With shackles on hands and feet, you face the floor and walk in a shuffle off the island ferry with the others following close behind. You look up to catch a glimpse of the substantial structure ahead with a correctional officer standing before it. You put your head back down and continue to walk. The correctional officer flashes a smile you do not see, but you can hear his simple but chilling words – “Welcome home.”
Known to be stone cold and unforgiving, miles away from the mainland on a 22 acre mass of rock lies a prison where the most uncontrollable prisoners in America were controlled with strict daily routines and un-sympathizing punishments…
Before Alcatraz was used by Americans for various purposes, it was discovered in 1775 by Juan Manuel de Ayala, a Spanish explorer whom Viceroy Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua sent to explore the San Francisco Bay area by sea while another party consisting of colonists and soldiers explored the area by land. This was all a part of the Viceroy’s expedition for Spanish settlement in the San Francisco Bay area.
On the San Carlos, a ship which de Ayala was the captain of came across a 22 acre rocky island. He mapped and named this island La Isla de los Alcatraces [meaning pelican or strange bird] because of the group of pelicans soaring above it.
Although before Ayala, members of the Ohlone tribe may have visited the island to collect food such as eggs and fish. However, other tribes may have avoided the island completely because they though it to contain evil spirits.
La Isla de los Alcatraces’ name changed to Alcatraz under American speaking influence.
In 1850 the 13th American President Millard Fillmore ordered that the island be reserved as a possible place for U.S. Military use. The California Gold Rush caused San Francisco’s population to grow drastically, meaning that more protection was needed for the San Francisco Bay (Alcatraz Origins 1).
By 1853, the U.S. Army started to construct and build a citadel and the first functional lighthouse of the West Coast on Alcatraz Island. The island was then declared Fort Alcatraz and completed and established in 1859. Along with a citadel filled with weapons and American soldiers, the island was also equipped with more than 100 cannons. This made Fort Alcatraz, according to bop.gov’s page on Alcatraz Military, “…the most heavily...