Before the prison known as Alcatraz ever existed, the name Alcatraz itself came from the Spanish word Alcatraces. Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first to sail into what is now known as San Francisco Bay in 1775. He mapped the bay and its islands and in the process he named one of these small islands Alcatraces, which over time became Alcatraz. In 1850 the island was set aside for use as a United States military reservation by a presidential order.
In the early 1850's the United States military built a fortress on the island. The military had planned for fortify the island even further by installing one hundred canons all around the fortress. The island of Alcatraz and the fortress was designed in such as way as to protect the bay and surrounding area. By the late 1850's the island of Alcatraz was being used to house military prisoners.
The canons were never fired from this island due to the decreased need for defense in San Francisco Bay. The island and fortress did continue to exist as a prison for some one hundred years after however. The military prisoners that we being housed on this island were put to work to build the new prison, which later became known around the world as "The Rock". In the early 1930's the U.
S. Department of Justice decided to use Alcatraz to create a maximum-security, minimum-privilege prison. This was designed to house some of America's more incorrigible and unmanageable criminals. The average population of the prison was anywhere from two hundred and sixty to two hundred and seventy-five. However at one point in time the population did reach a booming three hundred and thirty-six inmates.
Over the course of its history Alcatraz has housed some of the most infamous criminals in the United States. The island's most famous inmate was Robert Stroud. He was convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to time in jail. While in another prison he viciously attacked another inmate and at another time a prison guard. He was sentenced to death but after a heart-felt pleading from his mother he was sentenced to life in prison. Prison Life At Alcatraz the prisoners were allowed four rights - food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
Everything above and beyond this had to be earned by each prisoner. These privileges that could be earned include such things as working, corresponding with and having visits from family members, library privileges and recreational activities. If the guards and the warden thought that a man was no longer such a serious threat then he could be transferred back to another prison the United States and out of Alcatraz.
James Hunt has spent 15 years as a professional writer and researcher covering stories that cover a whole spectrum of interest. Read more at www.alcatraz-central.info