Famous Inmates at Alcatraz People

Famous Inmates at Alcatraz

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List Criteria: Only notable prisoners at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary

List of Famous Inmates at Alcatraz ranked by fame and notoriety. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary is a prison located on Alcatraz Island off the coast of San Francisco. Alcatraz operated from 1934 through 1963 and during that time they had several famous prisoners. Alcatraz had 36 inmates make escape attempts, none of which were successful.

Who is the most famous inmate at Alcatraz? Notorious gangster Al Capone tops our list. Capone spent four and a half years at Alcatraz and he continued to run his illegal operations behind bars by buying off the prison guards. Mafia man Mickey Cohen also spent time at Alcatraz and became partially paralyzed by another inmate who beat him with a pipe.

Frank Lee Morris was an Alcatraz inmate who attempted to escape in 1962. He escaped along with brothers John and Clarence Anglin and was never seen again. Authorities presume that Morris died in the attempt. Another famous Alcatraz inmate Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, the American mob boss and bookmaker, claims that he arranged for a boat to pick up the escapees, but authorities dismissed his comments as an attempt to receive a plea deal.

What do you think about Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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  1. Probably the most famous Alcatraz inmate, Capone was one of the most ruthless gang bosses of the early 20th century who was finally arrested on charges of tax evasion. He was moved to Alcatraz in 1934, but by that time syphilis was eroding his brain at an alarming rate. 
  2. After working for various crime lords across the country, Mickey Cohen returned to his home in California where he helped set up various gambling operations and became known as one of the most men on the sunset strip. In 1961 Cohen was convicted of tax evasion for the second time and he sent to Alcatraz where he became the only inmate to ever be bailed out of The Rock. 
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    Frank Morris
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Frank Morris was a life long criminal who was one of the only men to escape from Alcatraz. Along with his co-conspirators, he constructed fake heads, and dug a tunnel to the outside where they escaped using a rudimentary life raft. To this day no one knows his whereabouts
  4. Clarence Carnes

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    Clarence Carnes
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
    Known as The Chocktaw Kid, Carnes was the youngest inmate sentenced to Alcatraz. In 1945, he and five other inmates participated in a failed attempt to escape from Alcatraz which turned into the bloody "Battle of Alcatraz" where three inmates and two prison officers died. After the attempt he was tried for murder along with the two other survivors and found guilty for participating in the plot. 
  5. Joseph Paul Cretzer

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    Joseph Paul Cretzer
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Cretzer was a bank robber who tried to escape from Alcatraz on three separate occasions. His final attempt was during the Battle of Alcatraz where, when he found himself trapped in a corridor with a group of guards and was either slain in the crossfire or committed suicide
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    Sam Shockley
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Shockley was one of the Alcatraz inmates who took part in the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946. The multi inmate escape attempt failed due to the jamming of the recreation yard door and turned into an armed confrontation which lasted two days. Shockley was found guilty at his subsequent trial and executed in the San Quentin gas chamber in 1948.
  7. Joseph Bowers

    Joseph Bowers was the first person to attempt an escape from Alcatraz. In 1936, Henry Larry claimed to have watched Bowers, who was feeding seagulls, stack some empty barrels and climb up next to the fence so he could retrieve a bit of food which had fallen on the barbed wire. He stood there feeding the birds for several minutes until a tower guard turned, saw him atop the fence, and fired on the convict. Bowers fell seventy feet to his death on the rocks below. 
  8. Herbert Allen Farmer

    Herbert Farmer, or "Deafy" to his friends, was involved in the plan which set into motion the Kansas City Massacre, an attempt to rescue Frank Nash and Pretty Boy Floyd from Federal prosecution that ended in the bloody deaths of five men. Deafy was sentenced to two years on Alcatraz island for conspiracy.
  9. Theodore Cole took part in the second documented escape from Alcatraz with his accomplice, Ralph Roe. The two men escaped the island by riding 5 gallon cans through the unusually choppy waters. Their bodies were never found. 
  10. Along with Theodore Cole, Ralph Roe took part in the second documented escape from Alcatraz. In 1937, after working in the tire shop, the two two men escaped into the dense fog surrounding the island and used 5 gallon cans in an attempt to traverse the waters. Their bodies were never found
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    Whitey Bulger
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Despite White Bulgar's incredibly long wrap sheet, he only spent three years on Alcatraz after taking part in the military's MK ULTRA program. He's one of only 11 inmates to survive Alcatraz.
  12. Robert Franklin Stroud

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    Robert Franklin Stroud
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Most famously known as the Birdman of Leavenworth, Stroud was one of the most notorious killers the United States, as well as a genius and respected ornithologist.When he was transferred to Alcatraz he was stripped of his birds and equipment, so he wrote a history of the penal system.
  13. Clarence Anglin

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    Clarence Anglin
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    After trying to escape from Florida the state penitentiary, Anglin was sent to Alcatraz with his brother John (which seems like a very bad idea!) and they planned an elaborate escape attempt which took place on June 11 1962. Clarence disappeared without a trace and is still wanted by the FBI, although he's presumed dead.
  14. John Anglin

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    John Anglin
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    John Anglin, along with his brother Clarence, and Frank Morris, took part in the 1962 escape attempt from AlcatrazThe official report on the escape says the prisoners drowned in the bay but since then, there have been reports that there was an illegal boat in the bay on the night of the escape, that there have been sightings of the three men and that friends and family members have received many unsigned postcards and messages.
  15. Alvin Karpis

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    Alvin Karpis
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    "Creepy Karpis" was a murderer and burglar who was the longest serving prisoner of Alcatraz, he was interred on the island until 1962, one year before it closed.
  16. Bumpy Johnson

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    Bumpy Johnson
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Bumpy Johnson was a Harlem mob boss who was celebrated in the Black community as the man who made a tenuous peace with the Italian community. While incarcerated he spent most of his time on Alcatraz, where he helped three fellow inmates escape by arranging to have a boat pick them up once they broke out and made it to San Francisco Bay.
  17. Roy Gardner

    During Gardner's criminal carer, he stole over $350,000 in cash and securities and had a $5,000 reward for his head three times in less than a year during his sensational career. Known as the "King Of Escape Artists," he was transferred to Alcatraz prison. While on the island, he worked and supervised at the Mat Shop with Ralph Roe and they planned an escape, but Gardner was paroled and released in 1938 after his appeal for clemency was approved.
  18. Bernard Coy

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    Bernard Coy
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Coy was a career criminal best known as the planner of the failed escape attempt from Alcatraz which became the Battle of Alcatraz. He planned to break into the gun galleries to steal weapons, take hostages and then flee to the dock, but when the yard door became jammed, the plan went downhill and his body was found in a utility corridor along with those of Cretzer and Hubbard.
  19. Arthur Barker

    Better known as Doc Baker, Arthur was a member of the Baker-Karpis Gang who was sent to Alcatraz after being arrested to kidnapping. In 1939 he attempted to escape with three other inmates but was gunned down on the beach while trying to construct a raft.
  20. Called, "The Dean of American Bank Robbers," he was one of the most successful bank robbers during the 1920s, walking off with over $1 million. He spent a small amount of time on Alcatraz where he was pretty quiet.
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