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Alcatraz Island was opened from 1934 to 1963 At that time it was the last stop in the federal penitentiary pipeline It housed famous criminals such as Al Scarface Capone George Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud The Birdman of Alcatraz American Automobile Association 81 The warden James Johnston turned it into such a brutal place that even the most hardened criminals started calling it Hellcatraz That raises the question was Alcatrazs brutality essential or just plain cruel Located on a twenty-two acre island in San Francisco Bay about a half mile off shore National Geographic Alcatraz was built out of an old military fort It consisted of a cellhouse the old fort work buildings a lighthouse and a mess hall Some considered Alcatraz escape proof The entire structure was surrounded by a cyclone fence topped with barbed wire The cellhouse was three stories of reinforced concrete Elevated gun galleries were built at each end of the cellhouse Inmates were monitored constantly by guards on a central walkway surrounded by bars All doors on the island were electronically operated and were designed to slam and let the inmate know the guards were in total control Coming back from work inmates were checked eleven times and had to get through three metal detectors Then in their cells they were counted up to thirty times a day Stuller 87 Well behaved inmates could spend their Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching a movie or in the recreation yard In the yard they could lounge about lift weights play in a softball game or sit down to a game of chess dominoes or bridge A typical day went like this At 630 AM you wake up to a loud clang of the prison alarm bell You crawl out of bed just as a guard walks by your cell taking the first count of the day Then you have twenty minutes to brush your teeth get dressed
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