Alcatraz, a rocky island in San Francisco Bay, California, about one mile (1.6 km) offshore north of San Francisco. Because of its strategic location, it was occupied by a fortress during the period of early settlement and also by the first lighthouse on the West Coast. Alcatraz was the site of a maximum-security federal penitentiary, 1934-63. Because of the swift currents in the bay, escape from “The Rock,” as it was called, was considered to be impossible. Among well-known prisoners who were confined there were Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”
In 1969, a group of American Indians seized the island as a protest against loss of tribal lands and discriminatory treatment by the United States government. The occupation lasted for 19 months. The former prison was turned over to the National Park Service and opened in 1973 as a tourist attraction.