ALCATRAZ

Surrounded by the cold and hazardous water currents of the Pacific ocean Alcatraz Island or The Rock was the home of America’s abandoned and most dangerous prisoners.

Located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles form the Offshore the Alcatraz Island was developed with the facilities of a light house, a military fortification and prison, later turned to U.S federal prison. Because of its isolation it was used by military fortification during the world war.

Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons

Reaching the Alcatraz Island:

All Alcatraz Island tours depart from and return to Pier 33, easily accessible form anywhere on the Bay. You can reach the island through the ferry which starts from the San Francisco Bay, which is around 1.25 miles from the island. You can get your tickets booked online.There are both day and night tours to the island. We took the day tour.It will cost you $45 to $52 each adult. The whole tour is of 2.5 hrs.

This memorable tour includes:

  • 45 minutes audio presentationDoing Time: The Alcatraz Cell house Tour“, which features actual correctional officers and prisoners who lived and worked on the Island;
  • Orientation video by Discovery Channel; ranger and docent tours; historic gardens and abundant wildlife.

Make sure you reach Pier 33 before time as you gonna face long queue for the departure. Also, the seats in the ferry are limited so you have to be one among those early birds to grab one. I found standing on the deck more interesting as you get to see the SF offshore and Golden Gate. I would preferre to stay out on the deck 🙂

Make sure you get your jackets as its very cold there.

San Francisco Offshore view from the ferry



About the tour:

The moment you enter the prison you will be shown Discovery channel’s orientation video, telling all about the island, famous inmates, flora and fauna. After this you are guided for the audio tour of the penitentiary.

Immediately inside was prisoners bathing area, showers and the station where prisoners would pick up their prison belongings like bedding and clothes. After coming around the showers we were offered audio recorders (available in several languages) and headsets to take the free, self-guided, audio tour as we walked through the prison.

The moment you start the audio tour, you are completely in time zone with all the prisoners around you. It takes you back to that time. The audio tour was recorded by both ex-prisoners and guards who spent time on “The Rock.” Their recollections and voices add an exclusive element to the recording.

This was how the standard cells used to look like. Each 5′ x 9′ cell was painted a white and a minty green and contained a metal bed frame, toilet, a single light bulb, a wash basin that provided only cold water, two types of shelves and a ventilation vent.

We were only able to walk past and into cells on the ground level. A furnished cell shows some of the belongings prisoners were able to keep though they could quickly lose these privileges at any time.

 

As you begin the audio tour it will direct you to signs on some of the walls that describe most notorious prisoners and events such as the most notorious prisoners ever housed at Alcatraz, details about the “Battle of Alcatraz” escape attempt in 1946.

Solitary Cells or The Hole

The six Solitary Confinement cells at the end of Cell Block D were small, dark and inhumane. Each cell is set behind a solid steel door that initially had a small slit in it that could be opened to allow in a sliver of light but were often kept closed 24/7. Five of the cells contained a sink and toilet. One called the “Strip Cell” had steel walls and only a hole in the floor for prisoners to use as a toilet.

In all of the Solitary Confinement cells prisoners clothing was usually taken away, they were fed restricted rations of bread and water with a full meal every few days and only given a mattress to sleep on at night. In the morning the mattresses were removed.

Some were beaten or tortured and some literally went insane after spending too much time isolated in these cells.

 

Alcatraz Escape

It was said that the security inside the prison was so strict that no one could escape from the island and even if someone somehow got successful in the escaping then he would not be able to cross the San Francisco’s bay with its deadly currents and freezing cold water.

Beyond this 3 Prisoners made an successful attempt to break ‘The Rock’.

Dummies made by the Prisoners and the tunnel made by them

Back inside we were directed back to view two of the cells used in the famous “The Great Escape from Alcatraz” by prisoners Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers John and Clarence.



It took approximately two years for the three prisoners to dig out the ventilation grates in their cells, hiding their work in progress by using paper mache grates. They also made paper mache heads with real human hair saved from the barber shop and planned an escape route through the utility corridor behind their cells that would lead them out to the roofwhere they then climbed down the exterior of the building entering the water to swim over to Angel Island using a small, blow up raft to help float them across the Bay.

A fourth accomplice was unsuccessful in escaping his cell in time. The guards didn’t realize the trio was gone until the following morning giving them plenty of time to cross the Bay. Whether or not they were successful or drowned will, most likely, forever remain a mystery.

 

Beginning in November 1969, after the penitentiary was closed, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Native Americans from San Francisco, who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation, with public protests through the 1970s. There were walls and water tanks painted by them saying “Indians Welcome”.

Cheers & Love,

Megha

 

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