(The first half of my Alcatraz experience is here. The post was getting as long as a prison sentence hence the 2 part post.)
After discovering the Battle of Alcatraz, it was time to move away from the darkness and violence from within the cellblock, and we started to head towards the administrative offices and the outside of the building. I chuckled as a former inmate explained that he had never seen the Warden's office while he was incarcerated there - it was only when he returned as a tourist later that he got to see it. Because I have an entirely bizarre sense of humor, I wondered if he had to stand in line and buy tickets.
We got outside in to the very strong wind (thank goodness I had bought that hairbrush!), and while prisoners would not have been at this particular part of the island, the view was similar to what we had seen elsewhere. There was freedom, only about 1.5 miles away. It looks so close! Really, in desperation, I probably would have tried to swim for it too, though logically I knew that with the wind as cold as it was, the water was an invitation to frostbite.
We enjoyed the freedom outside for some time, earning me a spiffy sunburn, before the tour brought us back in the the walls of the prison. There was a moment of emotional reaction - "go back IN to the prison? But...we're out here!" Many thought the same thing, except didn't have the possibility of hopping on a boat back to Pier 33. Some got to the point of desperation, of not having any hope for the future, of not wanting to spend one more day in those walls.
Some made their own plans.
There are no confirmed escapes from Alcatraz. There were 2 instances where people got off Alcatraz and were never found (neither dead nor alive), and while Alcatraz's official stance is that they're all presumed dead, that is quite a biased stance! They had reason to keep reporting that Alcatraz was inescapable, both for their current and future inmates. You can't have people thinking they can just leave, right?
However (there I go with the howevers), the famous escape ("attempt") in 1962 is believed by many to have been successful. Even the Mythbusters found it to be plausible! As we were led back in to the prison, the story turned to the 1962 escape of Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin, and John Anglin. This is the escape that was immortalized in a Clint Eastwood movie years later, and even now is fascinating to us! On that night in 1962, the 3 men escaped from their cells through the air vents on the back - these air vents had been dug out and enlarged with spoons over a loooong period of time! Behind the vents is a utility corridor, and the men made it through there, up to the roof undetected (where they had a raft made of raincoats waiting for them) and off the island they went. To this day they have not been found, though a paddle and parts of the raft were found on Angel Island. Who knows! Maybe they got off the island and changed their identities and lived a crime-free life, perhaps fleeing the country to further avoid detection. Maybe not. It can be fun to cheer for the underdog, though.