Alcatraz: Inside The Rock


Alexis Miller

Alcatraz is a huge tourist destination in California that attracts anyone from history buffs to ghost hunting aficionados.

it’s dark and cold. You find yourself on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.  Stay calm though, because not only do you have to swim a mile to shore in numbing temperatures, but you must do so while avoiding bloodthirsty sharks and guards that have permission to kill.  The only things you have now are the ratty clothes on you back and hope that a flying bullet doesn’t find it’s home in you.  This was what all 36 men that attempted to escape Alcatraz had to live through.

Regulation #5

You are entitled to
food, clothing,
shelter, and medical
Anything else that you get
is a privilege.

Alcatraz was built in 1934 as a fortress that held the intent of protecting San Francisco during war time.  The initial use was deemed unnecessary and the island was eventually turned into what we know it as today, a prison.  Because of the initial objective for the island, Alcatraz was successful at keeping people out but had never needed to keep anybody in.  Unluckily enough for the prisoners, a large percentage of the original fortress was destroyed and rebuilt by the prisoners themselves.  Some may think that they were being forced to dig their own grave.

Pullquote Photo

You were a number, you weren’t a name; I wasn’t Jim Quillen. Hell, I was Number 586, and nobody wanted that.”

— Jim Quillen, Inmate #586

Escape attempts by prisoners were made on 14 different occasions, only one of which may have been successful.  If an escapee found himself able to find a way out of his cell, around the armed guards, and outside of the building itself, he then had to find a way to cross the mile of icy Pacific Ocean.  This venture was often found unsuccessful, whether this meant they were caught by guards in the process or possibly drowning to death during their attempt to swim.

In the case of John Paul Scott, he escaped by making a saw that would cut through the kitchen window.  He then jumped through the window and made his way to the ocean where he shockingly made it to San Francisco.  Though he got to land his feet on free soil, the swim gave Scott severe cases of hypothermia and exhaustion which left him lying, nearly dead, under the San Francisco Bridge.  Scott was later found by a group of teenagers and returned to Alcatraz after receiving medical treatment.

One of the decoy heads the escapees used to trick the guards.

Another famous escape attempt was made by three men by the names of John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris.  These three men had by far the most creative escape among their cellmates.  The Anglin brothers and Morris worked together to create fake heads made of paint, plaster, and their own human hair.  These heads were used to fool the guards into believing they were soundly asleep in their cells.  It wasn’t until the next morning that the guards discovered these three dangerous prisoners had escaped the island.

Regulation #21

You are required to
  work at whatever
  you are told to do.

This was the only case in which an island escape was successful, however, it is still uncertain whether or not they made it to San Francisco or swam with the sharks.  In recent years, it has been noted that family members of the escapees have received letters and pictures from the three men letting them know they are ok.  Even with the letters, until further proof, it is impossible to know if Alcatraz-aka “The Rock” was truly an inescapable prison.

Alcatraz shut down on March 21, 1963.  Alcatraz is now considered a national monument that is visited by more than one million people on a yearly basis.  As the last remaining prisoners became free men, it was said they found themselves jealous of the entire city around them.  The citizens had many tangible things the convicts did not, but the most painful thing for the newly freed men was realizing that they were missing the one thing all those other people had in common, a destination.

Regulation #30

LOUD talking, shouting, 
whistling, singing, or other


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