Thursday, March 21, 2013
What could possibly make a visit to a former prison enjoyable? Knowing a bit about the brutal history of the institution, I had my doubts. But they were put to rest when we received our audio tour headsets and started to listen to some of the stories told by former inmates, guards, and families of staff who lived on the island. I'm always intrigued by a good story, and their tales, from attempted escapes to depictions of everyday life, were told with a sense of drama.
Originally built as a military prison, Alcatraz came to prominence in 1934 when it was adapted for use as a location to house the "worst of the worst" criminals - those who committed the most dangerous crimes, or were too difficult for other facilities to manage. Some of these criminals were well-known; who hasn't heard of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, or the Birdman of Alcatraz?
The relatively short distance back to the city must have made it all the more difficult for inmates who knew escape was virtually impossible. Some of the stories were chilling, others were more light-hearted, and overall it gave us an overview of what life was like at this most notorious of penitentiaries.