Alcatraz prison, where it is and the mysterious escape

Alcatraz Prison.

This is the scariest prison of all time, not in operation for many years, Alcatraz still attracts everyone with its history and sinister secrets.

Alcatraz is the first military prison where the most notorious criminals, such as Al Capone, were held. It is located on a large rock, separating it from San Francisco by swift currents and predatory fish. No one has yet managed to escape from Alcatraz. For many years the local population argued with the authorities about the island. The fact is that the maintenance of criminals and guards took so much money, as if they lived not in prison, but in an expensive hotel. Because of this, Alcatraz was closed in 1963. Since 1969, the prison had been besieged by the Indians. For three whole years the siege lasted against the American occupation of Native lands. In modern times this confrontation is reminded of itself by drawings on the coast and exhibits in the national museum. After such a rich history, Alcatraz Prison has become one of the city’s main attractions.

Alcatraz Prison for tourists

Tours of the prison are available for all comers. The emphasis is on the cell of Al Capone and other criminals who committed serious crimes. It was impossible to keep them in regular prisons, so they were transferred here. Tourists are also given to listen to recordings of conversations of guards or detainees. You can visit Alcatraz even at night. There are so many tourists that it is better to buy tickets several weeks in advance.

In 1775 a Spanish scientist put a small island on the map, calling it Isla de Las Alcatraces because of the large number of pelicans that inhabit it. He never imagined that a few hundred years later it would become famous as America’s worst prison. Alcatraz may be known to you from the movie “Escape from Alcatraz”.

In 1848 a gold mine was found in San Francisco. The real gold rush begins. In connection with this, the number of residents increases dramatically. The searchers of the precious metal arrived both from the land and from the ocean. Over time, the authorities realized that they had to protect the city somehow. The island was chosen. It had a very favorable strategic position: it was situated a few kilometers from the city, and the surrounding territory could be easily seen from there. In 1854, defensive fortifications and cannons were built on the island.

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Together with two neighboring forts it formed a defensive complex. In the 60th year, the first war criminal was brought to the island. From that moment the protective function of the island begins to weaken. It is impossible not to say that the cannons were never used. But as a prison, Alcatraz lasted for 100 years. At the beginning of the XX century the fortification was demolished, keeping the basement, to build a new prison. It took two years for the criminals to build the prison. The location near strong currents made the island difficult to access, so soon Alcatraz began to be used to hold prisoners. Each year there were more and more of them. In 1920, all the buildings and buildings were completely packed with criminals.

Alcatraz was the first military prison characterized by severity and severe punishments for anyone guilty. This could include hard labor and being moved to solitary confinement without any comforts. And that is the very least of what could happen. Most of the prisoners were military men under the age of 24. As a rule, they were imprisoned for desertion or other non-serious crimes. But not without murderers, rapists and thieves. The prison order had its own peculiarities. Criminals were not allowed in the cell during the day. Those in higher positions could walk freely throughout the prison at all.

Despite the harsh measures, the Alcatraz regime was not so harsh. Most prisoners worked for families who lived on the island. Some were even trusted to babysit children. There were occasions when this regime was used to escape. But none of them succeeded. Once out in the open, the fugitives tried to swim across the sea, but the cold current did not allow them to do so. They had no choice and had to go back. But then the fugitives immediately fell ill and died of hypothermia.

Over time, prison conditions began to improve. A baseball field was built for the prisoners. They were even allowed to wear special uniforms during games. On Fridays, boxing competitions were organized. It was such an interesting spectacle that even civilians came to the prison to watch the fight.

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In the 1930s came the era of mafias and clans. Whole families were taking over neighborhoods, bribing local authorities to turn a blind eye to the lawlessness around them. Consequently, the government decided to reopen the prison, making it federal. It was decided to reconstruct Alcatraz. Security expert Robert Burge was invited to do this. He created a new and more modified design for the building. In 1934, Alcatraz got a new lease on life. The wooden bars were replaced with metal ones. Electricity was put into all the cells. The underground tunnels were destroyed in order to eliminate any threat of escape. The canteens were equipped with tear gas canisters in case of fights. The guard towers were moved to better viewing positions. The number of prison cells was increased. There were now about 600 of them. New punishments for fugitives were introduced. Now the renovated prison needed a new warden. James Johnston was put in charge. He was known for his strict principles and humane treatment of prisoners. He believed that criminals had to be put to work in order to be respected. That, he said, was the only way to reform a man. The press and his superiors praised him for his responsible attitude toward the prison and its inhabitants. Under his tenure, almost all of the prisoners worked. As a reward for their hard work, their sentences were reduced. Before Alcatraz, Johnston worked at San Quentin Prison. There he developed programs to improve the lives of prisoners. But despite his good treatment of prisoners, he had a very tough personality. If he was disobeyed, punishment was most severe. Johnston even attended several hangings at San Quentin. So this man knew how to behave at Alcatraz.

After Johnston took office, the rules for holding prisoners changed. Each prisoner now had his own cell. A system of privileges for food, medical care, clothing, etc. was established. If a prisoner behaved well, he was even allowed to mingle with prison guests and visit the library. At the slightest disobedience all privileges were immediately withdrawn. The reading of newspapers and other media was forbidden in prison, and letters were corrected. Alcatraz was not where the courts sentenced them. It was where the most distinguished were sent. It was not possible to enter the prison at will. Al Capone was an exception. He was an amazing man. The police chased him for three long years, but he was caught for simple tax evasion. For a long time he was imprisoned in the city of Atlanta. Having bribed guards and superiors, he acquired another gang and at the same time led his mob while in prison. After his deed was exposed, and the criminal was transferred to Alcatraz. He came out already a hunched over old man.

