ALCATRAZ FEDERAL PENITENTIARY
Alcatraz was a maximum-security penitentiary located in Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, California. It was operated from 1934 to 1963, and during its 29 years of operation it gained a reputation well known among society. It was believed to be an escape-proof penitentiary. “The Rock” was a popular name that identified Alcatraz, and its mention provoked fear among prisoners. They were aware of the isolation system that Alcatraz severely enforced. Alcatraz was meant to tame the toughest and most notorious criminals that other penitentiaries could not control, such as USP Atlanta and USP Leavenworth. Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert “Birdman” Stroud were some of the most notorious criminals held within the walls of “The Rock”. Moreover, Alcatraz Island is 1.5 miles off shore. This distance provided Alcatraz Penitentiary with an essential advantage. It was the most challenging obstacle for any prisoner who tried to escape. Alcatraz’ regulations also proved to be quite successful, but not flawless. “…they frequently underwent the scrutiny of a metal detector… but the device was fickle, ringing loudly when unarmed men walked through but allowing the occasional knife to pass unnoticed.”(Bergreen 541). There are sophisticated regulations and improvements that can be implemented to a penitentiary. However, I strongly believe that no penitentiary will ever be escape-proof.
Some of the regulations and conditions inside Alcatraz are mentioned by Bosworth. Prisoners were not to share cells, so each had his own. There was high staff ratio in comparison to inmate ratio. Movement of prisoners from one place to another was highly restricted and monitored. Six cells conformed the D Unit or Treatment Unit were prisoners were isolated in in complete darkness. A silent system was enforced a few years, and prisoners rarely had a chance to speak. In addition, inmate population was very low, and they received the same treatment. Convicts also could receive visits, but they were very limited. Surprisingly, prisoners at Alcatraz had some privileges that had to be earned. In other words, socializing was a privilege. Working to earn money, playing musical instruments, a chance to use athletic equipment and writing supplies were privileges. Other included the opportunity to attend the library, the recreation area, and the auditorium (22-23). However, they could also lose those privileges easily by showing disruptive behavior. A prisoner could easily show disruptive behavior because it was very closely observed by the wards. “If they refused three meals in a row, they were placed in D block—isolation.” (Bergreen 539). Disruptive behavior also resulted in severe punishment. “Nor could the man confined to isolation eat in the cafeteria; they remained in their cells twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and received Spartan “meals” consisting of bread and water…” (Bergreen 539).
The strict regulations that Alcatraz...