Alcatraz Essay

1221 words - 5 pages

Alcatraz Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the San Francisco bay is a rocky island. If you are lucky and weather permits, you can see it standing from the San Francisco Pier. This rocky island named Alcatraz, also as “The Rock”, is one of the many tourist attractions in San Francisco. Tours can take you by boat to Alcatraz, located on the island is an old prison that has been closed for 43 years. This prison is well–known for its odd location and famous prisoners. What attracts the attention of people to Alcatraz is how prisoners managed to escape from the island and if they ever made it alive to shore. There is a lot of history behind this island and prison as well.Alcatraz was not a prison from the start. Alcatraz was explored in 1775 by a Spanish lieutenant, Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala, who found that this island was the home of many seabirds. Lieutenant Ayala decided to name the island Isla de los Alcatraces. In Spanish, Isla de los Alcatraces means Isle of the Pelicans. In 1850, Isla de los Alcatraces was sold to the U.S. government and was ordered to be used as a U.S. military reservation (Britannica). Meanwhile, the California Gold Rush was attracting the notice of many people from all over the United States to San Francisco. To protect the city and the bay, the government decided to build a fort on the island. During this same time, the first lighthouse on the coast of California as well as the west coast was built on the island (Britannica). The first use of this fort as a prison for military prisoners was in the late 1850’s. In 1909, the island was designated the Pacific Branch of the United States Military Prison and the name “The Rock” was found (National Park Service).From 1909 when the island was designated the Pacific Branch of the United States Military Prison until 1933, the island was in the hands of the U.S. military (Federal Bureau of Prisoners). In 1933, the island was transferred to the U.S. Department of Justice for use by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. From 1933 until 1963, Alcatraz was the house of many dangerous prisoners (Alcatraz History). The most famous prisoner of Alcatraz was Al Capone, a well-known gangster at the time. Capone was accused of federal income-tax evasion in 1931 and transferred to Alcatraz in 1933. There were other famous prisoners at Alcatraz, but they were only famous within the prison walls and amongst fellow inmates. None of them were famous to the outside public like how Al Capone was.Alcatraz was one of the few prisons that offered private cells to inmates that measured 10` by 4.5`, these cells were bigger than most of the private cells offered to prisoners (Alcatraz History). The prisoners were given only the necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing. Whatever else the prisoners wanted was a privilege and had to be earned. For example, the prisoners had to earn the privilege to be able to use the prison library or recreation...

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