Alcatraz Island has been home to a lighthouse, a military fort, a national park, and gatherings of Native American protesters, but say the name Alcatraz to any American and they will immediately associate it with prison. This is somewhat ironic since the island, just a mile and a half away from San Francisco in the Bay, was a federal prison for only three decades, but in that time, "The Rock" became notorious for being the most secure prison in the nation.
In that time, 3 dozen prisoners tried to escape, which led to the "Battle of Alcatraz" and some of the most complex plots ever made to bust out, but nobody ever successfully escaped The Rock, and several died trying. As one commenter poignantly put it, "You break the rules, you go to prison. You break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz Prison." Another writer echoed this sentiment, calling Alcatraz "the great garbage can of San Francisco Bay, into which every federal prison dumped its most rotten apples."
In a sense, it was fitting that Alcatraz became the most famous prison in American history, because hundreds of years before the penitentiary was located there, it was being used by Native Americans to banish members. Thanks to the strong currents near it and the cold, inhospitable terrain of the small island, Native Americans only used it sparingly, and unruly members were often sent there as punishment.