The first fortifications of Alcatraz dating back to 1853, the island nowadays tells stories of incarceration, American history and wildlife. What used to be a fort then a home for the most notorious criminals is now an award-winning tourist destination welcoming over 1.4 million tourists every year.
Alcatraz Island usually refers to a small island in San Francisco Bay in California, USA, less than 2 miles from San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf. The English name Alcatraz Island, which means Pelican Island, comes from the Spanish “La Isla de Los Alcatraces,” named by Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala because many pelicans have lived on the island since ancient times. It is a massive reef with a radius of 22 acres, commonly known as “The Rock”.
The name "Alcatraz" comes from Philip Grosser who was found guilty of refusing to perform military service in World War I and imprisoned here. He compiled his experience behind bars into a book named Uncle Sam's Devil's Island, exposing to the public the horror and darkness of the prison at that time, allowing this island of pelican to acquire the resounding name “Alcatraz".
The history of this island can be divided into several stages, the most famous of which is the period as a prison. Because of its strategic position to guard San Francisco Bay, the US military built military installations on the island in 1859. Subsequently, the function of the military fortress gradually weakened, and the function of the prison gradually strengthened. Alcatraz Island became a military prison in 1907, and most of the buildings were built by prisoners.
Then came the period of federal prison for Alcatraz, where notorious criminals, escape experts, gang leaders, and troublemakers were kept, and it soon became a famous prison in American history. From 1934 to 1963, nearly 100 notorious felons have been detained on the island which is surrounded by icy waves and ferocious, bloodthirsty sharks and therefore reckoned as impossible to escape. The prisoners held here include the "Scarface" Al Capone, the talented murderer "Birdman" Robert Franklin Stroud, who is extremely talented in studying birds, the cold-blooded "machine gun" killer Kelly (George Kelly) and so on.
On the island, prisoners had only food, clothing, housing, and limited medical supplies. Some prisoners who caused trouble were often severely punished in solitary confinement. There was no light or electricity in the confinement room, dark, cold and silent, with only cockroaches and mice as companions. Outside the windows is the colourful world of San Francisco, which served as great mental torture for prisoners.
Perhaps it was precise because they could not stand this cruel torture that the prisoners planned to implement many escape cases. During the period as a federal prison, the official website of Alcatraz Island reported that there were 14 escapes during the federal prison, involving 36 prisoners, of which 23 were arrested, 6 were killed, 2 drowned, and 5 were missing. It was claimed that these five people are most likely to have been swallowed by the sea.
Nowadays, Alcatraz Island is included in the Golden Gate National ParkNow as a tourist attraction. People can go by ferryboat to learn about its mysterious and legendary prison escape stories.