Alcatraz is a San Francisco Bay island best known for its use as a military prison and, later, a federal prison that housed many notorious prisoners. Julian Workman was the original owner of Alcatraz Island, which was given to him by the Mexican governor in 1846. In 1846, he sold the island to the United States government. It was converted into a military compound known as Fortress Alcatraz. In 1861, the first Civil War prisoners were shipped to Fortress Alcatraz. The Fortress was taken over by the Bureau of Prisons in 1933, and the United States took over in 1934. It was converted into a federal prison by the Department of Justice. Criminals such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and the Birdman of Alcatraz – Robert Franklin Stroud – would be housed in the prison.
Seabirds inspired the name Alcatraz. The first European ship sailed through the Golden Gate in 1775. He was Spanish Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala, and he named the island ‘La Isla de los Alcatraces’ (Island of the Pelicans) because of the island’s many colonies of brown pelicans.
The first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast was built on Alcatraz. It was built and operational in 1854, but it was replaced in 1909 by a taller lighthouse.
For 29 years, Alcatraz was a federal prison.
During Alcatraz’s 29 years as a federal prison, 36 prisoners attempted 14 escapes. Six inmates were killed by gunfire. Two people drowned. Five people went missing and were presumed to have drowned. 23 prisoners were apprehended alive.
Prisoners on Alcatraz were charged $10 per day, compared to $3 per day on the mainland.
Al Capone was among the first inmates to be housed at Alcatraz. He attempted to bribe the guards for better treatment, as he had done in Atlanta, but it did not work. He was the 85th convict. He was in prison for tax evasion, but he was also a known mobster.
Nobody has been confirmed to have escaped from Alcatraz. This cannot be confirmed because the bodies of five escaped prisoners were never discovered.
Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, never had any birds in Alcatraz. He had raised canaries in Leavenworth, but he was not permitted to have them while incarcerated at Alcatraz.
John Paul Scott was the only known prisoner to swim to shore after escaping from Alcatraz. When he arrived at the shore, he was exhausted and in hypothermic shock, and the cops had no trouble taking him back into custody.
Despite the fact that Alcatraz was thought to be a harsher environment for inmates, some inmates requested transfers to the prison. To help keep the rioting at bay, the warden provided better food and additional servings if requested.
There was also a large library and monthly movies for prisoners at Alcatraz.
Alcatraz, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, is now open to the public.