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Did Al Capone Die in Prison?

Al “Scarface” Capone is one of the most infamous figures in American mob history. The Chicago gangster led a vida violenta as a Prohibition-era bootlegger before being imprisoned for tax evasion. But many wonder – did Capone meet his end behind bars or after his release? This article examines Capone’s final years and death.

Capone’s Rise and Fall as a Mob Boss

Before his conviction and decline in health, Al Capone dominated the underworld:

  • Born in 1899 in Brooklyn, Capone joined street gangs in his youth.
  • He moved to Chicago and worked for mobster Johnny Torrio, rising up the ranks.
  • By 1925, Capone ran the powerful Chicago Outfit syndicate after Torrio’s retirement.
  • He controlled bootleg liquor distribution and expanded into other rackets.
  • The Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 cemented Capone’s vicious reputation.
  • But the authorities struggled to pin major charges on the crime boss.

Capone’s criminal empire made him the most public face of organized crime in the 1920s and 30s.

Capone’s Eventual Imprisonment for Tax Evasion

Unable to directly connect Capone to his criminal activities, federal authorities took an alternative approach:

  • In 1931, Capone was indicted on 22 counts of tax evasion.
  • The charges related to him dodging over $200,000 in taxes on undeclared illegal income.
  • Capone unsuccessfully tried to plea bargain for a lighter sentence.
  • He was convicted in court and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.
  • He was also fined $50,000, charged $30,000 in court costs and $215,000 owed in back taxes.
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The tax charges proved to be Capone’s downfall after a life of notoriously brutal criminality.

Capone’s Prison Time

Initially sentenced to the Cook County Jail in Illinois, Capone was then dispatched to the tougher federal prison system:

  • He began his time at Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932.
  • Eight months later he was transferred to the new Alcatraz Island supermax prison in California.
  • At Alcatraz, Capone was inmate AZ-85. He was strictly controlled and kept in line.
  • In 1938, Capone was moved back to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island due to declining health.
  • His sentence was reduced to 10 years for good behavior. Capone was released in November 1939.

After trying numerous prisons, authorities felt they had finally contained the infamous mobster behind bars.

Capone’s Failing Health While Imprisoned

Capone entered prison in his early 30s but left a sick man:

  • By the time he ended up in Alcatraz, he showed signs of neurosyphilis.
  • This was an advanced stage of the venereal disease syphilis, which can cause dementia.
  • The harsh conditions at Alcatraz further deteriorated Capone’s health.
  • Prison medical records show he was treated for convulsions, pneumonia, and disorientation.
  • When released in 1939, newspapers described him as “a shambling, drooling wreck.”
  • Capone struggled to communicate coherently or function independently.

His rapid decline shocked the public given his former power and larger-than-life persona.

Capone’s Death After Prison in 1947

Capone spent his last 8 years out of custody but burdened by illness:

  • After release, he became a near recluse at his Florida mansion, no longer fit to run the Chicago Outfit.
  • His neurosyphilis worsened despite treatment, leaving him mentally incompetent.
  • He suffered a stroke and heart attack in 1946.
  • Capone died from cardiac arrest on January 25, 1947, aged 48.
  • Over 20,000 people lined the streets of Chicago for his funeral.
  • He was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery alongside other family members.
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Despite his spectacular rise and fall, Capone spent his final years elderly before his time and robbed of his faculties.

Capone’s Cause of Death

While he died after his release, it was ultimately complications of neurosyphilis that killed Capone:

  • The disease developed during his untreated syphilis infection, contracted before his gangster years.
  • By the time Capone was imprisoned, the neurosyphilis was already at an advanced stage.
  • The harsh conditions and inadequate medical treatment in prisons like Alcatraz accelerated his deterioration.
  • After release, Capone lacked the mental capacity to live any semblance of his former criminal life.
  • His cause of death was recorded as apoplexy due to a stroke and heart issues caused by late-stage neurosyphilis.
  • While technically free, his long-term illness left him a prisoner in his own body.

Some argue Capone effectively died behind bars, even if not literally within a cell.


In summary, while Al Capone did not die in prison itself, the years he spent behind bars triggered a precipitous deterioration that led to his premature death aged 48 soon after his release. Though technically a free man, the complications of his untreated neurosyphilis meant the mob boss lived out his last years severely limited, both mentally and physically. While he evaded justice when in his criminal prime, some would say his eventual incapacitation and early death were prison sentences of their own kind.

Key Points:

  • Al Capone was imprisoned from 1932-1939 for tax evasion.
  • While incarcerated, he developed advanced neurosyphilis.
  • The disease went untreated and caused severe dementia.
  • When released, he was a mere shell of his former mob boss self.
  • Capone died in 1947 from cardiac arrest related to neurosyphilis.
  • Though outside prison walls, his illness rendered him imprisoned in his body.
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Where did Al Capone die?

Al Capone died at his home in Palm Island, Florida in 1947. He was 48 years old.

What prison was Al Capone in?

Capone was held at Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz, and Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution while incarcerated from 1932-1939. Alcatraz was the most notorious.

How long was Al Capone in prison?

Capone was originally sentenced to 11 years in federal prison but was released after around 7 years for good behavior in 1939.

What illness did Al Capone have?

Capone developed neurosyphilis, an advanced stage of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis which causes severe neurological and cognitive impairment over time.

Did Al Capone’s time in prison contribute to his death?

Yes, the harsh conditions Capone endured in prisons like Alcatraz accelerated the progression of his untreated neurosyphilis, leading to his mental and physical deterioration and eventual death at age 48.

Imran Khan

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