The Bad Guys
Prohibition, the Great Depression and Alcatraz can hardly be separated. Prohibition made the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal from 1920 until 1933, thus anyone who drank was complicit in a crime. And the biggest criminals were the bootleggers who provided the liquor.
For awhile the population was amused. But when the Roaring Twenties slid into the Dirty Thirties, and a giddy public was sobered by the Great Depression, the hard beginning of organized crime with daily murders, kidnappings and bank robberies was less appealing. The government responded with new federal laws, the creation of the FBI and the opening of Alcatraz as the most maximum security federal prison in the nation. “The Rock” became an overnight sensation.
Nearly every prisoner who served time there was affected by events from the 1920s until World War II, Some, like Al Capone,“Machine Gun” Kelley, “Dock” Barker and “Creepy” Karpis, were the kingpins, bootleggers and kidnappers who made up much of the early prison population. Others, born during the Depression, ended up on Alcatraz in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
But although those two social upheavals provided a back story for many, other factors came into play; career prisoners often come from homes marked by abuse, abandonment, addiction, mental illness or personality disorders. Sometimes the sins of the grandparents are visited on the grandchildren.
Other unfortunate events occur. A beloved parent dies, for example, and the child is unable to bounce back, or death leaves a family in poverty. When the child quits school, the circle is complete. These aren’t excuses but as any first grade teacher or parole officer will tell you, they are the causes.
Crime doesn’t pay,at least not forever. All of these men were living on borrowed time and eventually paid dearly for their fame. Cory Kincade, 2008