Alcatraz History

By: Alison Cole

Alcatraz Island was declared a military reservation in 1850 and troops were permanently stationed by 1859. For almost eighty years Alcatraz Island was the site of the first fortress and military prison on the west coast. The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz were acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933. Soon, it became a federal penitentiary on January 1, 1934

Alcatraz was also the first long-term Army prison. The first prisoners to be brought in to Alcatraz were Civil War and Spanish American War Prisoners during the 1800s. With the number of inmates increasing everyday, the prison structure was also extended and renovated. By the 1920s, the three-story building was almost at full capacity.

Due to its isolated location and the freezing San Francisco Bay waters, the authorities considered Alcatraz as an ideal place for holding dangerous prisoners. Criminals like George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Robert Franklin Stroud, Alvin Karpis, Henry Young and Al Capone are some of the most famous inmates to claim residence on Alcatraz.

Alcatraz operated for a full 29 years and during that time, there had been no known case of any successful escape attempts. Most escapees were shot dead or presumed drowned in the San Francisco Bay waters. In 1962, three prisoners - Clarens Anglin, his brother John and Frank Morris – disappeared from the premises and were never found. But nobody knows if they ever reached the shore.

On March 21, 1963, when the prison was closed, Alcatraz had already accommodated 1033 prisoners. From November 1969 until June 1971, the American Indians inhabited the island. Since October 1972, Alcatraz has become a historic site and part of the "Golden Gate National Recreation Area" - supervised by the National Park Service, which is now open to tours.

North America Destinations
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on North America Destinations
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles