Alcatraz Island, or as it is sometimes known: the Rock, is in the San Francisco Bay, and is located about a mile and a half from San Francisco. Nowadays, it is a tourist attraction and one of top places to see in U.S., but it is most famous for being a prison and has a long history in this respect.
Today, Alcatraz Island is run by the National Park Service and if you want to take a tour and is on the list of top cities to visit in California. To go on a tour you take a ferry from Pier 33 in San Francisco to get there, pay the entrance fee, and get to go on the tour of the prison and other areas.
History of Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz is known for being a federal prison between 1934 and 1963, but it actually was used prior to this in several forms as a prison too.
Life at Alcatraz Island as a Military Prison Facility
Alcatraz Island was chosen as a place to put prisoners during the Civil War starting in 1861 because it was isolated and the currents in the San Francisco waters were very cold and hazardous, so it made it less likely prisoners would try to escape.
Then, the Army decided to build a brick jail in 1867 to house prisoners, as before that they stayed in a basement in the island’s guardhouse. Alcatraz Island was officially declared a military prison during this timeframe and by 1898 due to the Spanish American war, the prison soon housed more than 450 prisoners.
In 1907 Alcatraz Island was named the Western U.S. Military Prison, but that changed to the Pacific Branch of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in 1915. However, prior to that, in 1909 a prison cell block was planned and finished in 1912. By 1933, it was changed over from a military prison to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Alcatraz Island as a Federal Prison
Alcatraz Island as a federal prison was created for trouble making prisoners. Some of the famous bad guys that were in it during its open timeframe include Chicago gangster Al Capone, Birdman of Alcatraz Robert Franklin Stroud, Machine Gun Kelly, as well as the man responsible for attacking the U.S. Capitol in 1954, Rafael Cancel Miranda, and others such as Mickey Cohen, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, who was famous for being in Alcatraz the longest.
Other Historic Aspects of Alcatraz Island
Besides several types of prison facilities, the Alcatraz Island has also housed a lighthouse, and in 1969 a group of American Indians stayed there to protest for 19 months. Then, starting in 1972 it was declared to be a National Landmark.
Famous Escape Attempts from Alcatraz Island
During the timeframe Alcatraz Island was a prison it was said no one was ever able to escape. However, some did try, and 36 of them tried to escape 14 times. Out of those, six were shot and killed and three disappeared and never were seen again, so that is why they say no one has ever escaped. The official report says the three men drowned after an elaborate plan to escape that failed, but many other theories say they could have survived and to this day no one knows.
Closure of Alcatraz Island Prison
Due to the fact that the prison was very expensive to run and cost three times more than other prisons in its day, Alcatraz Island was ordered to be closed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963. It was also due to salt water ruining many of the buildings and it would cost too much to fix them, as well as the area population didn’t like the fact that the prison dumped its sewage into the San Francisco Bay.
All in all, this famous Alcatraz Island prison is now very popular and one of the California sites to visit if you come to the area on vacation.