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Alcatraz Island - FAQ - Frequently Asked QWuwstions about the Island and tickets 

ALCATRAZ HISTORY - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ALCATRAZ HISTORY

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ALCATRAZ


How big was the average cell?

Each cell in B & C block was 5 feet by 9 feet. All cells had a small sink with cold running water, small sleeping cot, and a toilet. Most men could extend their arms and touch each wall within their cell. The cells in D Block (called "segregation") were more spacious, but less desirable.


Alcatraz History 

How many cells were there?

Alcatraz was divided into four blocks. A Block was used solely for materials storage. (There were, of course, occasional exceptions made to this rule. When an inmate didn't require full solitary confinement but needed to be separated from other inmates, A Block was sometimes used. Records indicate that Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson were both imprisoned in A Block separated multiple cell lengths – after the 1946 Riots and while standing trial for the deaths of two Alcatraz Guards from the 1946 escape attempt.) There were 336 cells in B & C Blocks. According to the National Park Service, there were originally 348, but 12 were removed when stairways were installed at the end of each cell block. Two cells on the end of C Block were used as restrooms for the guard staff. The dreaded D Block contained 36 segregation cells and 6 solitary confinement cells (known as confinement chambers by many inmates).


How many prisoners did Alcatraz have at any given time?

The highest number ever recorded was 302, and the lowest number 222. The average number of inmates during the 29 years of service was around 260. Approximately 1545 total men were imprisoned there. The National Park Service indicates that although 1,576 number were issued, over thirty convicts returned to Alcatraz and were issued new numbers.


What was the average stay?

The average length of residence was about eight years.


Where did the families of the guard staff live?

At any given time, about 300 civilians lived on Alcatraz – that included women and children. Building #64 housed most families. In addition, there were three apartment buildings, one large duplex, and four large wooden houses for senior officers. Families enjoyed their own bowling alley, small convenience store, and soda fountain shop for the younger island residents. Because the prison boat made twelve scheduled runs to the Van Ness Street Pier each day, families did most of their shopping on the mainland. The Warden lived in a large home adjacent to the cell house and used inmates with good conduct records for cleaning and cooking. The Captain and the Associate Warden lived in the duplex.


How many guards worked here?

Ninety officers were required to cover the three 8-hour shifts, plus sick leave and vacation time. Two-thirds of the custody staff resided on the island with the rest in San Francisco and local areas.


Were Alcatraz inmates allowed visitors?

Yes. Inmates were granted one visit per month and each visitation had to be approved directly by the Warden. No physical contact was allowed. Inmates were not allowed to discuss current events or any matters concerning prison life. They talked with visitors via intercom and a correctional officer was supposed to monitor the conversations. Inappropriate conduct during visits would result in a loss of visiting and/or other privileges.


Did any Alcatraz inmates have anything good to say about the prison?

Oddly, yes. During an interview with Inmate Willie Radkay (he shared a cell next to Machine Gun Kelly), he indicated that having one's own cell was a great advantage over other federal prisons. The chances of being sexually violated and the privacy aspect were cherished benefits. He also stated that, most of the time, the staff treated the inmates respectfully, though they rarely spoke to one another. Believe it or not, the food was cited by many inmates as the best within the entire prison system.


What did inmates dislike most about Alcatraz?

The rule of silence was probably the most difficult to bear. This rule was considered harsh and inmates were disciplined for even minor violations of it. In the earlier years of Alcatraz, inmates were not allowed to talk to one another except during meals and recreation periods. It wasn't uncommon for inmates to empty out the water from their toilets to create a primitive communications system through the sewage piping. Inmates also state that the island was always cold. Most agree that cells on their higher tiers with window views were more popular since they tended to be warmer than the ground level cells.


How many prisoners were executed at Alcatraz?

None. Alcatraz had no facilities for Capital Punishment, so the process was left to State institutions. Alcatraz inmates awaiting a death sentence were transferred to San Quentin State Penitentiary for execution in the Gas Chamber.


How many people died while at Alcatraz?

Eight people were murdered by inmates on Alcatraz. Five men committed suicide, and fifteen died from natural illnesses. Though the island had its own morgue, no autopsies were performed there. All deceased inmates were brought back to the mainland and released to San Francisco County.


Has anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz?

Depends what you mean by "escaped."

Federal officials state that nobody ever escaped. The escape attempt of June 11, 1962, however, leaves a lingering doubt. The three men who disappeared from the prison on that date (the escape attempt made famous by the Clint Eastwood movie, Escape from Alcatraz) are presumed drowned – they were never found. Does that qualify as an official escape? You be the judge.

Some military prisoners were successful, though. Perhaps their success is what made federal officials beef up security so much when Alcatraz became a United States Penitentiary.


How many people escaped?

