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  • Some men you just can't reach,” the warden said to you as he informed you that

  • you're not only going to spend some time in the Prison's notoriousHole”, but

  • you'll be staying in the most feared cell nicknamedThe Oriental.”

  • You are stripped naked and pushed into this inhumane dungeon, and there you will stay,

  • shivering day and night, sitting in the dark having to breathe in an unearthly stench.

  • The guards occasionally give you some bread and water, and when that wants to come out

  • of you, all you have is a hole in the floor in which to defecate and urinate in.

  • You can't even flush it away... the guards control that mechanism... and so to torture

  • you even more, they don't flush often.

  • After a few days you stop screaming, and just sit on the concrete floor, rocking back and

  • forth, on the verge of literally losing your mind.

  • What we just described to you was perhaps the worst aspect of Alcatraz, and you have

  • to bear in mind that prisoners sent there were usually deemedunmanageable.”

  • One of the reasons people got this way of course was because of the conditions inside

  • other parts of the prison.

  • Alcatraz was no walk in the park, that's for sure, and today you'll see why.

  • But first let's give you a little bit of history, because we're sure all our dear

  • viewers are not all experts on America's most notorious prison.

  • Ok, so the nickname of the place wasthe Rockand that is because the prison stands

  • on an island about 1.25 miles (2.01 km) off the coast of San Francisco.

  • Before it became a regular prison it was a military prison, and it wasn't until 1934

  • that civilian convicts started arriving there.

  • It was said to beinescapable”, but as you'll later find out, that's still a

  • matter being disputed today.

  • The idea was to send men who had escaped from other prisons to this fortress on a rock,

  • and that would ensure that they would never escape again.

  • Some of the new arrivals in 1934 were called by the authoritiesThe incorrigibles”,

  • meaning they just kept getting in trouble, or kept escaping or trying to escape.

  • That line we used at the start, “Some men you just can't reach,” is actually from

  • a classic prison movie calledCool Hand Luke”, and the warden in that film believed

  • that Luke was incorrigible.

  • The warden tries to break him by putting him in isolation and fitting him with leg irons.

  • We mention this movie because Alcatraz was the kind place where a man was supposed to

  • be broken.

  • Don't get us wrong, the wardens at this prison weren't all about making men lose

  • their minds, but they wanted to break their will, to kind of exorcise the criminal out

  • of them.

  • All the first guys that arrived in '34, shackled together and watched over by countless

  • agents and U.S, Marshalls, were said to be dangerous and unpredictable.

  • These guys were what you might call hardened criminals, and Alcatraz was a kind of experiment

  • to cure them, or at least ensure they couldn't escape or cause any more harm.

  • The dungeon we described at the start was real enough, but generally most people stayed

  • in cells that were on B Block and A block and those cells usually measured 9 feet (2.7

  • m) by 5 feet (1.5 m) and 7 feet (2.1 m) high.

  • You didn't get much in the cell, besides a basin to wash in, a bed to lie on and a

  • toilet to pee in.

  • You also got a desk.

  • The thing with Alcatraz, though, and why it was so notorious, was this thing about breaking

  • the wills, or crushing the souls of men.

  • As one writer put it, the prison was, "the great garbage can of San Francisco Bay, into

  • which every federal prison dumped its most rotten apples.”

  • The authorities didn't mind mistreating a bunch of rotten apples.

  • Sure, prisoners got a visit, but only once a month, and if they fell ill, there was a

  • prison hospital.

  • They could even get a job - usually a hard job we should say - and they could get books

  • from the librarySo how come doing time there was so hard?

  • Well, it was all about the rules, and you could find them in the not-so-glossy brochure

  • called, “REGULATIONS FOR INMATES U.S.P., ALCATRAZ.”

  • You guys might watch prison shows today, and while there is violence, you see inmates laughing

  • and joking with each other and you see some of them playing cards, watching TV, or even

  • having a game of basketball.

