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History Of Alcatraz Essay

1309 words - 5 pages

Alcatraz is one of the most well known prisons in the United States. Although it is no longer a functioning prison it still holds the reputation for being one of the most brutal and most of all inescapable prisons in history. It also held some of the most infamous inmates of its time.The name Alcatraz was originally derived from the Spanish word "Alcatraces." It was discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. Alcatraz Island was opened from 1934 to 1963. At that time it was the last stop in the federal penitentiary pipeline. It housed famous criminals such as Al "Scarface" Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud, "The Birdman of Alcatraz." The warden, James Johnston, turned it into such a brutal place that even the most hardened criminals started calling it "Hellcatraz". Located on a twenty-two acre island in San Francisco Bay, about a half mile off shore, Alcatraz was built out of an old military fort. It consisted of a cell house, the old fort, work buildings, a lighthouse, and a mess hall. Some considered Alcatraz escape proof. The entire structure was surrounded by a cyclone fence topped with barbed wire. The cell house was three stories of reinforced concrete. Elevated gun galleries were built at each end of the cell house. Inmates were monitored constantly by guards on a central walkway surrounded by bars. All doors on the island were electronically operated and were designed to slam and let the inmate know the guards were in total control. Coming back from work inmates were checked eleven times and had to get through three metal detectors. Then in their cells they were counted up to thirty times a day. Well behaved inmates could spend their Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching a movie or in the recreation yard. In the yard they could lounge about, lift weights, play in a softball game, or sit down to a game of chess, dominoes, or bridge.The typical day for an inmate was pretty regular and unchanged. At 6:30 AM they would wake up to a loud clang of the prison alarm bell. Then crawl out of bed just as a guard walks by their cell taking the first count of the day. Then they would have twenty minutes to brush their teeth, get dressed, and make their bed. They lounged around and waited for their fifteen man group to get called to breakfast. Then they would return to their cell while everyone else would eat. Then they would go down to the workshops for several hours of hard labor. After that they would go back to the cells for the lunch rotation. Then they would go back to work and have supper. At around 5:30 PM they would be on lock down in the cell for the next thirteen hours. For several hours a day, convicts could go to the workshops and work. They could craft shoes, make pallets, or wash laundry. They earned small amounts of money, but it was worthless because there was nothing they could buy. The only contact inmates had with the outside world was through heavily censored magazines, censored books, and...

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