Today in History: Prisoners land on Alcatraz

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Alcatraz by the Numbers
81 years ago today, the first federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz Island. On August 11, 1934, the "most dangerous" prisoners in the United States were put on the mysterious island situated 1.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

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The island of Alcatraz was thought to be ideal for dangerous prisoners, especially those with who had made previous escape attempts. The first shipment of prisoners arrived on August 11, and in late August month, infamous mobster Al Capone joined the bunch.



The prison ran for 29 years before being closed in 1963, due to the high costs of maintaining the island. In 1972, Alcatraz was re-opened, not as a jail, but as a historical landmark. It is maintained by the National Park Service and is a prominent tourist attraction to more than one million visitors each year.

Want to explore more of Alcatraz's history? See more photos here:

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Today in History: Prisoners land on Alcatraz
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1900: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
View along a cell block in Alcatraz Penitentiary, San Francisco, California, March 20, 1911. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
A police mug shot of Canadian-born Gangster Alvin 'Creepy' Karpis (1907 - 1979), circa 1930. Best known for his alliance with the Barker gang in the U.S. in the early 1930s, Karpis was the last so-called 'Public Enemy' to be arrested and spent longer (25 years) in prison on Alcatraz Island than any other inmate there. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1933: A photograph of Jewish-American gangster Irving Wexler, aka Waxey Gordon, who was convicted of income tax evasion in 1933. He was released, but later convicted of selling narcotics and sent to Alcatraz, where he died in 1952. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
View dated 1930's of the Alcatraz island and penitentiary, in the San Francisco Bay. From the mid 1930's until the mid 1960's, Alcatraz ('the Rock') was America's premier maximum-security prison, the final stop for the nation's most incorrigible inmates, including Al Capone. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Black smoke rises from a smoke stack of the facilities at Alcatraz island, also known as "The Rock," in the San Francisco Bay, Calif., on October 12, 1933. The island, which has a long history as a military prison, was chosen by the U.S. attorney general to become the new federal penitentiary for dangerous criminals. Seen in the background are the hills of Angel Island. (AP Photo)
Three armored railroad cars arrive on a car ferry at the United States Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, Calif., on August 22, 1934. Under the watchful eyes of guards carrying rifles, the prisoners, among them former Chicago gang leader Al Capone, leave the coaches for transfer to the cell house. (AP Photo)
This is an aerial view of Alcatraz Island, which houses Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, shown 1939. (AP Photo/RJF)
This is Alcatraz Island prison, seen from the east, shown 1945. (AP Photo/Jack Rice)
Guard towers on Alcatraz prison overlook the recreation yard and San Francisco Bay, Ca., 1956, the last time photgraphers were permitted on the island. (AP Photo)
The main cell block where three cell tiers fill the huge room in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, shown March 13, 1956. Decor has changed from traditional gray to a light pink. (AP Photo/Ernest K. Bennett)
Number two gun tower on the west side of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary is shown March 13, 1956. At right is the recreation yard. (AP Photo/Ernest K. Bennett)
This is a view of one of the three cell tiers with individual cells at the main block of the federal prison for dangerous criminals at Alcatraz island, San Francisco, Calif., on March 15, 1956. (AP Photo)
This is an aerial view of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, shown June 12, 1962. Three bank robbers are thought to have escaped using a crude raft or driftwood. (AP Photo)
This is a view of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, shown June 12, 1962, the day three prisoners escaped. (AP Photo)
A line of handcuffed prisoners, the last of the convicts held at Alcatraz prison, walk through the cell block as they are transferred to other prisons from Alcatraz Island on San Francisco Bay, Calif., March 21, 1963. Alcatraz, known as "The Rock," was a federal penitentiary for 29 years and a prison for more than a century. (AP Photo)
Jim Lowrie, a guard on Alcatraz's cell block, looks over the empty cell block after the last of the prisoners left the Rock for removal to other prisons, March 21, 1963 in San Francisco. (AP Photo)
A group of Sioux Indians staking their claim to Alcatraz Island, site of the now empty federal prison in San Francisco March 9, 1964. The Native Americans came complete with an attorney, Elliott Leighton of San Francisco, who said they were basing their claims under an 1868 treaty granting the Sioux the right to claim federal land “not used for a specific purpose.” James F. Smith, one of the five-man caretaker staff, said the Native Americans left after being persuaded that the federal government had not yet legally abandoned the island. (AP Photo)
