Legal History

Alcatraz Visit: Feel Like a Prisoner

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The atmosphere is dank, dreary and depressing. Nor are the stories told by those who spent time there accounts of happy times. Nonetheless, Alcatraz, the infamous prison on an island near San Francisco, is one of the biggest tourist draws in the country.

Now newly renovated, the Rock–which last housed prisoners in the early 1960s–is expected to attract at least 1.4 million visitors annually. In addition to a chance to see the maximum security facility’s spartan showers and its grim, pitch-dark isolation cells in the area known as “the Hole,” tourists get an opportunity to hear about the prison from former inmates and guards–both on tape and, in some cases, still living and featured on site at the actual prison, reports Cox News Service.

Among new interpretive displays, visitors can now see a homemade drill and other tools used in 1962 for what might be the only successful escape from Alcatraz. Officially, inmates Frank Lee Morris and Clarence and John Anglin are listed as missing and presumed drowned. However, their bodies were never found.

Visiting Alcatraz, “You’re walking literally in the footsteps of inmates,” says Katy Olds, a lawyer and tour guide. She works for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, which helps run the newly renovated prison-cum-tourist-attraction. “What we want to do,” she says, “is make it a more authentic experience for visitors.”

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