Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11 - Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary

On the morning of August 11, 1934, the first prisoners arrived at the Federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Previously a military prison, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons acquired the installation as the nation’s first maximum security civilian penitentiary. Until it closed in 1963, it was the “prison system’s prison.” Its isolated location constituted complete exile for hardened, worst-offending criminals and troublemakers from other federal prisons. Most were bank robbers and murderers. Staff was trained in security, but not rehabilitation. Daily existence was harsh. Prisoners had four rights: medical attention, shelter, food and clothing. Recreation and family visits were earned through hard work. In the first years of operation, prisoners weren't allowed to talk at all except for brief periods. Bad behavior resulted in hard labor, being shackled to a 12-pound ball-and-chain, or lock-down in solitary confinement. Notorious prisoners included Al “Scarface” Capone (convicted of tax evasion) and murderer Robert Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”).

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