Thirty-six prisoners were involved in escape attempts. Two inmates actually successfully made it off the island but were quickly captured. Seven inmates were shot and killed trying to escape. Two drowned and five inmates have been presumed drowned.


Did anybody get released?

Only two men were ever paroled directly from Alcatraz to the free world.


Was it true that inmates were locked in dungeons for punishment?

Prisoners enjoyed telling the press wild tales about the dungeon and the torture that was delivered there. The truth is less colorful – as well as less clear. The cells below A Block were real dungeons built during the 1860s when Alcatraz a military fortress. Through the years, the dungeon was indeed used to house and punish political as well as military prisoners. When Alcatraz became a federal prison, Warden Johnston supposedly made use of the old rooms to punish escapers like John Standig, troublemakers like James Grove and Henry Larry, and the leaders of the 1936 and 1937 general strikes. A Block was used frequently as the segregation unit before D Block had undergone the transformation into a lock-down unit. The conditions were so harsh and cruel, however, that Bureau of Prisons Director James V. Bennett finally decided that this form of punishment was too cruel and forbade further use of the dungeons. After 1942, the biggest troublemakers were sent to the Hole, a sensory-deprivation chamber located above ground in the newly remodeled D-Block or "Special Treatment Unit".


Where's Al Capone's cell? Where's the Birdman's cell?

Former prisoners and Correctional Officers indicate that Al Capone's cell was on the outside west end of Cellblock B. Capone spent more time in the hospital than in the general population (GP).

Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz) arrived in 1942, spent some 90 days in the GP, and was then transferred to D Block. Occupying more than one cell over a period of seventeen years, Stroud stayed in D block cell for approximately six years and was then moved up to the hospital in 1948, staying for eleven years, by request of Warden Swope.


How many birds did Robert Stroud keep while on Alcatraz?

None. Stroud had bred and studied birds at the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas but wasn't allowed to keep any at Alcatraz because he'd abused his privileges while at Leavenworth. Alcatraz wasn't about to trust him with a record as bad as his.


Why and when did Alcatraz close?

Primarily because of rising costs and deteriorating facilities. Operationally, Alcatraz was the most expensive of any state or federal institution – its isolated location was great for keeping escape attempts low but lousy at keeping costs down. It cost so much money to get essentials to the island that authorities determined other institutions could serve the same purpose for less cost. USP Alcatraz closed on March 21, 1963 (last prisoners removed on this day) and was transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA) in May 1963.


Information on Dungeons:
http://www.notfrisco2.com/alcatraz/faq/faq2.html

Photos of Area not open to the Public:
http://www.notfrisco2.com/alcatraz/pics/martini/index.html

Copyright TourCorp Inc. 2003-08 - All Rights Reserved


Purchase Alcatraz Ferry Tickets  with amazing sightseeing tour packages here - Reserve hard to find Alcatraz tickets online today

We pride ourselves on offering you Alcatraz Ferry and Audio Tour Tickets free of any service charge! Every Alcatraz ferry ticket we offer is combined with a Bay Cruise or Sightseeing Tour. Other websites charge as much as $15.95 extra per ticket, but our adult Alcatraz ferry tickets are always $30.00. How do we keep our prices low? We earn a commission on the second part of the package, letting us focus on what really matters; finding you honestly priced tickets for the vacation you will always remember.

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How to Book and Alcatraz Ferry and Tour Combo Ticket

  1. PICK A BAY CRUISE OR SIGHTSEEING TOUR PACKAGE YOU LIKE
  2. ON ORDER FORM TELL US IF YOU WANT A MORNING, MIDDAY OR AFTERNOON ALCATRAZ TICKET
  3. YOU WILL RECEIVE TWO CONFIRMATIONS VIA EMAIL: One confirmation for your Bay Cruise /Sightseeing Tour and a 2nd confirmation for your Alcatraz Ferry Tickets.
  4. PRINT BOTH TICKETS AND YOU ARE READY TO GO!

Due to high demand and limited tickets for the Alcatraz ferry/audio tour- both your Bay Cruise/Sightseeing Tour and Ferry reservations are pending until you receive both final confirmation e-mails from us.

NOTE: We DO NOT SELL individual Alcatraz Ferry Tickets without a purchases of either a Bay Cruise or Sightseeing Tour.

A very limited amount of Night Alcatraz Tours are available from April - September 30 at 6:10pm and 6:40pm. The higher Night Tour rate will be charged. Please indicate if you want a Night Tour on your order. If Night tours are unavailable a day Alcatraz tour if available will automatically be reserved for you.

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MORE ALCATRAZ INFORMATION

Updated 04/21/2014 Copyright TourCorp Inc. 2003-14 All Rights Reserved

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TOUR INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS 415-474-9855

TOLL FREE RESERVATIONS 877-474-3127