Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary Closed
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, closed on March 21, 1963, after 29 years of operation, due to high operating costs and deteriorating facilities.
Alcatraz was a military prison before becoming a federal penitentiary in 1934. The isolated island location and the frigid waters surrounding it made escape nearly impossible. The prison housed some of the most notorious criminals in U.S. history, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Stroud, known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”
Despite the prison’s reputation for being escape-proof, there were several attempts, the most famous being the 1962 escape by Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers. Their daring breakout inspired numerous books, movies, and television shows, making the story an enduring part of popular culture.
Due to the high cost of maintaining the facility, the poor state of the infrastructure, and concerns about the environmental impact on San Francisco Bay, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy decided to close the prison in 1963. After its closure, the island was occupied by a group of Native American activists from 1969 to 1971, asserting their right to unused federal land under a 19th-century treaty.
The closure of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary had a lasting impact on pop culture. The prison’s mystique and the stories of the inmates served there have been the subject of numerous books, films, and television shows. Among the most famous is the 1979 film “Escape from Alcatraz,” starring Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris.
Today, Alcatraz Island is managed by the National Park Service and is a popular tourist destination. The former prison offers guided tours, allowing visitors to learn about its history and the lives of the inmates once held there.