  • In the beginning there was nothing like this at Alcatraz.

  • You see, there was what was called a “strict code of silence”, and it is this that broke

  • a lot of men.

  • The code was relaxed in the later years, but at the start men just had to keep quiet almost

  • all of the time.

  • If they didn't, they would be reprimanded and likely sent to an isolation cell.

  • When they ate they weren't even allowed to speak, although one former prisoner once

  • said, “Although talking at meals is prohibited, the men do manage to speak in a grumbling

  • monotone out of the corners of their mouths.”

  • He said when he took his first meal there he was sat next to none other than Machine

  • Gun Kelly...

  • We guess they didn't talk much.

  • This former inmate also said that there were no clocks in the prison, so the only way inmates

  • knew what time it was, was when those whistles blew.

  • This was another thing that made the men feel less than human.

  • They were living outside of real time.

  • He said during his last year on the Rock there were only 314 prisoners, but 14 of them went

  • violently insane.”

  • It's not surprising, either.

  • When the guys were in their cells, they had to keep quiet.

  • They weren't even allowed to talk to themselves, and they were continually watched over by

  • the guards.

  • The same went for work, there was no talking at work.

  • During recreation they could chat, but the rule was they couldn't stand together in

  • groups.

  • This drove some men insane, as did the hard work, and that's why some guys just said

  • enough is enough and killed themselves.

  • One guy slit his own throat, another climbed up a 75 foot fence and jumped to his death.

  • Another, out of sheer madness, cut off his fingers on one hand with a hatchet.

  • One the first governors at Alcatraz said he didn't believe in psychological illnesses,

  • and he said those quivering men were just trying to get out of work.

  • It was cold, too, almost all of the time.

  • Taking a shower wasn't a pleasant experience at all, especially in the winter, because

  • the water was freezing cold.

  • That was for the first thirty years or so, until they added hot water to the prison system.

  • There were bars on the cells, so if a guy wanted to take a dump he didn't exactly

  • get much privacy.

  • In fact, there wasn't much privacy at all.

  • These men were watched virtually all of the time, and it drove them nuts.

  • It was run so strictly that men had to stand, sit, walk in single file, eat, stop eating,

  • all at the blow of a whistle.

  • Before a man could even take a bite of his food he had to sit with his hands by his side,

  • and then when the whistle blew, he could eat.

  • They had twenty minutes to finish the food, and not a second more.

  • After that, they had to place their tray, knife, fork and spoon in the position that

  • was part of the rules.

  • They then had to sit quietly with their hands at their sides while guards checked if any

  • of the utensils were not in the proper position.

  • You have to remember that the so-calledIron menthat ran the prison had a zero tolerance

  • regarding not breaking these very strict rulesOh, what's that?

  • A spoon pointed slightly to the left when it should be at a 180 degree angle.

  • That could get a man in trouble.

  • Mess up with a fork two days later or scratch an itch when your arms are supposed to be

  • at your side, and wow, what have we got here, a man we just can't reach.

  • One former guard said they treated the men like animals.

  • Counting them all day.

  • Not allowing them to speak.

  • Forcing them to do hard work, and then marching them around in lines like cattle.

  • He said his job was more like working at a zoo.

  • There were many other rules, too, such as noTRADING, GAMBLING, SELLING, GIVING,

  • OR LOANING.”

  • That's the same in prisons today, but c'mon, who doesn't have hustles in a modern penitentiary?

  • It's what keeps some men sane in this day and age, but in Alcatraz back in the early

  • days the prisoners really had nothing to do but follow the rules, work, sleep, and do

  • the same again every day.

  • It was hard to sleep at times, too, because at night the guards liked to do some target

  • practice on dummies outside the cell gates.

  • This wasn't just so they could achieve a better aim, but it was to mentally torment

  • the men who heard the shots.

  • Sometimes the guards would leave the dummies, all riddled with bullets, for the men to see

  • when they came out of their cells.

