Alcatraz Island is one of the most notorious islands in the world. Known as a former army fortress, military prison, home of Native American civil rights resistance, and once maximum security penitentiary. Today, Alcatraz serves as a national parkland with historic gardens, tidepools, bird colonies, and one of the best views of San Francisco! Alcatraz is a part of the Golden gate National Recreation Area and Central California Coast International Biosphere Reserve. The once distant desolate “Rock” is now designated a UNESCO heritage site promoting education and the preservation of habitats of international significance.
Alcatraz is an island of many secrets. Alcatraz is one of America’s most fascinating National Park services. Alcatraz is no longer viewed as a scary place, but now a beautiful island carved by natural and human forces. Leaving Pier 33 to visit Alcatraz was like leaving the modern day behind to travel through time.
Most wouldn’t expect to find someone smiling in a maximum security penitentiary cell, yet luckily for me, this particular former federal Department of Justice prison was closed in 1963. Once home to some of the most wicked criminals, Alcatraz (i.e. “the Rock) is an island of mystery. I was intrigued learning about inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone, and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud. Although the history of the jail is quite grim, I enjoyed exploring the cells in B, C, and D Block. I wouldn’t want to end up in “D Block” where the unruly inmates were segregated in isolation. I wouldn’t have been smiling then. Many of the cells were re-created to look authentic, as if an inmate were still staying there. It was eerie and fascinating at the same time.
The audio tour provided me with a wealth of information of former Alcatraz inmates, correctional offices, and residents on the island. The award winning 45 minute audio tour walks you through the penitentiary during the period of 1934 to 1963 as if you were in the prison as a fly on the wall. The tour brings the island to life by highlighting the island’s military history, famous inmates, escapes, and natural history.
-The last inmates left the island on March 21, 1963
-The average number of inmates was approximately 260
-Many prisoners served multiple terms on Alcatraz
-Prisoners were moved from cell to cell during their time on the rock (Al Capone was no exception)
-90 correctional officers were required to run the facility
-Many correctional officers and their families lived on the island
-In the 29 years that Alcatraz was open, 36 prisoners tried to escape, all but 5 were recaptured or otherwise accounted for.
Alcatraz is a must see destination in San Francisco!