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Reel Story: Escape from Alcatraz

Jonny Wilkes reveals how an ingenious plan, involving papier-mâché heads and a homemade (well, cell-made) raft, may have seen three prisoners achieve the impossible
Alcatraz prison, in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The facility’s maximum security procedures meant that it cost $10 per prisoner per day - the average in other prisons was $3.

BETWEEN THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Since its inauguration in 1981, the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon has included a 1.5-mile swim from the island, proving that it is possible – although the competitors benefit from wearing proper wetsuits.

Alcatraz had been built as a fortress designed to keep enemies out, yet it became really good at keeping people in. For 29 years, from 1934 to 1963, the small island in San Francisco Bay housed the toughest, most notorious maximum-security prison in the United States, where the ‘worst of the worst’ were sent. ink Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and Public Enemy #1 Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis.

Escaping from ‘the Rock’ was deemed impossible. Guards counted the inmates – living in single cells, about three by 1.5 metres big – 13 times a day and watched every step in the dining hall, workshops and recreation yard. Doors and corridors were barred, crack-shot officers scanned the perimeter from guard towers, and let’s not forget the freezing, strong Pacific waters surrounding the facility.

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The July 2016 issue of History Revealed