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Jail Island, Alcatraz
The visitor is driving in San Francisco. It runs from the Union Square area north toward Fisherman’s Wharf, taking Leavenworth Street. Around where Leavenworth meets Lombard Street at the top of the hill, the road begins to go downhill. In front of her windlass, the lower part of her vision, she now sees the northern part of San Francisco Bay. They will see an island, in the shape of a huge battleship, with a sharp and steep side, standing straight out of the surface of the ocean.
Overlooking Alcatraz Island, “Prison Island” in San Francisco Bay.
Many knew the name “Alcatraz” from the movies and. It is the world famous prison island. The island was of an unusual shape as mentioned. Both edges of the island are not inclined. The cliffs are sharp and steep. It also looked like a huge ship. It immediately gives the viewer the impression that it is a huge “Battleship”. Apart from its unusual shape, with the bright California sun, it didn’t look like a prison at all.
Additionally, the island seemed too close to Fisherman’s Wharf to be an “inevitable island prison”. If someone is a swimmer who can swim 2-3 miles, they might think they can swim to the island.
Alcatraz Island is located in the northern part of San Francisco Bay, between Fisherman’s Wharf and Marine County. It’s so close to Fisherman’s Wharf that almost everyone wonders if it’s the infamous prison island that people called inevitable. A good swimmer would be able to swim the distance if prepared for the water temperature with wetsuits and guarded by an emergency boat. It was a few years ago, a six-year-old boy could swim from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf.
So why is this prison island inevitable? In talking to some people, there are several different answers. The water is too cold to swim the distance without body temperature protection. San Francisco Bay looks calm on the surface. Deep in the ocean there is a strong tide. It changes direction so often. No swimmer can escape the influence of this violent tide. Swimming at night is almost killing yourself. Man-eating sharks are active especially at night. Many of these may be true. All of these factors work together to prevent prisoners from escaping Alcatraz.
There was no one who escaped Alcatraz alive during its history as a prison island in official records.
Ferries to Alcatraz depart from Pier 33. If one is staying in San Francisco and hopes to visit Alcatraz, one should select a day of the week and make a reservation 3-5 days before planning to visit. Weekend tickets are usually sold out for the next 2-3 weeks. In the ferry boarding area, there are displays of notorious criminals imprisoned at Alcatraz, including Al Capone.
Travel time on the Alcatraz Island ferry to Alcatraz is incredibly short. It takes no more than 15 minutes to get to the island. There is not even enough time to enjoy the view of the San Francisco metropolitan area or the Golden Gate Bridge, despite the fact that they offer a magnificent view, because it is the best boat trip to see the city of San Francisco, Marine County and the East Bay.
We are now free to explore Alcatraz since the federal government closed the prison and it is now part of Golden Gate National Park. For the criminals sent to Alcatraz, it meant the “death penalty” for them. In the boarding area of the ferry, right next to the picture of Al Capone, a graffiti image on the wall of an unknown inmate says: “If you break the law, you will be sent to prison. If you break a rule in prison, you will be sent to Alcatraz.” The prisoner can be heard sobbing in his prison cell. A Japanese friend of mine once commented on my blog post. “It’s exciting to glimpse the infamous prison island without committing a crime.” A simple crime is not enough to be sent to Alcatraz. You have to commit a crime on the level of Al Capone to be sent there.
It’s part of the Golden Gate National Park, so the rule is “Bring nothing, carry nothing, except to litter and buy souvenirs”. As soon as they arrive at the prison’s front gate, visitors will listen to a 10-minute explanation of Alcatraz’s history and visiting rules. Now they must be ready to enter the prison chamber.
All they have on the island is a prison building. A white hospital that looks like a building is building a prison facility. In addition, there are also small houses for guarding and living in the police family. Upon entering the prison building, visitors will first visit the shower cabin. It may be the first place the prisoners went when they were sent to Alcatraz. Here, visitors can rent a narration that explains the history of Alcatraz as they walk the island. Translated narrative units are available for Japanese, Chinese and many European languages.
Let us now enter the center of the cell. On both sides of the not so wide corridor are small cells. These are individual cells for prisoners. They are incredibly small. Cells lined up next to each other and three floors. The ceiling of each cell is low. It looks so small that if someone stretches out their arms, both hands touch the walls. The living environment of the animals in the zoo looks much better than this. It wouldn’t take more than 3 days for a normal person to go completely insane if they continued to live in a place like this.
Now visitors stand in front of a blackboard hung in the upper part of the Dining Room. It’s a menu posted at the top of the overhead dining room entrance. The board displayed the breakfast of the day. “Assorted dry cereals”, “Dužiana whole wheat”, “1 scrambled egg”, “2 milk”, “stewed fruit” and “toast”. At the top of the board was written “March 21, 1963.” Their breakfast on March 21, 1963 did not look poor.
At the corner of the corridor is a window that looks like a submarine or battleship window. There is a story. These are the windows that the prisoners can look into. What they could see was the city of San Francisco. Not only through this window, but the prisoners can have a clear view of the city of San Francisco. During holidays, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., the prisoners could see the city decorated with illuminations, fireworks, and could even hear people having fun, singing, dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves.
It would be unbearable torture for the prisoners who could sense, feel, see and hear the people free outside, enjoying the festive occasions. They must have wanted to close their eyes, cover their ears. I can still feel what’s going on across the bay. How horrible that was. What cruel torture human beings can do to other human beings even if they are criminals!.
History shows that there have been many escape attempts from Alcatraz. Official records show “34 escape attempts, 7 killed, 2 drowned, 5 missing and 20 arrested”. Among the missing are “Frank Morris” and the Anglin brothers from the movie “Escape from Alcatraz”. Frank Morris was sent to Alcatraz in 1960. He planned and attempted a prison break in 1962 with John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Allen West. They built a raft. They made their own dolls. Put them in their beds. They continued digging to escape for 2 years. They put their plan into action on June 11, 1962. Allen West was too late to join the escape.
The FBI immediately began a search, but they could not find them. They couldn’t even find their bodies. All they found was part of their raft, Anglin’s bag, and some other belongings of the fugitives. The FBI and Alcatraz authorities decided they drowned and died. The federal government decided to close Alcatraz prison about a year after this escape.
Another important figure in Alcatraz is the warden and officers in Alcatraz. The Alcatraz Showroom displays a mannequin of an Alcatraz officer. They lived on an island with their family. Across the street from the prison building are the ruins of the individual houses of the warden and officers. Higher class officers could live in a separate house. Now, if one wanted houses like these with a great view of the city of San Francisco, one might have to spend more than a million dollars.
Also, their children attended schools in San Francisco across the bay. They took ferries every morning and evening to attend their schools. Compared to the prisoners, the life of the policemen was perhaps not so miserable. The lives of officials in prisons and jails, however, were not easy. It could be as destructive as the prisoners. They should be tense for days and nights. If something happens, the cops have to fight for their lives. The prisoners are not kind to them. They must be hard on the prisoners. The prison island made life difficult for all related people.
Isolated from outside society, this island had its own functions. They had their own fire department. A fire engine has been preserved on the island, which silently speaks of the days when the island was still a prison.
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