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Alcatraz prison, USA

June 29th, 2005 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Alcatraz prison, USA

Alcatraz Island is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California. It was formerly used as a military stockade and later as a maximum security prison. Today, the island is a historic site supervised by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Its name comes from the Spanish word for gannet.

It is home to the now abandoned prison, the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States, early military fortifications, and natural features such as rock pools, a seabird colony, and unique views of the coastline.

Alcatraz was a military installation established in 1850, later becoming a military prison, until 1933. The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz were acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933. The island became a federal prison in August, 1934. During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), and Alvin Karpis, who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate. It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prison staff and their families. Today the family members that occupied the island and called it home can join the Alcatraz Alumni Association and participate in the annual reunion that celebrates the opening of the prison the second weekend of August. Most family members have favorite stories they share of their experiences growing up on The Rock.

By decision of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the penitentiary was closed for good on March 21, 1963. The prison closed because it was far more expensive to operate than other prisons, and the bay was being polluted by the sewage from the approximately 250 inmates and 60 Bureau of Prisons families on the island. The United States Penitentiary, a new, traditional land-bound prison opened that same year to serve as a replacement for Alcatraz.

In 1969, a group of American Indians from many different tribes, calling themselves United Indians of All Tribes (many were relocated to the Bay Area under the federal Termination program), occupied the island, and proposed an education center, ecology center, and cultural center. According to the occupants, in a Sioux treaty the government conceded that all retired, abandoned, or out-of-use federal land must be returned to the Native people from whom it was acquired. During the occupation, several buildings were damaged or destroyed, including the recreation hall, Coast Guard quarters, and the Warden's home. A number of other buildings (mostly apartments) were destroyed by the U.S. Government after the occupation had ended. After 18 months of occupation, the government forced them off. But the end of Termination and the new policy of self-determination were established in 1970 as a direct result of the occupation. Today American Indian groups, for example the International Indian Treaty Council, hold ceremonies on the island. Most notable is Columbus Day and Thanksgiving Day when they hold a "Sunrise Gathering".

The island is also known as "The Rock," and it was featured in a 1996 movie of the same name. Dozens of movies, including Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape From Alcatraz and X-Men: The Last Stand, have featured Alcatraz since 1937.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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