News / USA

80 Years Ago, Alcatraz Prison Opened for Business

Alcatraz Island is shown in San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2001. The cellhouse is shown in the background up on the hill next to the water tower, and in the foreground is the model industries building where the prisoners washed clothes, among other tasks.
Alcatraz Island is shown in San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2001. The cellhouse is shown in the background up on the hill next to the water tower, and in the foreground is the model industries building where the prisoners washed clothes, among other tasks.

Related Articles

Video Historic US Route 66 Still Sparks Wanderlust

Route 66 covered nearly 4,000 kilometers of the American heartland and West, and generations came westward on this route long before it became a paved highway
VOA News

Alcatraz was open for less than 30 years, but the former prison left an indelible mark on American culture.

Today marks the 80th anniversary that Alcatraz Island, site of a former fortress and military prison, became a federal penitentiary for America’s most dangerous prisoners.

Alcatraz, which was also called “The Rock,” was infamous because no prisoner ever successfully escaped. Over its history, 36 prisoners made 14 attempts to break free.  

However, in 1962, three men were able to get out of the prison and into San Francisco Bay, but it is believed they drowned attempting to make the 2 kilometer journey in the chilly choppy waters.

Their plan was elaborate and executed over a long period of time. The three meticulously tunneled through their prison cell walls. They made rubber rafts from raincoats and left behind fake heads made of cardboard, toilet paper and human hair collected from the prison’s barber ship to trick the guards into thinking they were still in their cots.

The prison was also made famous by Hollywood. The 1962 escape attempt was the subject of a popular 1979 movie, “Escape from Alcatraz,” starring Clint Eastwood. The prison has been depicted in several other movies, television shows and video games.

1,576 inmates called Alcatraz home during the time it was open. Some of the more famous convicts included Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the "Birdman of Alcatraz") and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Stroud was depicted in the movie “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” starring Burt Lancaster.

Life in Alcatraz was hard. Inmates were housed individually in separate cells, spending the majority of their time in their cells. According to the National Park Service website, Alcatraz prisoners “had to earn their way out of the cells through good behavior.”

In 1963, having fallen into a state of disrepair, Alcatraz’s remaining prisoners were transferred to other jails and Alcatraz was shuttered.

Today, Alcatraz Island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is visited by over one million people annually.

 

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid