Famous Inmates of Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. One of the world's most notorious and best known prisons, over the years, Alcatraz housed some 1576 of America's most ruthless criminals.
5.9 01. Al Capone
Al Capone was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. The Chicago Outfit, which subsequently became known as the "Capones," was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.
When 'Scarface Al' arrived on Alcatraz in 1934, prison officials made it clear that he would not be receiving any preferential treatment. While serving his time in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, Capone, a master manipulator, had continued running his rackets from behind bars by buying off guards. Capone generated major media attention while on Alcatraz, though he served just four and a half years of his sentence there, before developing symptoms of tertiary syphilis (Probably from his days as a bouncer) and poor mental health before being transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in Los Angeles in 1938.
He tried his best to seek favors from warden Johnston, but failed, and was given work in the prison in numerous menial jobs, and had many fights in the prison with fellow prisoners, including a fellow prisoner who held a blade to his throat in the barber's shop after Capone attempted to jump the queue.
He was released from jail in November 1939 and lived in Miami until his death in 1947 at 48 years of age.
See: The Untouchables
6 02. Robert Stroud
Robert Stroud, who was better known to the public as the Birdman of Alcatraz, was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942.
At a young age he took to pimping and was involved in a murder during a drunken brawl for which he was sentenced to death by hanging. The court did not uphold the death sentence but sentenced him to 12 years in jail. After terms in McNeil Island and Leavenworth Federal Prison, where he had killed Officer Andrew Turner, he was transferred to Alcatraz, with his sentence extended.
A self-taught ornithologist, he wrote books, and his Digest on the Diseases of Birds, published in 1943, is considered a classic in Ornithology. He was confined to D-Block for 6 years, in solitary confinement, and after a term in the prison hospital, was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri due to serious bad health.
Although he was given the name “The Birdman of Alcatraz’, he was not permitted to keep birds in this prison as he had been able to do previously. He died in 1963.
See: Birdman of Alcatraz
7.5 03. George Barnes
Machine Gun Kelly, was an American gangster during the Prohibition era. His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun. His most famous crime was the kidnapping of oil tycoon and businessman Charles F. Urschel in July 1933 for which he, and his gang, collected a $200,000 ransom. He then became the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1.
He was caught without a weapon when the FBI raided his hideout, so he had to surrender, he allegedly cried, "Don't shoot, G-Men! Don't shoot, G-Men!" which went on to become synonymous with all FBI agents.
Machine Gun Kelly arrived at Alcatraz on September 4, 1934. At Alcatraz, Kelly was constantly boasting about several robberies and murders that he had never committed. Although his boasts were said to be tiresome to other prisoners, Warden Johnson considered him a model inmate. Inmate #139, Harvey Bailey, who was known as "The Dean of American Bank Robbers", was his partner.
While at Alcatraz, he got the nickname "Pop Gun Kelly" due to him being a model prisoner and didn't act tough or get into fights.
Kelly was returned to Leavenworth in 1951, where he died of a heart attack on July 18, 1954, his 59th birthday.
He definitely had the best nickname! (to start with)
5 04. Bumpy Johnson
(this is his Alcatraz mugshot although no board can be seen)
"Bumpy" Johnson, referred to as the "Godfather of Harlem", was an African-American gangster, numbers operator, racketeer, and bootlegger in Harlem in the early 20th century. He was sent to Alcatraz in 1954 and was imprisoned until 1963. He was believed to have been involved in the 1962 escape attempt of Frank Morris, John and Clarence Anglin, although no one took this seriously. He was released from prison in 1963.
4 05. Rafael Cancel Miranda
In 1954, Cancel Miranda together with fellow Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodriguez entered the United States Capitol building armed with automatic pistols and fired 30 shots.
