THE TEXAS SEVEN
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ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4714-3 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4713-6 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7100-1
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Developed and Produced by National Highlights, Inc. Editor: Regency House Publishing Limited Interior and cover design: Tara Raymo • CreativelyTara
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CONTENTS Introduction ............................................................. 7 Chapter 1: Who Were John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris? ......................................... 15 Chapter 2: Other Great Escapes................................ 23 Chapter 3: How They Did It—a Team Effort................. 29 Chapter 4: Piecing the Evidence Together ................. 35 Chapter 5: A Closed Case ......................................... 47 Chapter 6: New Evidence Emerges ........................... 53 Further Reading/Educational Videos ........................ 60 Bibliography/Citations ............................................ 61 Index ..................................................................... 62 Author’s Biography/Photo Credits ............................ 64 KEY ICONS TO LOOK OUT FOR: Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more!
Freedom or Death? T he entire civilized existence of Alcatraz Island has been devoted to that question. Roughly a mile and a half away by ferry, the city of San Francisco sits, founded on June 29, 1776. Initially a small town, its residents had no need for the islands in the bay to the north—Alcatraz, Angel, and Treasure Islands. But in 1848, prospectors discovered the first gold in California, and the small town of San Francisco became instantly important as a port. The port needed protection, and for that, the city looked to its west and the rocky island of Alcatraz. Constructing a garrison, the city felt safer until the country erupted into civil war. In 1861, the garrison received fortifications, becoming a military stronghold on the west coast of the U.S. While war raged elsewhere in the divided U.S., the little fort on Alcatraz Island never fired an offensive shot. With the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865, the military looked for a new use for the island, which it transformed into a military prison. A new building was constructed, completed in 1915, but historians failed to document the changes. Although photos do exist Located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, the small island was developed as a military fortification, a military prison, and Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
Alcatraz prison from the Bay. After being closed in 1963 as a prison, today Alcatraz is operated as a public museum and a major tourist attraction.
of the construction of the recreation yard of the federal penitentiary, no documentation exists of what became of the pre-Civil War and Civil War construction. In 1933, the military use gave way to federal use, and the Alcatraz Island stronghold became a federal prison, opening its doors in 1934. With added buildings constructed, the original complexes were lost, or so historians thought until 2014. A geophysics research team from Texas A&M University, headed by Professor Mark Everett, traveled to California to explore and map the island using ground-penetrating radar. The Texas research team discovered that rather than tearing down the original buildings, the federal government had merely built over them. During the course of the island’s transition to a federal prison, the U.S. government had shipped in dirt, since “The Rock,” as it is often called, had none. They dumped it on top of the existing fortress, leveled it, and built a more modern prison. Under the prison, in which some of the U.S.’s most notorious criminals have resided, the original Civil War fortress still exists. In
2014, Everett and his teammapped fortress and magazine buildings, as well as a subterranean tunnel system used for moving ammunition. They solved the mystery of what had happened to the caponier structure that jutted out into the bay. Because the historic island now belongs to the U.S. National Park Service, which turned it into a tourist attraction, the researchers want to study the subterranean remains using targeted excavations. The hidden fort only adds to the mystique of Alcatraz, perhaps the most famous prison ever to exist in the U.S. In 1933, the U.S. Department of Justice decided that it needed a spot to place those prisoners who the other U.S. penitentiaries deemed too dangerous or too difficult. Essentially, the worst of the worst criminals in the country would all get shipped to a tiny, 225-acre island of rock surrounded by frigid waters with strong currents that could easily sweep a human into the Pacific Ocean.
Map of Alcatraz Island.
