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Alcatraz: The Gangster Years by David Ward, Gene Kassebaum

By David Ward, Gene Kassebaum

Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alvin Karpis, "Dock" Barker—these have been quite a few of the mythical "public enemies" for whom America's first supermax felony was once created. In Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, David Ward brings their tales to existence, besides vibrant debts of the lives of different notorious criminals who gone through the reformatory from 1934 to 1948. Ward, who loved exceptional entry to FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Federal Parole files, performed interviews with 100 former Alcatraz convicts, guards, and directors to supply this definitive background of "The Rock." Alcatraz is the single booklet with authoritative solutions to questions that experience swirled concerning the felony: How did prisoners cope psychologically with the cruel regime? What provoked the protests and moves? How did defense flaws bring about the sensational break out makes an attempt? And what occurred whilst those "habitual, incorrigible" convicts have been eventually published? through shining a gentle at the most renowned felony on this planet, Ward additionally increases well timed questions about modern-day supermax prisons.

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Extra info for Alcatraz: The Gangster Years

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History have been without infamous criminals—those murderers, assassins, traitors, robbers, or outlaws whose unlawful acts, real or alleged, have inspired some combination of fear and outrage among Americans. While these lawbreakers often had sensational and well-publicized captures, trials, and executions, if they landed in prison they served their time along with more ordinary inmates in ordinary prisons—that is, until Alcatraz. When this federal penitentiary began operations in the summer of 1934 on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, it opened a new chapter in American penal history as a prison explicitly designed to hold and punish the nation’s criminal elite.

Bennett, and asked if he would authorize a sociological study of Alcatraz. Familiar with my work on the University of Illinois project, Bennett approved a visit to the island for me and for my UCLA colleague Gene Kassebaum. In June 1962, with a letter from the director in hand, we traveled to San Francisco and boarded the prison launch for Alcatraz. It happened that our visit came immediately after the sensational escape by the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris, immortalized in the Clint Eastwood film Escape from Alcatraz.

This, he said, afforded him an opportunity to reflect, for the first time in his life, on the costs and benefits of his criminal career and consider a different course. Robertson’s response to doing time in a supermaximum setting—which could be summarized by the phrase “settling down”—was at variance with the then-current literature on the consequences of long-term confinement. Remembering what Karabelas had said about Alcatraz, and aware of the mystery and controversy surrounding the prison, I realized that Alcatraz was a very different kind of prison and that a study of its convict culture could provide valuable insights.

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