Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Rock

While in San Fransisco, we took a tour of Alcatraz, or "The Rock". It served as a maximum security prison from 1934-1963, holding the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, housing an average of 220 at any one time. During those years, 36 prisoners were involved in 14 attempts. I imagine the views from their prison would have been a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you can see the main land in all directions, just 1 1/4 miles away. Even someone who is not an accomplished swimmer could do that. Escape would had to have been on their minds constantly as they looked out over the waters. SO close, but they claim the water is prohibitively cold and rough.

On the other hand, there had to be some comfort is looking out in any direction and being able to see land and a free society. On certain nights, particularly New Year's Eve, the prisoners were able to hear music and voices coming across the water. Seems like that would have served a helpful reminder that there was life after prison.

Here's where the inmates got checked in and received their Rules & Regulations handbook. I like #5 and I think I'll hang it in my house when my kids get a little seems a little harsh right now:
PRIVILEGES. You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege.

Each cell in B & C block was 5 feet by 9 feet and included a small sink with cold running water, small cot, and a toilet. Most men could extend their arms and touch each wall within their cell. The cells in D Block (segregation) were larger, but still the least popular because in D-Block, inmates were confined to their cells 24-hours per days, with the exception of one visit per week to the recreation yard, alone.

Inmates were granted one visit per month and each visitation had to be approved directly by the Warden. Inmates talked with visitors via intercom and a correctional officer monitored the conversations during each the majority of the time.

This is the warden house. Surprisingly, at any given time there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz...the guards and their families. They created their own mini-society, with a bowling alley and grocery store. The kids would take the ferry over and back each day for school. Can you imagine spending one night there with your kids??

There was a fabulous audio tour that individually guided us through the prison. It was interesting, informative and gave us a real sense of what life was like on the island for those 29 years.


sara said...

this was awesome! I have visited San Fransisco many times over the years but never got out to Alcatraz. Your pictures were great!

When your kids get older, that definition of privileges won't seem so harsh! :)

Meg A. said...

LOVE the privileges quote. And I would have to agree, while harsh sounding now, just wait until you have teenagers! :) Great recap!