Children of Alcatraz

As I have said in my past 2 blog posts i have been studying the children who lived on Alcatraz. This post will be all about that topic so I hope you enjoy it.

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You may not know that children lived on Alcatraz from when it was open as a prison from 1934-1963. A lot of people thought that it was very dangerous and not appropriate for kids to be living on a island where some of America’s’ worst prisoners were being kept, but really it wasnt that dangerous to live there because of how good the security was. The kids lived on a building right next to the docks called Building #64. This building wasn’t where all the families lived, lined across the edge of the island were small condos and then there was the warden’s house where the warden and his family lived.

Here is a link to an interview with Chuck Stucker, an former resident of Alcatraz.

Here are some questions and answers that I have learnt about:

What were the advantages of living on Alcatraz?

Some advantages of living on Alcatraz include the family community was surprisingly safe and everyone was very close together so everyone was friendly with one another. The island was also a ten minute boat ride away from San Francisco so that is where a lot of the teenagers spent there time. Another advantage told to me from an Alcatraz resident John Brunner was that all the families still get together every year for reunions.

What were the disadvantages of living on Alcatraz?

As well of a lot of advantages came a lot of disadvantages to living on Alcatraz. There were only 2 telephones on the entire island, one in the cell house for the guards, and one in building #64 were the families lived, it cost 10 cents for 1 call. Another disadvantages was that no dogs or cats were allowed. (Although one warden had a dog.)

What were activities for children?

There were many activities for children who lived there and some of them include a baseball cage for kids who wanted to play baseball, a bowling alley, a theatre that showed only one movie a week, there were the parade grounds which was big wide open concrete space where kids could rollerskate and do whatever they wanted. The most prefered activity for older kids were to go into the city and spend a normal day there.

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The Parade Grounds where the children played.

What was the overall experience like for children?

Many (almost all) residents of Alcatraz say that they loved it there and would do anything to go back there and live. Quoted by Chuck Stucker “It was like any other normal kids life,” All residents said that it barely made a difference that there were America’s worst prisoners living on the same island. When kids left the island to go to school or just to spend the day in San Francisco then they were not allowed to talk about Alcatraz so that Alcatraz secrets remained secret.

What type of contact was there between the prisoners and children?

Sometimes the children would have small conversations with the prisoners and the children would help them with laundry that the prisoners were assigned to do. In the courtyard that the prisoners had free time to play baseball and sometimes the prisoners would have a baseball catch with the children. In general there was not much contact between the children and prisoners because it was restricted.

Click here to watch a video of a woman who used to live on Alcatraz.

Thanks for reading my blog post, I hope you enjoyed learning about it.


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