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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid