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

Video VOA ‘Town Hall’ Shines Light on Ebola Crisis

Experts call for greater speed in identification and treatment of deadly disease More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Funding Program Helps Extremely Poor in Ghana

Broad objective for Ghana's social cash transfer program is to lessen the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable people, elderly, orphans, those with disabilities 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid