The Break From Alcatraz. The Prison Essay Example


Alcatraz Island, roughly 2 kilometres offshore from San Francisco,  located an infamous maximum-security prison that developed in 1934 and operated until 1963.

The prison, ‘Alcatraz’, named after the island, got hit with a miraculous prison break in June 1962. The inmates who executed this escape did so with an incentive and thrilling plan.

Water surrounds Alcatraz with temperatures ranging from eight to 12 degrees Celsius year-round, making the thought of ever escaping from the island absurd to some, to others, not so much. 

The others, named John William Anglin, his younger brother Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris and Allen West. Those inmates all being in their thirties at the time of the escape, authorities have thought Allen West approached Frank Morris with a proposal to escape first. The prison had a limited budget to repair anything, leading to the case of Alcatraz being poorly cared for. West supposedly knew of a ventilator cover raised above Cell Block B that might not have gotten sealed correctly with concrete as most vents have been. If true, this would supply them with access to the roof from inside the prison. Being that West was trapped in Alcatraz with nothing else to do, he could figure out for himself the weaknesses of the building. 

Later, with more ideas about their escape, the Anglin Brothers, Morris and West all requested cells closer to each other in Cell Block B, precisely under the unsecured vent cover. The cell change had been approved just like they desired. According to who planned what, most details are unknown, but the plan they go through with is undeniably impressive. 

With Alcatraz the main concern about escaping isn’t about making it over the prison walls, it’s successfully making it back to the mainland and not being caught in that time. 

For their “head start” plan they made dummy heads from a mix of soap, concrete, and other unknown materials, and painted over them to make the faces resemble themselves. To trick the guards, they placed their dummy heads in their beds, making it look like they were sleeping. The following morning of their escape, June 12, It wasn’t until one guard nudged Morris’s ‘head’ to see it roll away, that they realized something was wrong.

After laying their dummies in their beds, the men went to work on busting out of their cells. All four of the men’s cells had vent grates in the back of their cells, West knew of the fact that the wall surrounding the great was less than 6 inches thick, making it workable for each of the four inmates to expand the hole in the cell to fit through. For weeks, maybe even months, the escapees had drilled little holes around the ventilation grates. To do this, they had to use handmade tools like drills made from vacuum cleaner motors. With these holes, they could remove the section of the wall around the vents, they then kept the hole covered up with common objects such as their musical instruments.  

The holes in their walls made them able to crawl through to a utility corridor behind their cells, which typically got left unguarded. Inside there was a hidden landing area directly above their cellblock, where they have been secretly working for months. They had even permitted some escapees to do maintenance work on this landing area. West had even convinced the guards to allow him to hang blankets up to cover up his work because it was sending dust around the prison. In reality, he was using the blankets to hide his work from the guards. The hidden work that was being done in their secret workshop was making their dummies, tools, and other items they would use to help them escape.

On the night of the escape, West was unable to break through the wall around his vent grate. They left Allen West behind. 

The three other men following their plan successfully got on top the roof, they then climbed down a pipe that connected to the roof and climbed the 15-foot fence and made their way to the shore of the island. 

In their workshop, the men had built life jackets and a six-by-14 foot rubber raft, all made from the prison raincoats. They had gathered over 50 raincoats, one-by-one stitching them together successfully making the raft. They inflated the raft using the air from a concertina. 

They planned to sail in their raft across San Francisco Bay to Angel Island, approximately 3 kilometres north of Alcatraz. From there, they would sail again across Raccoon Strait, which would then bring them to the mainland. There, they planned to steal a car and clothing, according to West, who would later have to inform the FBI a good amount of their plan. 

Once the men got discovered missing, the prison went into lockdown and a search for the men began. Guards found their secret workshop, the hole in the ceiling, and footprints on the roof. The search turned into a wide-scale search. 

No one ever saw the escapees or their raft ever again. It is for certain the three men made it off of Alcatraz island, the puzzling thought of whatever happened to the men after leaving the island was a mystery, and remains a mystery to this very day.

 

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