Alcatraz

By: Alison Cole

Alcatraz is an old prison, which was used as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, a total of 29 years. It is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California and when it was opened to the public from 1972, it has become a very famous historic and tourist site. The National Park Service, as a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, now maintains the abandoned prison.

Alcatraz Island was also the first long-term Army prison. During the 1800s, Civil War and Spanish American War Prisoners were the first inmates to arrive on the Island. Later on, due to its isolated location and the freezing San Francisco Bay waters, the authorities considered Alcatraz as an ideal place for holding dangerous prisoners.

Initially, Alcatraz was just another Federal institution but the prison started gaining fame after it began housing notorious criminals like George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Robert Franklin Stroud, Alvin Karpis, Henry Young and Al Capone. Criminals who could not be controlled by other Federal institutions were also incarcerated here.

The average number of inmates in Alcazar was around 260 and approximately 1545 total men imprisoned here during the 29 years of its operation. There were escape attempts but there is no official record if any of them had been successful. A few prisoners disappeared but were all presumed drowned in the San Francisco Bay waters.

After the prison was closed down in 1963, some Native Indians from 1969 to 1971 occupied it. Alcatraz is now a National Historic Landmark, opened to tours. Visitors to this place can also explore the oldest lighthouse in the west coast, remnants of early military fortifications and natural features such as rock pools.

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