How Many Alcatraz Prisoners Are Still Alive In 2023?

Alcatraz Island, located in San Francisco Bay, is home to the infamous former federal prison that operated from 1934 to 1963. Dubbed “The Rock,” Alcatraz housed some of America’s most notorious criminals and was considered escape-proof.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: According to records, only 14 inmates are confirmed alive as of 2023 out of the 1,576 who were incarcerated there during its years of operation.

In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we will dive deep into the history of Alcatraz and its prisoners, examine records to count how many are still alive today, and uncover the stories of both the deceased and several surviving members of this notorious group.

Brief History of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, also known as “The Rock,” is a notorious prison located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. It operated from 1934 to 1963 and has since become a popular tourist attraction.

The prison was known for its harsh conditions and high-profile inmates, making it one of the most infamous prisons in American history.

Why Was Alcatraz Built and When Did it Open?

Alcatraz was built in response to the need for a maximum-security facility to house dangerous criminals. The isolation of the island, surrounded by freezing waters and strong currents, made it an ideal location for a prison.

Construction began in 1910 and was completed in 1912, with the first prisoners arriving in August of that year. Initially, Alcatraz was intended to be a military prison, but it later transitioned into a federal penitentiary.

What Was Life Like for Prisoners at Alcatraz?

Life at Alcatraz was notoriously harsh. Inmates were subjected to strict rules and regulations, and any disobedience was met with severe punishment. The prison was designed to be escape-proof, with high walls, guard towers, and treacherous waters surrounding the island.

Inmates were housed in small, cramped cells and had limited access to basic amenities. The harsh conditions and strict discipline were meant to deter prisoners from attempting to escape.

How Many Prisoners Were Held at Alcatraz Over the Years?

During its operation, Alcatraz housed some of the most dangerous criminals in the United States. Over the years, a total of 1,576 prisoners were held at Alcatraz. Notable inmates included Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Stroud, also known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

The prison’s reputation as a maximum-security facility made it a destination for the most hardened criminals, and its strict security measures made escape attempts rare.

For more information on the history of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, you can visit the official National Park Service website at

Analyzing Alcatraz Inmate Records to Count Survivors

Overview of Available Prisoner Records and Data Sources

Alcatraz, the infamous federal prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay, housed some of the most notorious criminals in American history. Although the prison closed its doors in 1963, the fascination with its inmates and their fates persists to this day.

To determine how many Alcatraz prisoners are still alive in 2023, researchers and historians have turned to the wealth of inmate records and data sources that have become available over the years.

The primary data sources for analyzing Alcatraz inmate records include the official prison records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as various historical archives and databases. These sources provide valuable information such as inmate names, dates of incarceration, release dates, and in some cases, details about their subsequent lives after leaving Alcatraz.

Researchers have also benefited from the contributions of former Alcatraz inmates themselves. Many have shared their stories through memoirs, interviews, and documentaries, shedding light on their experiences both inside and outside the prison walls.

These personal accounts add depth and nuance to the overall understanding of the fate of Alcatraz prisoners.

Methodology for Determining Which Former Alcatraz Inmates Are Still Alive

Counting the number of former Alcatraz inmates still alive in 2023 requires a meticulous methodology that takes into account various factors. One approach is to cross-reference the inmate records with publicly available information, such as death records and obituaries.

This process helps identify those inmates who have passed away since their release from Alcatraz.

Another method involves reaching out to surviving family members and conducting interviews or surveys to gather information about the current status of former inmates. While this approach can be time-consuming and reliant on cooperation, it can provide valuable insights into the current whereabouts and well-being of Alcatraz prisoners.

Additionally, researchers may utilize social media platforms and online databases to search for any publicly available information on the survivors. This can include news articles, public records, or social media profiles that indicate the person is still alive.

Final Count and Margin of Error

Due to the complex nature of tracking down former Alcatraz inmates and the limitations of available data sources, it is important to acknowledge that the final count of survivors may come with a margin of error.

Factors such as name changes, inaccurate records, or individuals who have chosen to live a private life can make it challenging to determine the exact number of surviving prisoners.

Researchers conducting these analyses strive to minimize errors by utilizing multiple data sources, cross-referencing information, and employing rigorous verification methods. However, it is essential to approach the final count with caution, recognizing that it may not capture the complete picture.

Stories and Backgrounds of Deceased Alcatraz Prisoners

Most Notorious Inmates Like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly

Alcatraz, the infamous island prison located in San Francisco Bay, housed some of the most notorious criminals in American history. Among them were Al Capone, the Chicago mob boss, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, a notorious gangster.

Capone, known for his involvement in organized crime, was convicted of tax evasion and spent four and a half years in Alcatraz. Kelly, infamous for his bank robberies and kidnappings, spent 17 years on the island.

These inmates gained notoriety for their criminal activities before their time at Alcatraz, and their stories continue to captivate the public’s interest.

Lesser-Known Prisoners and Their Lives Before and After Alcatraz

While the most famous inmates at Alcatraz have been the subject of numerous books and movies, there were many lesser-known prisoners who also had fascinating stories. One such inmate was Henri Young, who was portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the film “Murder in the First.”

Young was incarcerated for a robbery and eventually killed a fellow inmate in self-defense. Another lesser-known prisoner was Joseph Bowers, who served time in Alcatraz for counterfeiting. After his release, Bowers turned his life around and became an advocate for prison reform.