In July the same year, Rafael Cancel Miranda was sent to Alcatraz where he served six years of his sentence. At Alcatraz he was a model prisoner, where he worked in the brush factory and served as an altar boy at Catholic services. His closest friends were fellow Puerto Ricans Emerito Vasquez and Hiram Crespo-Crespo. They spoke Spanish and watched out for each other. On the recreation yard he often played chess with Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. He also befriended Morton Sobell; they developed a friendship that lasts to this day.
His family made trips to San Francisco to visit him, however he wasn't allowed to see his children. His wife was allowed to talk to him through a glass in the visiting room, using a phone. They were not allowed to speak in Spanish and had to speak in English. He was transferred to Leavenworth in 1960.
8 06. Mickey Cohen
Mickey Cohen worked for the Mafia’s gambling rackets; he was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 15 years in Alcatraz Island.
Two years into his sentence, an inmate clobbered Cohen with a lead pipe, partially paralyzing the mobster.
After his release in 1972, Cohen led a quiet life with old friends.
6.5 07. Arthur Barker
Arthur Barker was the son of Ma Barker(Public Enemy No. 1) and a member of the Barker-Karpis gang along with Alvin Karpis. In 1935, Barker was sent to Alcatraz Island on conspiracy to kidnap charges.
On the night of January 13, 1939, Barker with Henri Young and Rufus McCain attempted escape from Alcatraz. Barker was shot and killed by the guards.
7 08. Alvin Karpis
Alvin Karpis (August 10, 1907 – August 26, 1979) was a Lithuanian by birth. He was nicknamed "Creepy" for his sinister smile and called "Ray" by his gang members. He was known for being one of the three leaders of the Ma Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s; the other two leaders were Fred and Doc Barker of the Ma Barker Gang. He was the last "Public Enemy #1" to be taken personally by J. Edgar Hoover. He also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner in Alcatraz Prison at 26 years; while there, he was beat up by Allie Anderson, inmate #340.
Karpis was credited with ten murders and six kidnappings apart from bank robbery. He was deported to Canada in 1971 and died in Spain in 1979.
7 09. Frank Morris
On January 3, 1960, Frank Morris was shipped to Alcatraz, where he became prisoner AZ1441. The associate warden's record card at Alcatraz Prison lists his "Crimes Involved" as "Juv. Deliq.-2; Runaways-2; Breaking & Entering-1; Burglary-1; Narcotics & Armed Robbery-1; Unlawful Flight, Mann Act, & Bank Robbery-1."
Morris reportedly began devising his escape within a year of his arrival at Alcatraz.
Escape from Alcatraz
There were four involved in the escape, Frank Morris, John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Allen West (who actually mastermineded the plot and yet didn't take part due to not being able to remove his vent grill in time...(how annoyed he must of been)). The escape was a long and complicated, with planning taking a period of two years. In this time Morris, West and the Anglin brothers created a raft and lifelike dummies, and stole tools to dig with.
By May 1962, they had dug through the vents at the back of the cells, working in shifts, with someone keeping lookout while others dug. On the night of June 11, 1962, the attempt went ahead. The group placed the dummies in their beds(made from Papier-mâché and actual hair-salvaged from the barbers), escaped through the vents at the back of their cells and into the utility corridor. They then proceeded onto the roof and down to the bay. There they boarded the raft they had constructed and disappeared into the night.
Parts of the raft and life preservers were found in the bay the following morning, together with a waterproof bag containing personal effects of the Anglins but no traces of the men themselves. The authorities were certain the men had drowned even though no bodies were ever found, even following a thorough search.
There have been various sighting of the three over the years but no concrete evidence to support either theory(dead or alive). He would be 86 now.
And here's what the three escapees may look like today:
See: Escape from Alcatraz
2 010. Philip Grosser
Philip Grosser was one of them and his time there had such an effect on him, he wrote the pamphlet entitled Uncle Sam's Devil's Island about his experiences. Which is where the nickname for the island came from, having already been dubbed the 'Evil Island' by the Native Americans.
Philip Grosser was an anarchist and anti-militarist, and he wrote one of the first exposés of Alcatraz prison in his famous pamphlet.
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