Alcatraz2 Essay

This essay has a total of 1234 words and 4 pages.


As the cold waters rush into the San Francisco Bay, they crash up against an island
standing in the strait. This rock is hidden by the fog and isolated by the chilling waters
of the Pacific that flow in and out every day. It has a gloom that hangs about its rocky
face most know it as Alcatraz but the men who experienced this island, referred to her as
"The Rock". To the men confined there, it is not only the ultimate in isolation but the
most ironic because they are there in the midst of the activity of a busy harbor with
small craft darting to and from San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Richmond, and
Sausalito; within sound of the honking horns of a ceaseless procession of automobiles
crossing the bridges; within sight of ocean liners as they glide through the Golden Gate
to far away ports in the vast Pacific, and within sight and sound of air clippers and
their buzzing motors, all reminding them that life is near but freedom is so far. James A.
Johnston Alcatraz was the dreaded prison of all criminals. This penitentiary was a sign of
long term confinement and isolation. The island has gone through many changes in its time,
from serving as a military fort in the mid 1850s, as a military prison in the early 1900s,
as a national prison in the mid 1900s and, as it is today, serving as a national museum
and park. The military took this island as a fort in 1909 and construction of a concrete
cellblock was started on the uppermost plateau of the island. It was used as a military
prison during these years. However, it soon became over crowded and three years later
construction of the new cell house took place. Once completed, the inmates were moved into
this cellhouse which had spacious cells, and more importantly, central heating. In
addition, a well-equipped medical facility was now available onsite, thus eliminating the
need to transfer sick, yet dangerous, inmates off the island for care in hospitals on the
main land. Life on Alcatraz, popularly named as "The Rock", was not easy for the inmates.
During the early years on Alcatraz, incarceration meant hard labor on the grounds of the
island. However, by the mid 20's, rumors began to circulate about the country of
unspeakable conditions the inmates had to endure on the island. Outcry from the public
persisted, forcing the military to make a decision. Faced with the expense of operating
the island and increasing public discontent, the military closed its doors on the prison
in 1933. During the 1920's and 30's a new wave of crime had broke out across the United
States. Because of the passing of the Volstead Act in 1920, production and distribution of
alcohol became an extremely profitable business. With this also came a noticeable rise in
organized crime in many of the big cities. Even worse, the crimes committed by members of
these gangs became more violent. Soon prisons were overcrowded and were merely hold
facilities. No correction was in mind for these prisoners. Convicts filled the empty hours
with talk, mostly about the crimes they had committed and ways they could beat the law.
Drug addicts and other petty offenders were mixed with killers and robbers. Young felons,
who had taken to crime for no more than sheer pleasure or pride on a dare, came out of
prison with no job skills but with plenty of advice from more experienced criminals. In
1933, J. Edgar Hoover was made the director of the recently established FBI agency. Hoover
had plans to crack down on these criminals. The problem Hoover faced was that, no sooner
were the criminals locked up than the crime organizations would bust them out. With this
major problem in mind, the Justice Department began looking into a maximum-security prison
that was not easy to access and therefore inescapable. When they came across Alcatraz, it
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