  • That was a warning to the inmates, just a reminder of what would happen to them if they

  • tried to escape This regime literally drove prisoners insane,

  • but the thing was, when a man lost his mind and just cracked, he would likely be sent

  • to isolation.

  • He wouldn't exactly become more mentally balanced there.

  • This was D Block and was actually called theTreatment Block.”

  • There the inmates' meals were delivered to their cells and the guys were only allowed

  • out for two showers a week.

  • Cells 9–14, were known asThe Hole”, and in there prisoners were allowed just one

  • shower a week and only an hour a week on the exercise yard, provided they were alone.

  • The very worst was the cell we described at the start, which was also called theStrip

  • Cell.”

  • This is how one former prisoner described his experience in this cell:

  • There is no soap.

  • No tobacco.

  • No toothbrush.

  • The smellwell you can describe it only by the word 'stink.'

  • It is like stepping into a sewer.

  • It is nauseating.

  • You have no shoes, no bed, no mattress-nothing but the four damp walls and two blankets.”

  • He said in 13 days he got two proper meals, and the rest of the time the guards gave him

  • a few slices of bread and some water each day.

  • He said he was not allowed to wash, and had to just stink in the stink.

  • He knew of one man who'd been in there that got a shower, and that was when a guard threw

  • a bucket of cold water over him.

  • Can you imagine life in the strip in the middle of the winter?

  • Other allegations made by prisoners, but not supported in official documents, is that inmates

  • that went on hunger strike because of the brutal conditions were force-fed by having

  • a rubber tube put down their throat and having milk and eggs poured into it.

  • Wardens at the prison always denied that prisoners were beaten by guards, although one inmate

  • later wrote guards would sometimes knock inmates unconscious with lead clubs covered with rubber;

  • weapons calledBlackjacks”.

  • People tried to escape of course, and in 1938 three men tried that after clubbing a guard

  • to death.

  • They were shot, and one of them died.

  • Some other inmates later tried to escape and drowned in the bay.

  • The most notorious escape attempt was in 1946.

  • This led to what is calledThe Battle of Alcatraz.”

  • That's because a bunch of men overpowered the guards and managed to get to the weapons'

  • room and get themselves some guns.

  • The rest should have been simple... just force the guards to open the doors.

  • Their plan was to do that and then escape by boat.

  • But they couldn't get out of the main door, and instead of just giving up their weapons,

  • they shot some of the guards.

  • The U.S Marines were called in and killed three of the prisoners, while 17 people were

  • injured in total.

  • Two of the inmates who'd used the weapons were later sent to the gas chamber.

  • Did anyone escape?

  • Well, you all likely know about the 1962 escape, an elaborate plan that led to three men just

  • disappearing.

  • They were never seen again, and if they survived is still an issue talked about today.

  • Ok, we should tell you that over the years the conditions at Alcatraz did improve a bit.

  • With the violence and suicides and poor mental health conditions of prisoners, it seemed

  • that the tactic to keep them quiet and treat them like animals wasn't exactly rehabilitating

  • them.

  • In the later years, the 50s and until the prison closed in 1963, the silent treatment

  • had all but been abolished and prisoners were allowed things like musical instruments.

  • The Gangster Al Capone famously played a banjo in Alcatraz.

  • Prisoners could even listen to the radio and see a movie on the weekends.

  • The place was lessHellcatrazin those years, and we should say that the food at

  • Alcatraz was arguably the best food ever served in any U.S. prison.

  • That was one of the problems actually.

  • The food was expensive, but so were all the guards that had to keep watching over the

  • men 24/7.

  • Not only that, the building was old and it needed constant repairs.

  • Running Alcatraz was three times more expensive than running the average prison in the USA.

  • And that was the end of America's most notorious prison.

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  • Letter Proves Alcatraz Prisoners Survived Insane Prison Escape.”

Some men you just can't reach,” the warden said to you as he informed you that

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Welcome To Alcatraz - The World's Toughest Prison

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/05
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