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Alcatraz Island

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Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Fort Mason, B201
San Francisco, California 94123
Ranger Station: 415-561-4900
Ferry Tickets/Reservations: 415-981-7625
Fax: 415-705-1050

Alcatraz was originally a military base built in the mid-1800s. The lighthouse built there became the first lighthouse on the pacific coast. The first convicts held there were from the US military. By the civil war, it was used to hold Confederate soldiers. The conditions were unpleasant, and the prisoners were forced to live in the basement of the fort. Disease and lice easily spread from one prisoner to another.

After the war ended, the fort was no longer used for military proposes. More buildings and cells were added as it became a full fledged prison. The prisoners now included Indian Chiefs and other Tribal Leaders. Since the island was so isolated, the prison was perfect for holding the worst of all military convicts.

By 1900 the island was once again used as a barracks, but by 1902 it was almost falling apart. This forced the facilities to modernize. Work on the island went on for years. Construction was finally completed in 1911, and was named “United States Disciplinary Barracks”. The rules at the facility were strict, with harsh punishments. Many escape attempts were made, but most were forced to return, and those that didn’t drowned in the harsh waters.

In the 1920s, Alcatraz no longer used as a military barracks. The Attorney General and FBI decided that this would be the perfect spot to place a prison that would not only be escape proof, but would send fear into the hearts of the inmates. By 1934, it was that prison. Alcatraz held the most offensive and deranged criminals the justice system had to offer. These criminals included Al Capone, Doc Baker, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, and many more.

Inmates received the most extreme punishment, being locked up in rooms nicknamed “holes” or even chained in the basement. Many inmates did not leave Alcatraz with their sanity, and some didn’t leave at all.

On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its doors. This time it was for good. It eventually became a National Park and was opened to public visitors in 1973. Today it has become one of the most popular parks in America.



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