Alcatraz Prison was one of the most secure prisons ever built in the United States. Alcatraz was erected in the San Francisco Bay and originally was a military facility during the late 1800s. Alcatraz has housed 1,576 of the United States most dangerous criminals during its 29 year existence (Williams). Alcatraz has housed well known criminals such as Al Capone and George Barnes (The Rock). The prison was considered escape proof, so when prisoners from other federal facilities were causing problems or were an escape risk, they were sent to Alcatraz to serve out their sentence (The Rock).
Alcatraz Prison is located in the San Francisco Bay and is surrounded by water making it one of the most escape proof prisons in the United States (Federal Bureau of Prisons). Alcatraz Prison is built on a twelve acre island in the San Francisco Bay, which is the largest natural harbor in the world. Since there are cold waters and dangerous currents surrounding Alcatraz, it was considered a perfect location for holding prisoners that were prone to escaping. Alcatraz Prison began accepting inmates as a federal prison in 1934 and became known for housing some of the United States most dangerous criminals (americaslibrary.org). James A. Johnston was the first warden of Alcatraz Prison. He began working at Alcatraz on July 1, 1934, though even first prisoners did not enter Alcatraz until August 11, 1934 (americaslibrary.org). 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. Prisoners at Alcatraz had rules to go by and if a rule was broken the inmate was punished. Inmates were to shave 3 times a week, not able to have visitors for the first 3 months there, and not allowed to visit their cell during the day. If prisoners broke rules, inmates were punished by wearing ball and chain, they would have to do manual labor, or go to solitary confinement where they were given limited amounts of bread and water. The prisoners were also sent to “The Hole” for punishment and could stay there up to nineteen days. Putting inmates in strait jackets, solitary confinement, and tightening the handcuffs, were the most common way to punish inmates. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Alcatraz Prison had a maximum capacity of 312 inmates. The highest number of inmates at Alcatraz Prison was 302 so it never reached full capacity. The inmates housed at Alcatraz were mainly people that had behavior problems at other federal prisons or were considered to be a high risk of escaping. Alcatraz has held some of the United States most notable inmates such as Alphonse Gabriel Capone (“Scarface”) and George Celino Barnes (“Machine Gun Kelly”). Alcatraz not only housed inmates but it housed the correctional officers and their families. Even though Alcatraz was considered escape proof it did not prevent inmates from trying. According to the prison correctional officers, once a convict arrived on the Alcatraz wharf, his first thoughts were on how to leave (The Rock). During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as "missing and presumed drowned"(Williams). The first unsuccessful attempt to escape the prison was made on April 27, 1936 by Joseph Bowers, who was assigned the duty of burning trash at the incinerator. He tried to escape during duty hours by scaling a chain link fence at the edge of the island. When he was caught and refused to obey the correctional officer to come down, he was shot. He was seriously...
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