Part of a band of American Indians look over the main cell block of Alcatraz after occupying the island for the second time in two weeks in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 1969. The Indians say they want the island for a new Indian center to replace a San Francisco building destroyed by fire. The General Service Administration asked the Indians to leave but threatened no immediate action. (AP Photo/RWK)
Five of the small band of Indians removed from Alcatraz Island by U.S. marshals, leave the bus in background which brought them to San Francisco, June 11, 1971. Officials announced that six men, four women and five children were removed in Coast Guard boats which took them to a Coast Guard facility and then transported them to San Francisco. The group removed was the last of a band who occupied the former prison island since late November 1969. (AP Photo/Sal Veder)
A United States police officer and an American Patrol Service dog handler patrol the perimeter of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California, June 13, 1971 to keep any unauthorized persons off the former federal prison island. Barbed wire has been strung and crews are working to restore lighthouse operation on the island that was evacuated of all Indians that had occupied the deserted structure for nineteen months. San Francisco skyline is in background. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
A man on a jet ski hits a wave just off Alcatraz Island where the movie, "The Rock," was making its premiere in San Francisco, Monday June 3, 1996. Five hundred guests attended the premiere which was one of the most unique premieres in Hollywood history. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A view of the lighthouse on Alcatraz Island, built in 1909 and is still functioning, is shown in San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2001. The sign in the foreground warns of prosecution and imprisonment for for hiding escaped prisoners of the prison. (AP Photo/Fred Seelig)
** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--FILE **Vistors walk down "Broadway," the primary cellblock in the former prison cellhouse on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, in this Oct. 22, 2001, file photo. (AP Photo/Fred Seelig/FILE)
Tourists sit in the prison dining area during an evening tour of Alcatraz, the historical island prison, on the San Francisco Bay, April 15, 2006. About 1 million people tour Alcatraz each year, making it one of the Bay Area's top tourist attractions. Most visit during the day, however, while a night tour provides a more authentic glimpse of life on "the Rock." (AP Photo/Jakub Mosur)
The empty Alcatraz Island that was once a prison in California, shown June 13, 1971. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
A pedestrian crosses Hyde Street with Alcatraz Island at rear in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Stephen Haller, a historian with the National Park Service, sits and talks about the citadel also known as the dungeon, during a tour of newly restored areas on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. The National Park Service pulled the tarps off upgrades at Alcatraz Island after $3 million in improvements to the guardhouse, the citadel and other historic features. The park service on Wednesday unveiled the results of more than a year of work. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this view looking up from a dry moat, a man looks at the newly restored sally port and guardhouse on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. The National Park Service pulled the tarps off upgrades at Alcatraz Island after $3 million in improvements to the guardhouse, the citadel and other historic features. The park service on Wednesday unveiled the results of more than a year of work. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Shown are cells on A block of the main cell house on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Hash marks are shown on a wall in the citadel, also known as the dungeon, on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Stephen Haller, a historian with the National Park Service, stands in A block of the main cell house on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Graffiti dating from the American Indian occupation is shown on a ceiling in the citadel, also known as the dungeon, on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Media and guests walk through the citadel, also known as the the dungeon, during a tour of newly restored areas on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. The National Park Service pulled the tarps off upgrades at Alcatraz Island after $3 million in improvements to the guardhouse, the citadel and other historic features. The park service on Wednesday unveiled the results of more than a year of work. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
People make their way down toward the main dock with the sally port and guard house in the background on Alcatraz Island Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the United States has the highest prison population in the world:


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Today in History: Prisoners land on Alcatraz

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This Day in History: August 11th, 1934

Prisoners land on Alcatraz

81 years ago today, the first federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz Island. On August 11, 1934, the "most dangerous" prisoners in the United States were put on the mysterious island situated 1.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Read the full story here

(Photo by Andres Rodriguez)

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