Show MoreAlcatraz Prison, in the San Francisco Bay, is surrounded by freezing waters and razor sharp rocks, making it the most inescapable prison in America. In 1775, a Spanish explorer Juan Manuel De Ayla named the small island La Isla De Los Alcatraces. It translates to “Island of the Pelicans” (Welcome to Alcatraz). This island is a twelve acre rock in the San Francisco Bay, the largest natural harbor in the world (Fuller,8). Because Alcatraz is surrounded by ice cold waters and dangerous currents, it was soon to be considered a perfect location for holding prisoners (Welcome to Alcatraz). “The Rock” opened for the first time as a federal prison in 1934 (Alcatraz Prison).
The first warden on Alcatraz was James A. Johnston, he started on…show more content…
Also, Cell block D was used for solitary confinement for talking or disobeying (Oliver, 70). Straight jackets, and tightening the handcuffs were also quite common as punishment (Oliver, 71).
The inmates were divided into three groups according to the degree of crimes they committed. The third group was the most troubled prisoners (Welcome to Alcatraz). They could have no reading material, no contact with any family, and were to be silent at all times (Welcome to Alcatraz). When prisoners weren't doing manual labor, they did various activities. In 1935, the University of California Extension Program let prisoners enroll in courses. They could choose from twenty options from French to arithmetic, and from vegetable gardening to music (Presnall, 63). They were allowed to get as many fiction books as they desired, and were able to receive up to twenty magazines yearly (Presnall, 63). Inmates shared their skills and taught each other how to draw and paint artwork and play various instruments (Presnall, 63). Some, would have boxing matches between one another (Oliver, 60). Each inmate had their own cell. A small, five foot by nine foot cell, a sink and toilet, and a small cot ( Fuller, 8). Guards were very strict with prisoners, they made roughly twelve inmate counts daily (Welcome to Alcatraz)! There was to be one guard for every three
In 1775, Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala (1745-97) mapped and named rugged Alcatraz Island, christening it La Isla de los Alcatraces, or Island of the Pelicans, due to its large population of sea birds. Seventy-five years later, in 1850, President Millard Fillmore (1800-74) signed an order reserving the island for military use. During the 1850s, a fortress was constructed on Alcatraz and some 100 cannons were installed around the island to protect San Francisco Bay. Also during this time, Alcatraz became home to the West Coast’s first operational lighthouse.
Did You Know?
Each year, hundreds of athletes participate in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, proving that (with training and proper gear) it is possible to swim from Alcatraz and survive. First held in 1980, the event includes a 1.5-mile swim to San Francisco, plus an 18-mile bike ride and 8-mile run.
By the late 1850s, the U.S. Army had begun holding military prisoners at Alcatraz. Isolated from the mainland by the cold, strong waters of San Francisco Bay, the island was deemed an ideal location for a prison. It was assumed no Alcatraz inmate could attempt to escape by swimming and survive.
During its years as a military prison, the inmates at Alcatraz included Confederate sympathizers and citizens accused of treason during the American Civil War (1861-65). Alcatraz also housed a number of “rebellious” American Indians, including 19 Hopis from the Arizona Territory who were sent to the prison in 1895 following land disagreements with the federal government. The inmate population at Alcatraz continued to rise during the Spanish-American War (1898).
During the early 20th century, inmate labor fueled the construction of a new cellhouse (the 600-cell structure still stands today) on Alcatraz, along with a hospital, mess hall and other prison buildings. According to the National Park Service, when this new complex was finished in 1912 it was the world’s largest reinforced concrete building.