuff Works, 20 May

2008 Web.  12 Oct. 2016.

Klein, Christopher. “10 Things You May Not Know About Alcatraz.” History.com. A&E

Television Networks, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Mcgasko, Joe. “Famous Inmates of Alcatraz.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 21

Aug. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Sundstrom, Carl. Inmates in the Dining Hall. Digital image. Triposo. Triposo, n.d.

Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <http://www.triposo.com/poi/T__c46b3fe29a4e&gt;.