Alcatraz was designed to house America’s most notorious and dangerous criminals, partly to isolate the highest-profile inmates from influencing residents in other prisons and partly to stand as a high-visibility example. Alcatraz’s most infamous
inmate was Chicago underworld kingpin Al Capone, who terrorised parts of the US between the Twenties and early-Thirties. He was incarcerated at Alcatraz in 1934 and transferred to Terminal Island Correctional Institution in 1939, with a fraction of the influence he had during the Prohibition era.
Other notable criminals who succumbed to the full force of the US penal system included kidnapper George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde accomplice and bank robber Floyd Hamilton, Ma Barker gang member Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis and murderer Robert ‘Birdman’ Stroud, who was portrayed in the 1962 film classic The Birdman Of Alcatraz by Burt Lancaster.