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An icon of power and strength, Alcatraz has become the single most recognizable symbol of American society. Situated in the San Francisco Bay, one can’t help but be drawn to the rocky shore, the dark walls, and the lone light tower sanding cold against a picturesque sunset imagining what it would have been like to be incarcerated in one of the world’s most infamous prisons.

Discovered in 1775 by the Spanish explorer Juan Miguel de Ayala, La Isla de los
Alcatraces was little more than a rock inhabited by a group of pelicans from which the island bears its name (Alcatraces meaning pelicans in Spanish). However, in
1847 the US government began to look at it as much more. Strategically placed at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay it was
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Many prisoners worked as servants and maids for the many families that were required to live on the island. A few were even commissioned to baby sit young children who lived on the island. Flowers and shrubs were imported to help beautify the rocky island. Many inmates, because of this, were allowed their own private gardens. In the 1920’s prisoners were allowed to build a baseball field on which different inmate teams played in their own uniforms. On Friday nights hundreds of people would come from the mainland to see the exciting “Alcatraz Fights” which pitted two inmates against each other in a boxing-type match.

With the rise of organized crime in the 1930’s Alcatraz went through some dramatic changes. The deteriorating cell house was refurbished with electronically controlled cell doors, metal detectors, gun galleries which allowed guards an elevated view of the entire cell house, permanently mounted tear gas canisters in the ceiling of the dining hall, and tool proof bars. New cells nicked named “Strip” cells and “The Hole” were built to house those inmates who required complete isolation. A strict silence rule was instituted and those who violated it could be put in isolation for up to eight days. The once merry days of baseball games and gardening were over.

In 1963, due to the exorbent cost of running an island prison, Alcatraz was officially closed. Arguments quickly arose over what to do with the eyesore that the prison had become.

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