The prison of Alcatraz lies on the island of the same name, in the Bay of San Francisco, 2.4 km from the coast of San Francisco in California, in the West of the United States. On the island there were fortifications with cannons, after the civil war, technological advances made obsolete fortifications and armaments. The cannons were phased out. In 1868, after a development, Alcatraz officially became a place of detention for military prisoners. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, civilian prisoners were transferred to Alcatraz. Isolation, cold waters and the violent currents of the Golden Gate made Alcatraz a place which prisoners should not be able to escape easily . In 1909 began the construction by military prisoners of a large concrete block which included 600 cells, a kitchen, a refectory, an infirmary and offices, completed in 1912 the block became known on the nickname of ‘The Rock’. In 1934, the government decided to make Alcatraz federal prison a model of prison offering a maximum of security to prevent escapes and not giving privileges to prisoners who couldn’t negotiate their conditions of imprisonment. On March 21th, 1963, the general Attorneyof the United States Robert Kennedy decided its closure because the costs were too high. The federal government felt ultimately that it was more economical to build a more modern prison than renovate Alcatraz to keep it in service. Alcatraz has hosted the most dangerous prisoners in the country: Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, Alvin Karpis, Robert Stroud and Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker. Lots of 1.576 prisoners that passed by Alcatraz were detained because they refused to comply with the rules in other federal prisons, were considered violent or were at high risk of escape. The prisoners had 4 rights: to eat, to be dressed, be sheltered and receive medical assistance in case of need and they could work, correspond with the outside world and receive visits. The prison had a library and also organized activities like painting and music. During the weekend the detainees could play baseball or softball for a few hours . During its existence, 36 prisoners tried to escape during 14 different attempts. There were just 3 of them who have never been found but that they assume that they were drowned.
Alcatraz is visited by more than a million people per year.
The only way to get there is to take the ferry from San Francisco. Departures begin at 9:00 every morning and it is advisable to make a reservation during the summer season. The visit is free of charge and the price of the crossing includes an audioguide. You must calculate between 2 and 3 hours for the visit. There is no possibility to sleep on site, or buy food.
If you like taking photos, you can get beautiful views of the city of San Francisco, the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from there.