The island jail of Alcatraz was promoted by the US authorities as ‘escape proof’. However, various breakouts suggested that it was about as escape proof as the Titanic was waterproof. This programme analyses one of the most celebrated escape attempts, that of Clarence and John Anglin and Frank Morris, which was immortalised in Clint Eastwood’s 1977 movie.
The forbidding rocks of Alcatraz rise steeply from the sea, lashed by the treacherous waters of the San Francisco Bay. They posed a challenge to the many would-be escapees once penned up in this former penitentiary island.
Alcatraz was a military prison before it became a federal penitentiary in 1934. The most successful escape during its military phase was in 1918, when four military prisoners escaped by raft. They eventually turned up in Sutro Forest – one was recaptured. Whether Morris and the Anglin brothers successfully escaped in 1962 remains a mystery. It was certainly possible to swim the waters of the San Francisco bay – three girls had proved it in 1933 – but, did they survive?
Escape: Breakout From Alcatraz draws on contemporary accounts, as well as interviews with FBI agents, former prisoners and wardens at ‘the Rock’ to piece together the story of the escape. How did the escapees hide their preparations from wardens for over a year? And, if they did survive, how have they avoided detection by the authorities for 40 years?