Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay is home to the now-abandoned prison, the
oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States, early
military fortifications, and natural features such as rock pools, a seabird
colony, and unique views of the coastline.
Alcatraz was a military fort from 1850 to 1933. The United States Disciplinary
Barracks on Alcatraz were acquired by the United States Department of Justice
on October 12, 1933. The island became a federal prison on January 1, 1934.
During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al
Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz. The penitentiary
was closed for good on March 21, 1963. The prison closed because it was far
more expensive to operate than other prisons of the time. It was easier to
build a new, traditional land-bound prison than to pay for all the upkeep and
support the Alcatraz prison required.
During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary never logged any official
successful escapes. All attempts were either ultimately unsuccessful or
tragic, where the attempters were either shot dead or drowned in the frigid
San Francisco Bay waters. Three escapees, Frank Morris and brothers John and
Clarence Anglin, disappeared from their cells on June 11, 1962. This attempt,
popularized in the motion picture Escape from Alcatraz was the most intricate
ever devised. Though only some evidence was found that they died in their
attempt, they are officially listed as "missing and presumed drowned." It is
very likely that they did die in their attempt as, after all these years, no
one has surfaced claiming to be or even have seen the escapees.
In 1969, a group of Native Americans attempted to reclaim the land saying that
an 1868 federal treaty allowed Native Americans to use all federal territory
that the government was not actively using. After nearly two years of
occupation, the government forced them off.
The island is also known as The Rock, and it featured in a movie of the same