Friday, June 17, 2011

The Ultimate Escape from Alcatraz: The Prison Library

Many people associate the fascinating island prison Alcatraz with its sensational and clever escape attempts. Several books and movies explore the subject.

Alcatraz Island
(Awesomely amateur photo credit: Carrie Keyes)

For me, the ultimate escape from Alcatraz is the prison library. The infamous "Birdman" Robert Franklin Stroud might agree. Unlike most parts of the former penitentiary, the natural light yet glows through the windows. On a good day, if the winds prevail favorably, you might hear the muffled sounds of the city across the choppy San Francisco Bay. But the true escape, perhaps, was an inmate's mental ability to scale a wall and swim through the pages of a good book. Books transcend confinement.

The Ultimate Escape from Alcatraz: The Prison Library
(Awesomely amateur photo credit: Carrie Keyes)

During our recent tour, we learned that some prisoners would read 75 books per year. The books helped them escape Alcatraz, if only in their minds.

While the Alcatraz bookshelves have since been emptied, the movies made, and the penitentiary converted to a fascinating museum operated by the National Park Service, for me, the library seems the most profound "Escape from Alcatraz."

Plan your own escape. How many books will you read this year? No one can stop you...

* Headed to San Francisco? Tickets to Alcatraz should be purchased in advance. Yes, the former maximum security penitentiary is surprisingly family friendly.

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