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One daring escape was popularized in the film Escape from Alcatraz Eventually the necessity of transporting fresh water to and waste away from the island resulted in its abandonment in In November Indian activists, including members of the American Indian Movement , occupied the island again, demanding the deed to the island and refusing to leave until they were forced off by federal marshals in June Although no effort has been made to repair the structures on the island—most have suffered general decay and weathering, and the historic lighthouse and four other buildings burned in the lighthouse survived, but the other buildings were largely destroyed —Alcatraz Island is now open to the public and is a popular tourist destination.

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Alcatraz Island. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Willie Radkay he shared a cell next to Machine Gun Kelly , indicated that having your own cell was a great advantage over other federal prisons. By having your own cell, it reduced the chances of being sexually violated and the privacy aspect was also a cherished benefit. He also stated that the staff the majority of the time treated the inmates respectfully though they rarely spoke to one another.

Furthermore, the food was the best within the entire prison system and considered his time at Alcatraz to be better than at any other penitentiary.

The common theme expressed by most inmates was the rule of silence which was discontinued in the late 's. In the earlier years of Alcatraz, inmates were not allowed to talk to one another except during meals and recreation periods. Some inmates commonly emptied out the water from their toilets and created a primitive communications system through the sewage piping.

This rule was considered harsh and inmates were disciplined for even minor violations of this code. Inmates also state that the island was always cold. Most agree that cells on their higher tiers with window views were more popular since they tended to be warmer than the ground level cells. Alcatraz had no facilities for Capital Punishment and this process was usually left to State institutions.

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For Alcatraz, inmates who had been served a death sentence were transferred to San Quentin State Penitentiary for execution in the Gas Chamber. There were eight people murdered by inmates on Alcatraz. Five men committed suicide, and fifteen died from natural illnesses. The Island also boasted it's own morgue but no autopsies were performed there. All deceased inmates were brought back to the mainland and released to the San Francisco County Coroner. The highest number ever recorded was , and the lowest number The average number of inmates during the 29 years of service was around There were approximately total men imprisoned there and the NPS indicated that while 1, number were issued, over thirty convicts were returned to Alcatraz with different numbers issued.

On average, the time of residence was about eight years. Men were never directly sentenced to Alcatraz and usually had to earn their way.

Alcatraz Escape — FBI

There were only two men ever paroled directly from Alcatraz to the free world. See the escape info link on this site that provides brief descriptions of each attempt. The NPS records indicate that 36 prisoners were involved in various attempts. Two inmates actually successfully made it off the island but were quickly captured. Seven inmates were shot and killed trying to escape. Two drowned and 5 inmates have been unaccounted for presumed drowned. The most famous escape was that of Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers.

All three were successful in swimming off Alcatraz, but all three are believed to have drowned. See the escapes links and also the Alcatraz short history narrative for more detailed information.

What Was It Like to be Jailed at Alcatraz?

Primarily because of rising costs and deteriorating facilities. Operationally, Alcatraz was the most expensive prison of any state or federal institution. We learned sometimes of news and changes in American prisons even before they were officially announced. The first bell rang at a. If it was your day to shave, you laid a matchbox outside the cell grille and a guard put a razor blade on it. A man had to shave in two or three minutes, for the blade had to be back on the little shelf when the guard returned.

The bell was the signal for the count of prisoners—a really serious business which is done every 30 minutes.

Inmate #110: Roy Gardner

Breakfast at usually consists of coffee, coffee cake, and cereal. Food at Alcatraz is much better than usual prison fare. For dinner, there is meat, beans, coffee, bread, celery; for supper, chili, tomatoes, and apples, with hot tea. Seated at the same table with me were Machine Gun Kelly, Albert Bates, and others well known to the front page. And although talking at meals is prohibited, the men do manage to speak in a grumbling monotone out of the corners of their mouths. I was assigned to work in the laundry and I received a cordial welcome from the men there when I reported for duty. He has lost weight, is said to be in mortal fear for his life, and is deprived of all the privileges he used to purchase at Atlanta.

The only time I ever saw men laughing at Alcatraz prison was over these snitch boxes. One day the snitch box sounded an alarm on every man who came from the laundry.

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The guards jerked each man out of line, searched him, and found nothing. A few days later it was silent when two men passed through with knives in their pockets. Some magazines are admitted, some are not. The convicts would prefer daily newspapers and detective magazines, which are never allowed. The most prized possessions in Alcatraz prison are newspaper clippings, which are passed from hand to hand until worn out. Most of them concern prison breaks and crimes. We were permitted to write only one letter of not more than two pages each week.

Island of Incarceration, Island of Freedom

That had to be to a blood relative; no inmate could write to his sweetheart. We never saw the incoming letters, just copies or rewrites typed at the prison office. Visiting, too, is drastically regulated. No visitor is permitted to shake hands with a prisoner or to touch him.


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Why do men dread Alcatraz? Because the discipline is as severe as it can possibly be. Literally, you leave all hope behind, for clemency is all but unknown; only a few short-timers get out. Men go slowly insane under the exquisite torture of restricted and undeviating routine. Read the fascinating true story of how a convict found a typo that helped him get released. I saw one instance of violent insanity. A convict working on the dock detail suddenly picked up an ax, laid his left hand on the block, and chopped off every finger.