In her 2011 book, Criminal Justice Essentials, criminology author Sue Titus Reid summed up Alcatraz succinctly. She described the jail as, “the great garbage can of San Francisco Bay, into which every federal prison dumped its most rotten apples.” And three of those rotten apples – Frank Morris and siblings Clarence and John Anglin – were the men who were absent from the roll call on that June day in 1962.
Until Morris and the Anglin brothers disappeared, no prisoner had ever succeeded in escaping from Alcatraz. Not that some hadn’t tried – there had been 13 previous attempts down the years, involving some 33 felons. The most serious of these efforts had been in 1946; a dramatic and notorious incident that came to be known as the Battle of Alcatraz.
That 1946 escape attempt involved half a dozen prisoners. Assaulting and subduing the prison warders, the six inmates managed to take control of their cell house. Consequently, the dangerous felons had access to the weapons store and they duly armed themselves. The escapees had planned to get to the island’s dock and commandeer a boat, but were unable to find the keys which would let them out of the prison walls.