America is a land of the free and home of strict laws carrying long-term punishments, including time in prison. Many jails around the country keep track of all the inmates.
But holding terrible murderers in the same place as temporary offenders doesn’t track.
The worst of the worst, the mobsters and kingpins and assassins, need a special place to call their new home to protect the rest of the world.
Somewhere impossible to escape from and easy to keep track of everyone inside. Like an island, full of sharp rocks, surrounded by a city with a quickly mobilized police force.
Alcatraz Island is the most iconic prison in America. It’s a prison on an island, virtually inescapable, and the source of many modern myths and legends of the criminal world.
Located in the bay of San Francisco, the island is a fixture of the justice system, symbolizing a previous era of enforcement and privatized prison administration.
The island prison has since shut down, but the legacy it represents continues to be maintained.
10 /10 The Name
Alcatraz comes from the Spanish settlers in 1775 who went to the long route under South America and arrived through the Golden Gate pass (before the bridge was erected over it) and noticed the rocky outcrop.
Lietenant Juan Manuel de Ayala named the small island “La Isla de los Alcatraces.”
Alcatraces, the Spanish word for Pelicans, have been found in many numbers over the years.
They have also returned to reclaim the island after the prison shut down. So its real name is “The Island of Pelicans.”
9 /10 Before The Prison
Alcatraz was established as a fortress on the island in the 1850s.
It was requisitioned by President Millard Fillmore from its previous private ownership as a defense during the Mexican-American War.
It was highly defensible, with strong currents blocking most passage and high cliffs, which deterred canon fire.
It was also somewhat isolated, with land in sight but hard to reach most of the time, caught in a chilling sea breeze throughout the bay.
After the war ended, the fort was repurposed to hold its first inmates: military prisoners.