Alcatraz Island, also known as The Rock, is a small island in San Francisco Bay. The island was first documented by Spanish naval officer Juan Manuel de Ayala who named the island La Isla de los Alcatraces (English: The Island of the Pelicans). The first main structure on the island was a lighthouse, which is the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the United States. Not long after California became a part of the United States the island was used for military purposes, including as a military prison during the Civil War and the Spanish-American war. In 1907 it became the Western U.S. Military Prison. In 1933 control of the island was transferred to the United States Department of Justice. The next year Alcatraz Island became a federal prison for which it is best known.
When was Alcatraz closed?
The federal prison on Alcatraz Island, usually known simply as Alcatraz or The Rock, opened in August 1934. It had a capacity of 312 inmates and operated for 29 years. Many of the inmates housed at Alcatraz were sent to this prison because they had been causing problems at other facilities. The prison was closed on March 21, 1963 because of the higher operating costs and the degradation to the facility caused by salt water. In 1986 the island was made a National Historic Landmark. Today the island and prison are a popular tourist attraction and tourists can travel to the island via ferry.
Did you know?
When the prison was closed in 1963 the cost of housing each prisoner was $10 per day compared with an average of $3 at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta.