By David Ward, Gene Kassebaum
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Extra info for Alcatraz: The Gangster Years
Coy captures Officer Burch and throws pistol to Cretzer. 5. Coy forces officer to open door between D block and main cell block. 6. Cretzer liberates thirty prisoners. 7. Reserve officers enter main cell house. 8. They are locked in a cell and later shot by Cretzer. 9. Coy attempts to shoot tower officer. 10. Officers block escape at rear of main cell house. 11. Marines guard prisoners in recreation yard. 12. Officers break through roof and drop grenades and bombs, dislodging Coy, Cretzer, and Hubbard from pipe tunnel.
This genial christening has long been forgotten; and since 1934, when it became a federal prison, Alcatraz—the mere name of the place—has sent a shiver through the tourists who come to peer at it from the shore. For the mile or more of intervening water separates them from the most atrocious murderers, the stoniest rapists, the subtlest jail breakers now extant in the United States. It is not, as the popular gossip has it, a prison for lifers. It is, the warden insists, a “corrective” prison for men who know how to organize sit-down strikes in state prisons; for incorrigibles; for the bred-in-the-bone mischief makers of the Republic; for the men who employ a life sentence as a lifelong challenge to discover how, with a twisted hairpin or a stolen razor blade, to break away from any prison they are put in.
Bennett, director of the Bureau of Prisons from 1938 to 1964, approved this project in 1962 and authorized our first visit to Alcatraz—we did not know that within nine months the prison would be closed. Twelve years later, after Alcatraz had become a National Park Service tourist attraction, Mr. Bennett approached me about restarting the study and suggested that we meet with his successor, Norman A. Carlson. James Bennett made this project a reality in many ways, not the least of which was notifying former staff members that after decades during which they were told not to discuss anything about Alcatraz with persons outside the Bureau, they could talk with me.