The Infamy Of Alcatraz Federal Prison

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Although the infamy of Alcatraz Federal Prison has faded over the decades, the mere mention of its name fifty years ago would make a prisoners’ ears tingle. From its start as a military prison, its reputation as a cruel and unforgiving penitentiary made it feared by criminals throughout America. When Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock,” opened in 1934, it was proclaimed to be an “unescapable prison,” meant for the worst convicts in America. Throughout its history, thirty-six inmates tried to escape, all of who failed… except for possibly three. The fate of these men has been under investigation for almost fifty years now. Some evidence suggests that they died in the cold, shark infested waters surrounding the prison. Other clues suggest that…show more content…
He christened it “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which meant Island of the Pelicans. Almost a century later, America procured it for military use in the 1850s. From 1861 to 1865 it held many prisoners during the American Civil War, such as confederate sympathizers. In the 20th century, a new cell house was constructed by inmates which contained 600 cells, a mess hall, hospital, and other typical prison buildings. At the time of its completion, it was the biggest reinforced concrete building ever made. In 1934, the military closed the prison due to high maintenance costs, and ownership shifted to the U.S. Justice Department. At this period in American history, the Great Depression brought forth a new age of organized crime, and by the time Prohibition had been ratified, the gangster era was in full bloom. Police and other law enforcement agencies would often cower before the more heavily armed gangs during shoot outs and while trying to stop their criminal activities. With powerful and influential mobsters putting immense pressure on metropolitan cities and their officials, Americans were afraid for their way of life. To deal with these gangsters, America needed a prison that not only could hold these dangerous and slippery criminals, but also one that drove fear into their hearts as a deterrent against their crimes. (Alcatraz: A Definitive…show more content…
Inmates described it as “a living death.” Prisoners were isolated from each other and confined in cells five feet wide and nine feet long, and until the late 1930s could only speak to one another during meals and recreational periods. (Alcatraz History) The more unruly prisoners were sent to D Block, where they would be confined to their cell twenty-four hours a day except for once a week visits to the recreational grounds. Regulation number five describes the few good things a prisoner could expect, stating, “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.” Stuck in this loathsome way of life, many inmates tried to free themselves by various ingenious escape attempts. The lucky ones who did not die in the attempt had to suffer harsh disciplinary actions, such as being quartered into a cell called “The Hole,” an empty, lightless, void of a room that only had a small drain for human waste. With all of these security precautions in place, Alcatraz’s reputation as an escape-proof prison was untarnished for decades. (Alcatraz
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