Darby's Destinations Luxury Travel - Italy

"You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Everything else is a privilege"...

The story of Alcatraz

December 2, 2017

Alcatraz is among the most infamous US federal penitentiaries in America.  Rule Number 5 in the rules and regulations of The Rock stated in 1934 “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.” This rule was a reality of a place that holds many myths. ​

​Alcatraz prisoners came from other prisons not because they were the worst criminals or were convicted of violent crimes.  The prisoners were sent to Alcatraz since they had notoriety for being disobedient and unruly and for trying to escape the other prisons.  A trip to Alcatraz was meant to get them to follow the rules, and it was tough to try to escape the island prison. Al Capone and Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, are some of the most famous prisoners held there. Alcatraz began as a prison back in the 1800s when it was used to keep soldiers who were scheduled for confinement due to certain convictions of desertion, theft, assault, and murder, and some citizens who were accused of treason. In 1934 Alcatraz reopen as a federal prison and it housed 1500 men who did jail time there.

The island of Alcatraz is beautiful with many gardens of wildflowers and bird sanctuaries. The prison itself is an eerie, cold and dark place but the tour of the prison was excellent. You walk around with a headset on,and you follow the path of the inmate's living there. You go through the cells where Al Capone and some of the other famous prisoners were. You also go to the warden's office and down to solitary confinement. You can see the cafeteria where the prisoners ate, and there was a display of all the kitchen utensils that had to be kept away from the prisoners so that they wouldn't harm themselves or others. The last part of the tour was visiting the cells where the two prisoners Frank Morris and the brothers John and Clarence Anglin escaped back in 1962. Probably the most famous prison break in history which many movies and books are based on. There is still have the hole in the wall, and the mannequins that were placed in their beds to have the guards think they were sleeping. The history here was fascinating; the tour went through all the wardens that were in charge at the prison and many of the famous prisoners. There were several pictures of the last walk down the row of cells when they closed the prison back in 1963. After the escape from Alcatraz in 1962, the prison was closed by the Attorney General Robert F Kennedy since the increase in maintenance and cost to operate it was too much for the government.

Some of the main buildings on the island are still intact today, and some have gone to ruin.  For anyone who worked on Alcatraz, their families also lived there, so, there was a schoolhouse, a chapel, a post office and places for the children of the employees to play.  On one part of the island, there is a place called The Children's Gardens. According to a former resident, the plants were planted in the 1950s by the captain of the guards who felt the Alcatraz children had too much free time and would benefit from the experience of tendering small plots of land along the edge of the employee housing. The ferry ride out to Alcatraz has excellent views of the island, the Golden Gate Bridge and of San Francisco’s skyline. It has always been known that the Alcatraz prisoners had the best view, always to be looking at San Francisco but never to be able to set on foot in the city again.

Some little-known facts about Alcatraz and the island: The Alcatraz Lighthouse was the first of its kind on the Pacific coast. It was in service from 1854 until 1970 when a fire destroyed it. The exact location of Al Capone cell is unknown since most of his time on Alcatraz was spent in the hospital and an isolation cell. There were never any executions on Alcatraz, and many of the prisoners remained on Alcatraz until they were no longer considered disruptive, usually an average of 8 to 10 years. There were never any female correction officers or prisoners on Alcatraz. The families who worked at the prison and lived on the island never really locked their doors.

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