Alcatraz

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If you brake the rules, you go to prison. If you brake the rules in prison, you go to Alcatraz. So they said.

We booked our trip to Alcatraz a little while ago, since it is a hot tourist destination, receiving a million visitors annualy, tickets quickly sell out. Alcatraz closed as a prison facility in 1963, due to deteriorating buildings and high operating costs. At the time the average number of inmates was approximately 260, with approximately 90 guards covering three 8-hour shifts. A surprisingly large number of “normal” (non-inmates) people lived on the island of Alcatraz, including children. They would take a boat over to the city to get to school, but otherwise live on the island.

The most known inmate is probably Al “Scarface” Capone, who spent four years on Alcatraz. According to the documents we were given, 36 prisoners attempted escape from Alcatraz in the 29 years it was operating as a prison. All but five of the 36 were accounted for. Three of the five who were unaccounted for, escaped in the same operation. They dug out the ventilation opening in their cells, using steel spoons. One night they put “dummy heads” in their beds, to make it appear they were in their beds sleeping, while they climbed out through the ventilation system. They had apparently made a raft of rain coats to make it across the bay. Nobody knows what happened to them after this. The officials seem to suggest they drowned, I like to think they made it to South America. The Clint Eastwood movie Escape From Alcatraz put this escape on film.

The visit to Alcatraz was exciting and the audiotour of the cell block was really great, however, we were surprised by the actual prison’s small size. It appeared “nicer” than we had expected and we had hoped we could have walked around the island more. Well, at least we got off the island!

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