Al Capone, George Machine Gun Kelly, Alvin Karpis, Dock Barker-these were just a few of the legendary public enemies for whom America's first supermax prison was created. In Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, David Ward brings their stories to life, along with vivid accounts of the lives of other infamous criminals who passed through the penitentiary from 1934 to 1948. Ward, who enjoyed unprecedented access to FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Federal Parole records, conducted interviews with one hundred former Alcatraz convicts, guards, and administrators to produce this definitive history of The Rock. Alcatraz is the only book with authoritative answers to questions that have swirled about the prison: How did prisoners cope psychologically with the harsh regime? What provoked the protests and strikes? How did security flaws lead to the sensational escape attempts? And what happened when these habitual, incorrigible convicts were finally released? By shining a light on the most famous prison in the world, Ward also raises timely questions about today's supermax prisons.
From the front Cover Ward has collected the most impressive documentation anywhere on the workings of a prison. A unique and wonderful work of sociology and history.--Howard Becker, author of Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance and Art Worlds This groundbreaking history of the country's most notorious prison is the first to give an in-depth analysis of the interaction between the guards and the prisoners. Ward captures the Alcatraz experience with the accuracy of someone who has practically been there and lays to rest many of the myths that have grown up around the prison. No longer will the story-tellers be able to describe the inmates as 'the worst of the worst' without qualification. Their individual stories come alive as the author records the varied life experiences that brought them to Alcatraz and describes their coping mechanisms. A unique and fascinating study.--Morton Sobell, Alcatraz Inmate #AZ699 1950-1963, author of On Doing Time