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How Many Alcatraz Prisoners Are Still Alive?

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was one of the most notorious prisons in American history. Operating from 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz housed some of the worst criminals of the early 20th century. Today, six decades after its closure, only a handful of former Alcatraz inmates are still known to be alive.

A Brief History of Alcatraz Prison

Often referred to as “The Rock”, Alcatraz was located on an island in San Francisco Bay. Its isolated location and strict security measures made it an ideal facility to house problematic prisoners.

At its peak in the 1950s, Alcatraz had a population of over 200 inmates. Some well-known criminals held there include Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud (“The Birdman of Alcatraz”).

Over the 29 years the federal prison operated, a total of 1576 men did time at Alcatraz. But only a few elderly ex-prisoners are still alive today to tell the tales of their incarceration on the notorious island.

Estimating the Number of Surviving Alcatraz Inmates

Determining exactly how many former Alcatraz prisoners are still living is difficult to pin down. But by examining age demographics and making reasonable assumptions, we can estimate a ballpark figure.

  • The youngest Alcatraz inmates may have been as young as 19. If they survived to today, they would be around 90 years old.
  • Typical ages of prisoners were in their 30s to 40s. Any still alive would now be centenarians.
  • The oldest surviving Alcatraz inmate known is Bill Baker, who is currently 103 years old.
  • In 2013, it was estimated 5-10 former inmates could still be alive out of the total 1576.
  • It’s probable several more have passed in the decade since then.
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Considering these factors, a reasonable estimate is that only 2 to 7 former Alcatraz inmates are still living today. Most are now in their late 90s or already over 100 years old.

Notable Surviving Alcatraz Inmates

Through research and news reports, at least 3 former Alcatraz prisoners are confirmed to still be alive in 2022:

  • Bill Baker – Now 103 years old, Baker spent 2 years in Alcatraz from 1957-1959 for bank robbery. He was paroled at age 71 and has spoken about adjusting to life after prison.
  • Clarence Carnes – Known as “The Choctaw Kid”, 89 year old Carnes is one of the youngest surviving Alcatraz inmates. He served over 18 years from 1945-1963 for kidnapping and escape attempts before the prison closed.
  • John Martini – Martini, 86, helped plan the infamous 1962 Alcatraz escape attempt that inspired the Clint Eastwood film “Escape from Alcatraz”. He served 8 years there for bank robbery.

There may be a handful of other ex-Alcatraz prisoners still alive but keeping a low profile. However, the majority have now passed away due to old age.

Why So Few Alcatraz Inmates Are Still Living

Most former Alcatraz inmates are no longer living for a variety of reasons:

  • Age: The prison closed over 59 years ago. Anyone incarcerated there in their 20s or 30s would now be 80+ years old. Life expectancy works against their survival over time.
  • Harsh Conditions: Life at Alcatraz was extremely tough, with bitter cold, isolation and violent inmates. Some died during escape attempts or took their own lives.
  • After Prison: Many ex-convicts led dangerous lifestyles which shortened their lifespans. Substance abuse and criminality were common even after release.
  • Lack of Information: The full list of Alcatraz inmates was not made easily public until recent decades. Finding information on the whereabouts of all 1576 men has been difficult.
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Considering these factors, the annals of time have made it inevitable that only a handful of octo- and nonagenarians who previously called Alcatraz home are still alive today to reflect on their experiences.

Are Any Alcatraz Guards Still Living?

In contrast to the prisoners, a larger number of former Alcatraz guards and staff have been located and are still alive. Some notable still living Alcatraz employees include:

  • George DeVincenzi, age 96 – One of the first guards hired in 1934 and worked over 20 years at Alcatraz.
  • Robert Luke, age 92 – A guard from 1955-1962 who led cell house patrols and accompanied prisoners under escort.
  • Darwin Coon, age 88 – Began as a guard in 1957, later becoming captain of the guards and associate warden.

At least 12 former Alcatraz guards are still known to be alive, ranging in age from their 80s to 90s. Their survival rate is higher than inmates due to being older when they worked there and living different lifestyles before and after.

Conclusion

In summary, of the 1576 prisoners who did time at the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary from 1934-1963, only about 2-7 former inmates are still believed to be alive today. The exact number is difficult to pinpoint, but through research at least 3 specific ex-Alcatraz prisoners in their 80s or 90s have been identified and confirmed surviving. Natural age demographics make it inevitable most inmates have since passed away. However, a number of ex-guards are still alive to provide fascinating perspectives on America’s most famous former prison island.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Surviving Alcatraz Inmates

How many total prisoners were held at Alcatraz?

In total, there were 1576 inmates imprisoned at Alcatraz during its 29 years of operation from 1934-1963.

What was the typical age range for Alcatraz inmates?

Most Alcatraz inmates were in their 30s-40s, although some convicted at younger ages served there too. The minimum age was around 19.

How many ex-prisoners are still thought to be alive?

Likely only about 2-7 former Alcatraz inmates are still living today, based on typical age demographics.

Who are some of the known surviving Alcatraz inmates?

Bill Baker, Clarence Carnes, and John Martini are 3 confirmed living ex-Alcatraz inmates now over age 85.

Why did most Alcatraz prisoners not live to old age?

Harsh conditions, after-prison lifestyles, escape attempts, suicides, and natural age all contributed to the deaths of most former inmates.

Are any Alcatraz guards still alive?

Yes, at least 12 former Alcatraz guards in their 80s and 90s are still living and have been interviewed.

What was the purpose of Alcatraz as a prison?

Its isolated island location and strict security made it ideal for housing problematic inmates and high-profile criminals.

When did Alcatraz prison close down?

Alcatraz closed in March 1963 after operating for 29 years. It is now a popular tourist attraction.

Where was Alcatraz located?

Alcatraz was built on an island in San Francisco Bay to make access difficult and escapes near impossible.

Why is Alcatraz so famous?

It housed notorious gangsters like Al Capone and had a reputation as America’s toughest inescapable prison, solidifying its fame.

Imran Khan

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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