Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco, California
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
A iconic fixture off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island has a long and interesting history. The island was first developed in the 1840s for military use after being purchased by the United States Government from a private owner for $5,000.The initial military installation was completed in 1858 and given the name “Fort Alcatraz”. After a short time being used to station troops, the fort was converted to a military prison until 1933. A year later, the United States Department of Justice took over the Island and fortified the existing structures to become the famous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz Island housed what was thought to be the most secure secure prison in the United States due to its remote island location surrounded by the cold, rough waters of the San Francisco Bay. Because of this, Alcatraz was used for the most dangerous and violent criminals, including notorious inmates like George”Machine Gun” Kelly, Al Capone and Robert Stroud (also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz). Although the prison was thought to be secure, it didn’t stop prisoners from hatching elaborate escape plans. There were a total of 14 escape attempts by 36 prisoners, but according to official records, no one was successful. Of those attempting to escape, 23 were caught, 6 were killed, 2 drowned and 5 others were listed as presumed drowned. While it is highly unlikely that the missing prisoners were successful, their bodies were never found.
Although the prison was moderately successful, there were issues with the costs associated with being on an island. Getting food and water to the prison and removing waste became too costly, so the decision was made to close the prison in 1963. Shortly after the close of Alcatraz Penitentiary, the island was occupied by Native Americans demanding reparations, which lasted until June 11, 1971. Afterwards, the Prison was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Place and in 1976 was declared a National Historic Landmark. From 1973 on, the prison was a tourist attraction allowing visitors to tour the iconic prison.
Today, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary is one of the most popular San Francisco attractions in the Bay Area, attracting well over 1 million visitors every year. To access the island, you must purchase tickets and take the Alcatraz Cruises Ferry. A free audio tour is included with your Alcatraz Tickets which will take you through the prison to see the cells of famous inmates, the dining hall, recreation area and more.