This is the cell where an escape was perpetrated in 1962. Note the big hole in the wall.
This is the view of San Francisco from The Rock.
...and many others have been to The Rock.
Every so often, it's nice to visit a place that makes you appreciate your lot in life a little bit more. Take Alcatraz, for instance. That notorious island a mile and a half off the shore of San Francisco gets this job done because, no matter how hard things might seem, they must have been much worse for the "guests" of this harshest of federal prisons from 1868 until it closed in 1963. The roster of convicts reads like a who's who of the worst of the worst of yesteryear: Machine Gun Kelly, Creepy Karpis, Doc Barker, Robert "Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud. Even the au courant Whitey Bulger did time on The Rock. But Alcatraz's most notorious detainee was "Scarface" Al Capone, who served four years before being transferred to another prison due to his tertiary syphilis. Ouch.
Several escapes were attempted, and three prisoners actually made their way out in 1962 through an ingenious use of dummies, tunneling, air vents and accordion music. It's likely they drowned in San Francisco Bay, but their bodies were never found, so who knows? The 1979 movie starring Clint Eastwood leads you to believe they made it, and what Clint says goes. A few years after the government shut down the prison in 1963 (it was deemed too expensive to maintain), the island was seized by a group of Native Americans to protest U.S policies regarding Indian affairs. After 19 months of occupation, a new policy of self-determination was negotiated with the U.S. government. Now the island is run by the National Parks Service and tours are of the prison and island are given daily. We were there on an appropriately miserable, rainy day last spring and the boat was absolutely mobbed with tourists eager to see how bad bad can be. All in all, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.