Alcatraz island prison – prison on the Rock
Discovered by a Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775 got a name Isla de los Alcatraces for the colony of pelicans nesting here. In 1854 the Army established a fortress on the island, called Alcatraz already, as part of the harbor defense, then converted it into a military prison during the Civil War. Its location in the middle of the bay made it a great place for a security prison since 1934.
The prison became famous for housing Al ”Scarface” Capone, ”Machine Gun” Kelly or Robert ”the Birdman” Stroud. Each prisoner was moving cells in order to make it more difficult for them to escape and also because sometimes they needed to be placed into the hospital wing.
In the beginning it was 90 correctional officers working in the prison and most of them lived on the island in the apartment buildings. Their kids were living on the island with them and commuting to school to the mainland every day.
29 years of prison and not even 1 successful escape out of 36 attempts. Some died, 4 disappeared and the rest were brought back to prison. The Clint Eastwood movie Escape from Alcatraz was about the dummy head escape in 1962.
28 prisoners died in Alcatraz prison of natural causes, diseases, were murdered or committed suicide. There was no death penalty in the prison.
It was always around 260 prisoners here at the same time. After the prison was closed in 1963 because of high operating costs, a group of Native Americans claimed it was their Indian land and lived on the Rock for 19 months in 1969 and 1970. You can still find some Indian signs on the building walls.
Nowadays thousands of tourists visit the Alcatraz island to walk through the old prison buildings admiring the gardens full of flowers around which bring the beauty to the island as one of the Golden Gate National Parks. Only the Alcatraz Cruises are allowed to bring people to the island so be careful when anyone from a different company offers you an Alcatraz island tour as they will not bring you on the island.
The Alcatraz cruises, operating the first hybrid ferries in the US since 2009, was what I took too to get to Alcatraz island prison. The ferry leaves from the Pier 33. Even though it was a beautiful postcard sunny day back in San Francisco, the wind on the Alcatraz island was horribly strong and destroyed all my pretty photos as my hair was just everywhere but where it was supposed to be. The unpleasant wind and the cold weather proved the island was the perfect location for prison.
We haven’t seen many brown pelicans nesting on Alcatraz island but sea gulls were surrounding us everywhere.
Probably the most interesting part of the whole Alcatraz island prison was entering the main prison building with cells. I felt like in Prison Break. And loved it! The old kitchen with photos of the former prisoners who left the prison and now live a normal life, some of them helping others, or involved in charities, was cool to visit too. Can a person really change into better??
The rough contrast of the cold weather, tough prison and stunning Persian carpet – iceplant flowers on Alcatraz island …
There is some walking included – equivalent to a 13-story climb. No feeding of birds, no alcohol and no other drinks and food but bottled water are allowed on the island elsewhere than in the dock area. There is a little theater with a 17-minute video about the island in both English and Spanish. Behind the theater exhibits about various periods in Alcatraz’s history are located.
The best tip: get the audio tour – a 45-minute recorded tour available in 8 languages narrated by the former prisoners, officers and residents. Night tours are also available.
My Alcatraz island – prison on the Rock tour was a press trip organized by Alcatraz Cruises and CityPASS. You can book a day Alcatraz cruise with your CityPASS booklet instead of Blue & Gold cruise only if you purchase CityPASS from Alcatraz Cruises (If you purchase CityPASS anywhere else, Alcatraz Cruises is not an option).
For more information about San Francisco and what to do in the area, please visit San Francisco travel.