August 21, 2015

San Francisco: Alcatraz + Haight Ashbury

I left San Francisco with the feeling I could easily spend 2 more weeks there. I missed many places (Golden Gate Park, Museum of Modern Art, Asian Art Museum and on) I would love to visit but I rather choose quality time then quantity.

Jenn and Bruno wanted to go very hard to Alcatraz - served before the army as fortress and military prison; and later the Department of Justice as a maximum-security federal penitentiary - I had no idea what was that but in the end, it was one of the best touristic spots I ever been.

First we got a cable car (old school cars used hundred years ago in the city to go up the hills/$6) to the Fisherman's Wharp and find the Pier 33, where Alcatraz is situated. You pay $30 (first thought: WHAT???? Last thought: VERY WORTH IT!!!) ticket that includes: boat trip to Alcatraz (it's an island), admission to the island, remain buildings and visit to the cells (in good conditions), audio tour free very interesting with testimonials from inmates, correctional officers and residents as they reminisce about life on Alcatraz (available in the cellhouse).
The short boat trip is incredibly beautiful: you get to see both bridges. When in the Island you have a great view to the city. These prisioners were lucky bastards!! :)
Not to mention that it's part of History and it's an unusual Prison. Did you know Al Capone was an inmate for 4 years there? You can also watch movies about the place there. So let's say, get ready for a whole day there.


- The prison closed due to deterioration of buildings and high operating costs (eg. lack of a sewage system). The last inmates left the island on March 21, 1963 and the prison officially closed its doors a few months later;

- Alcatraz was never filled to capacity. The average number was approximately 260, the lowest was 222 and the highest was 320.

- There are four cellblocks in the prison. A Block was not used to house inmates during the federal penintentiary years.
Cells in B and C blocks (336 cells) were considerated "general population". Unruly inmates were "segregated" in D Block (42 cells, also known as Isolation)

- Correctional officers and their families lived in San Francisco but many lived on the island. Building 64 included a number of apartments and there were 3 apartment buildings,
4 woodframe houses and a duplex on the Parade Ground. The Warden (Director of Prison) lived in a large house near the prison building. Some of these buildings were destroyed by fire in 1970 and others were
demolished by the government a short time later.

- In the 29 years that Alcatraz served as a federal penintentiary, 36 prisoners tried to escape the Rock; all but 5 were recaptured or otherwise accounted for.
3 who were unaccounted for participate in the same breakout, the June 1962 escape, immortalized in the movie Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood.

- Alcatraz had no "death row" or ant facility for executions.

- Number of Death: 8 inmates were murdered by other inmates, 5 committed suicide and 15 died of natural causes, uncluding disease. Bodies were sent back to family members or, in few cases, buried in local paupers' graves.

- Alcatraz is now a unit of the National Park Service and will remain so. The modern "super-max" equivalent of Alcatraz is in Florence, Colorado.

We were in the Isolation here. In the Audio Tour we were listening the testimonial of a prisiner who used to be there a lot and to keep himself sane he used to take out a button from his jacket and throw it in the darkness. Then he would try to find it, when he finally found the button he would start all over again.

My very first time visiting a Prison with this dimensions and it's in an Island!!!

Now let's talk about my favorite area in San Francisco. Yep you are right it's the crossroad Haight St. and Ashbury St. I really thought the whole San Francisco was like this: Arts all over the place, dreamy old houses, colorful,hippies, cool stores of Second Hand, Smoke Shops, Tie Dye, Vintage Restaurants... overall alternative lifestyle. I'm so glad to come here, a bit shame it was only by night... Next time we visit San Francisco (yes fellows we are coming back one day) first thing is walking to the Haight/Ashbury Streets and spend all day long enjoying the lifestyle over there. You still can smell the sixties and seventies around. It's the identity of the city and we gotta keep it like that.

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