Group of soldiers sitting around a 15-inch Rodman gun at Battery McClellan on Alcatraz, 1868. San Francisco can be seen in the background.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) created the first supermax prison to house its most hardened criminals. It reinforced the prison with stronger iron bars, erected guard towers in strategic locations, and constructed only one dock for ships to approach. Guards conducted 12 to 13 roll calls, or bed checks, per day. Alcatraz’s first warden, James A. Johnston, planned to separate prisoners by providing each man with his own cell. At the level that those criminals functioned, that became a perk. You didn’t have to worry about your cellmate beating or killing you, which was a very real danger for the likes of Chicago crime boss Al Capone and Irish mob boss Whitey Bulger, both of whom did time in Alcatraz. Johnston also hired one guard for every three inmates, to provide an appropriate supervision ratio. Warden Johnston also recognized that in order to find happiness, you need something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. He instituted two important programs on the island—a work program that let prisoners earn a modest income while producing useful items and an education program that allowed them to learn a trade or finish their high-school or college education. Although these
programs were offered in the mainland prisons, too, ensuring their inclusion in the prison of all prisons helped to keep the inmates occupied. Johnston knew that bored inmates cause trouble. Providing opportunities for their personal growth also provided them with potential if they were to outlive their prison sentences. Finally, although the cells were tiny—six feet by nine feet—each provided its own toilet, sink, bed, and shelf. Having your own space didn’t just make life safer, it made it more enjoyable. The warden provided good food, too. Instead of standard prison fare, his prison served tasty meals of high-quality food that you could not get in other prisons. To top it all off, prisoners could only take hot showers in Alcatraz Prison. Most prisons had cold water, but Johnston realized that cold-water showers could allow inmates to desensitize themselves to the waters of San Francisco Bay. Johnston designed all of these amenities to try to quell uprisings. Other programs also sprang up to help reform, or at least control, the prison population, which usually consisted of 260 to 275 inmates, approximately one percent of the federal inmate population at the time. Prisoners could check books out of the island’s library. They
Inmates working in the sewing room. Prisoners were encouraged to work.
could also check out musical instruments for one hour per week. Some inmates entered Alcatraz not knowing a note of music but left as accomplished musicians. Mob boss Al Capone studied multiple musical instruments while incarcerated there, learning the banjo so well that he later wrote songs for it. Capone formed a prison band with the warden’s permission. Later, the prison also formed a classical music group. Even the dirt the federal government had shipped to the island for construction went to another good use—gardens. One of the secretaries at the prison noted what a cathartic hobby gardening provided and convinced the warden to allow prisoners to maintain gardens. Prisoners planted flowers, shrubs, and trees throughout the island, turning the Rock into a tiny island paradise planted with bluegrass, lilies, poppies, and roses. When a prisoner broke rules or started trouble, they went to an advanced solitary confinement. Two levels existed—the Hole and Strip Cell. The Hole consisted of five cells—cells 9 through 14 of D
Block. Each allowed the prisoner only a sink and toilet. A prisoner who was sent to the Hole ate in their cell and only left it once per week for a ten minute shower and an hour in the exercise yard. Going to Strip Cell meant going naked into a cell in D Block that had no cot or toilet. A hole in the floor provided the only means of relieving oneself. At night, a guard brought a James Aloysius Johnston (1874–1954) was the first and longest-serving warden of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, serving from 1934 to 1948.
mattress for the inmate to sleep on but removed it first thing in the morning. A typical two-day stay in Strip Cell usually solved any problem. The worst offenders housed in the prison lived under regular isolation conditions in D Block, showering twice
per week and eating in their cells. Prisoners in isolation could not
participate in the prison’s work programs. Robert Franklin Stroud, twice convicted of murder, resided in cell 42 for six of his 17 years in Alcatraz. Although known as “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” he never kept birds on the island, as had been his hobby at Leavenworth Prison, where he had studied ornithology and authored two books on birds, specializing in canaries. Those in the regular population could participate in the work program, and the prison offered a plethora of opportunities. They could work in the library, factory, machine shop, or barbershop, or make repairs throughout the island. In the earliest days as a prison, some of the prisoners worked as babysitters for the prison guards’ families. Rather than commute to work, prison guards could choose to live on the island. Many families resided in apartments built on the island, as well as small homes. Many children grew up on the island, and some documentaries have been filmed on the lives and lifestyles of those who lived on Alcatraz Island, outside of the prison. Amidst this secluded setting, few prisoners attempted to escape. Of the 1,576 inmates, only 36 attempted escape in 14 separate events. Only three survived to escape from Alcatraz. Alphonse Gabriel Capone (1899–1947), sometimes known by the nickname “Scarface,” was an American gangster and businessman.
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