Alcatraz: A Guide to the World’s Most Famous Prison


The world’s most gruesome, mysterious and most folkloric prison, even 40 years after the last inmate left its grounds, continues to attract attention and crowds of tourists. Alcatraz Correctional Facility, located on the island of the same name in San Francisco Bay, is as much a part of American history as the Boston Tea Party and the Vietnam Campaign. The harsh and mysterious prison is a cultural phenomenon reflected in literature, film, music and even sports.

Alcatraz got its Spanish name by mistake of a cartographer who accidentally named the place of the famous prison after another island. Until 1861, lighthouses were erected on Alcatraz, signaling ships about approaching the rocky shores, but in the sixties of the XIX century it was decided to keep prisoners of war from the fields of the Civil War. In the new century, when the prisoners were replaced by inmates, there were already more than half a thousand representatives of criminals on the island. A large prison had to be built, and state authorities erected a three-story structure. The institution for thieves and murderers immediately acquired the status of a prison with harsh conditions, although compared to the 1940-1950s this place can be considered quite comfortable for convicts. It got to the point that in the 1920s the inmates did various chores, self-educated and even had their own baseball team.

During the Great Depression, along with poverty, crime took over Americans. Bribery flourished, gangsters virtually took over the country, and the economy collapsed. In 1934, Alcatraz was closed as a regular prison and turned over to the Department of Justice, whose officials began to reform the prison facility. “The Rock,” as Alcatraz was called at the time, was decided to make it a model institution and at the same time the most horrible place in the whole world. Alcatraz was rebuilt, the number of cells was increased to 600, and the premises were equipped with the latest technology. Since that time the prison became the place where criminal authorities, daring raiders, brutal killers and lost psychopaths found their final resting place.

In 1962, the unthinkable happened at the prison: three prisoners left their cells and sailed off the island to an unknown destination. That daring escape became the most famous in the history of Alcatraz. And, as it turned out, the last. In 1963, the history of the most famous penal institution came to an end.

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