Alcatraz Island

January 23rd, 2018

Alcatraz is an island located in San Francisco Bay. A lot of legends are found around Alcatraz.

Julian Workman originally owned Alcatraz Island, after the Mexican governor gave it to him in 1846. He sold the island to the U.S. government in 1846. It became a military compound called Fortress Alcatraz. Civil War prisoners began to be shipped to Fortress Alcatraz in 1861. In 1933 the Fortress became the property of the Bureau of Prisons, and in 1934 the U.S. Department of Justice turned it into a federal prison, which was closed in 1963. Since 1976 Alcatraz can be visited as a Historic Place.

Although Alcatraz is only a 15 min ferry ride away from Pier 33 in San Francisco, nobody is confirmed to have successfully escaped from Alcatraz. The sea is quite rough around Alcatraz with a lot of unpredictable currents. There were 14 escape attempts by 36 prisoners. Six prisoners were shot dead, two drowned. Five went missing and were believed to have drowned or attacked by sharks. 23 prisoners were caught alive.  

John Paul Scott was the only known prisoner to escape from Alcatraz and swim to the shore. But he was so exhausted and in hypothermic shock when he reached the shore that the police had no trouble taking him into custody again. So it really wasn’t a successful escape.

The most famous prisoners were Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Franklin Stroud. Al Capone was serving a sentence for tax evasion, but he was a known as an American mobster.  Machine Gun Kelly was an American gangster. His nickname came from his favourite weapon. Robert Franklin Stroud, also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, was one of the most notorious criminals in the United states. During his time at Leavenworth Penitentiary he reared and sold birds and became a respected ornithologist. But he was not allowed to have birds in Alcatraz.

If you ever happen to visit San Francisco, don’t miss Alcatraz and the 45 min audio presentation. Former officers and prisoners are telling their stories and give you an impression about the life on this prison island.