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Another notorious criminal was Robert Stroud, who was nicknamed “the bird man.” In fact, he did not raise any animals and spent practically his entire life in an entirely different prison. In 1909 he went to a Washington jail for robbery. After killing a cellmate once, he was transferred to a Kansas prison. In 1916, he kills a prison guard, and Stroud is sentenced to death. But at the tearful request of the prisoner’s mother, the death penalty is commuted to life imprisonment, and the criminal is sent to Alcatraz. Here he began to study birds and even created several informative books. He was incarcerated for nearly twenty years.

In 1962, Alcatraz stopped functioning. According to one version, this happened because the prisoners were too expensive to maintain. The prison also needed a $4 million renovation.

Escape from Alcatraz Prison

Escape from prison is always the most interesting topic of conversation. There were many rumors about it. It was rumored that 36 people had tried to escape throughout history, but none of the escapes had ever succeeded. And all because of the cold current in San Francisco Bay. The distance seemed small, but it was impossible to swim across. It was all the more impossible to escape by boat. As any ship approached, it was fired upon. There was also a rumor that there were bloodthirsty sharks in the bay. There was frequent talk of a shark named Bruce being fed by the guards.

Still, one prisoner was lucky enough to escape. He reached the shore so exhausted that he immediately lost consciousness. In the morning he was found by a small child and his parents. They thought the man had tried to drown himself in the bay and called the police. The prisoner was immediately recognized and sent back.

In all the 29 years of Alcatraz federal prison’s existence, not a single escape has occurred. True, there are still five inmates listed as missing, apparently drowned.

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Alcatraz prison, where it is and the mysterious escape

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

The history of Alcatraz Island began in 1861, when it began to be used as a military prison for the Civil War. Then, in 1898, there was the war with Spain – the number of prisoners of war on the island was growing. In 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake, hundreds of civilian prisoners were moved there. By 1912, a large prison complex was built for them.

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

In the 1920s, during the Great Depression, the crime rate in the United States rose dramatically, Mafia families began waging violent wars for spheres of influence, and many officials were bought by gangsters. Then the American government had to turn Alcatraz into a federal prison. The most odious criminals were sent here to break their mob ties and to intimidate the gangsters who remained free.

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

In general, Alcatraz was turned into a special prison – that three-story building, which once housed ordinary prisoners, was completely “restored. For example, special galleries with weapons were placed all around the perimeter of the building above the cells, and all the service tunnels were walled up to prevent criminals who plotted to escape from entering there. The canteen, where most of the fights and murders took place, was equipped with special containers of tear gas.

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

But it was not the elaborate system of perimeter security that frightened the prisoners, but the location of the prison. After all, even if the escapees managed to overcome all the walls and bars and outsmart the armed guards to the teeth, they would still die by the icy water or the sea current.

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

The prison was closed in 1963 because of the high cost of maintaining the prisoners. In the short history of the prison’s existence, 36 convicts tried to escape. Seven were shot dead, five went missing, two drowned, and the rest managed to be apprehended. In general, Alcatraz was not for nothing considered a prison from which it is impossible to escape.



On June 11, 1962, however, three inmates made the most famous escape in Alcatraz history. Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Englin used sharpened spoons to make a hole in the wall of the cell, and in their place, they laid moults of human bodies made of rags in the bed. The criminal trio also had a plan to sail across San Francisco Bay – they made an inflatable boat out of fifty raincoats.

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Puppet heads the fugitives made from papier-mâché

Puppet heads made by fugitives out of papier-mâché

Until today, it was believed that they died in the waters of the Gulf. Because the opposite has not been proven. By the way, they are still being searched for – until 1978, the fugitives were searched for by the FBI, and then the case was transferred to the U.S. Marshals Service. And what’s more, you can still get a million dollars from Red & White Fleet for information about their whereabouts.

The devices the criminals used to leave the prison

Devices used by criminals to escape from prison

There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to support the theory that the criminals managed to escape. The Englin brothers hailed from swampy Florida, and they had known how to build rafts and handle the current since childhood; days after the escape, an impenetrable bag containing money and family photos of one of the brothers was found on shore; their mother had been receiving flowers from anonymous men for several years.

A neural network solved the mystery of Alcatraz's most mysterious jailbreak

In 2015, a friend of the Englin family published a photo that was taken in Brazil 13 years after the escape. He claimed the photo depicted brothers John and Clarence. But it was impossible to prove what he said, so the police patted the conscientious citizen on the shoulder and forgot about the photo.

The photo, which a friend of the Englin family claims shows the fugitive brothers

Photo that a friend of the Englin family claims shows the fugitive brothers

Until Rothco and facial recognition specialists from Ireland’s Identv took over the photo.

Specialists used a neural network that creates a unique “mathematical fingerprint” of someone’s face and then compares the result with other samples. In the end, the artificial intelligence, having “examined” the photo from Brazil and compared it with other pictures of the brothers, showed that the probability that the photo shows the same people is 99.7%. It looks like the Englin brothers were the only ones who managed to escape from the most secure prison. As for the brothers’ escape partner, Frank Morris, there is no information about him.

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