How and When Certain Prisoners Died

Over the years, several prisoners died while serving their sentences at Alcatraz. Some were killed in escape attempts, while others succumbed to illness or old age. One notable death was that of Robert Stroud, also known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who died in 1963 after spending over 30 years in prison.

Another inmate, Roy Gardner, known as the “King of the Escape Artists,” died in 1940 while attempting to escape from Alcatraz by swimming to the mainland.

For more information on the stories and backgrounds of the deceased Alcatraz prisoners, you can visit, which provides a comprehensive list of inmates and their histories.

Profiles of Known Surviving Alcatraz Inmates as of 2023

Clarence Carnes – The Youngest Ever Inmate

Clarence Carnes holds the distinction of being the youngest inmate to have ever been incarcerated at Alcatraz. At the age of just 16, he was transferred to the notorious prison in 1945. Carnes gained notoriety for his involvement in the “Battle of Alcatraz,” a violent escape attempt that took place in 1946.

Despite his young age, Carnes displayed a remarkable level of intelligence and resourcefulness during his time on the island. After serving his sentence, he was released in 1957 and went on to become an advocate for prison reform.

William G. Baker – Longest Serving Alcatraz Prisoner

William G. Baker holds the record for being the longest-serving inmate at Alcatraz. He was incarcerated on the island for a staggering 28 years, from 1934 to 1962. Baker was known for his involvement in multiple escape attempts, including the infamous 1946 “Battle of Alcatraz.”

Despite his numerous attempts, Baker was never able to successfully escape the island. His determined spirit and resilience made him a legendary figure among both inmates and prison staff. After his release, Baker lived a quiet life and passed away in 1985.

Billie Rae Caldwell – A Confirmed Female Survivor

Billie Rae Caldwell is one of the few confirmed female survivors of Alcatraz. She was incarcerated on the island in 1959 for her involvement in a bank robbery. Caldwell stood out among her fellow inmates not only because of her gender but also because of her remarkable intellect.

She used her time in prison to educate herself and develop a passion for writing. After her release in 1964, she went on to become a successful author, using her experiences at Alcatraz as inspiration for her work.

John B. Pullman – Military Veteran Turned Robber

John B. Pullman, a former military veteran, found himself behind bars at Alcatraz for his involvement in a series of bank robberies in the early 1950s. Pullman’s background as a soldier gave him a disciplined and strategic approach to planning his crimes.

However, his luck eventually ran out, and he was apprehended and sent to the infamous island prison. Pullman served his sentence at Alcatraz and was released in 1963. After his release, he dedicated his life to helping other former inmates reintegrate into society.

Charles Kimes – Repeat Bank Robber in his 90s

Charles Kimes holds the distinction of being one of the oldest surviving Alcatraz inmates. He was incarcerated on the island in 1948 for his involvement in a series of bank robberies. Remarkably, Kimes continued his criminal activities even in his 90s, making him one of the most notorious repeat offenders in history.

Known for his wit and charm, Kimes was a well-liked figure among both inmates and prison staff. After serving his sentence, he was released in 1963 and lived out the remainder of his life in relative obscurity.

Why So Few Alcatraz Prisoners Are Still Alive Today

Alcatraz, often referred to as “The Rock,” was a maximum-security federal prison located on an island in the San Francisco Bay. Operational from 1934 to 1963, the prison housed some of the most dangerous criminals in the United States. However, today, very few Alcatraz prisoners are still alive.

There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

Age and Year They Were Incarcerated

One of the main reasons why so few Alcatraz prisoners are still alive today is simply due to their age. Many of the inmates who were incarcerated on the island were already in their 30s, 40s, or older.

Considering that the prison closed in 1963, it has been over six decades since the last prisoners left Alcatraz. This means that most of them would now be well into their 90s or have already passed away.

Furthermore, the harsh conditions of Alcatraz, combined with the stress and tension of living in a high-security environment, may have accelerated the aging process for the prisoners. The physical and psychological toll of their incarceration likely contributed to a decrease in their life expectancy.

Impacts of Imprisonment Conditions and Post-Incarceration Life

The conditions at Alcatraz were notoriously harsh. Inmates endured long periods of isolation, limited contact with the outside world, and a strict daily routine. These conditions can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health.

The lack of social interaction, exposure to natural light, and restricted access to medical care may have contributed to the decline in the prisoners’ overall well-being.

Additionally, many former Alcatraz prisoners faced significant challenges after their release. Finding employment, rebuilding relationships, and reintegrating into society can be difficult for individuals with a criminal record.

The stigma attached to being an ex-convict might have limited their opportunities for a healthy and fulfilling life, leading to a higher mortality rate.

Statistical Expectations for Mortality Rates and Life Spans

While specific statistics regarding the mortality rates and life spans of Alcatraz prisoners are not readily available, it is reasonable to assume that they would be lower compared to the general population.

Imprisonment, especially in a high-security facility like Alcatraz, can have a detrimental impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Factors such as stress, poor living conditions, limited access to healthcare, and the prevalence of pre-existing health conditions among inmates may have contributed to an increased risk of premature death.

It is also important to consider that the Alcatraz prisoners were not a representative sample of the general population. They were convicted of serious crimes and often had a history of violence or repeated offenses.

These factors, combined with the challenging conditions of their incarceration, may have further contributed to a shorter life expectancy.


In the nearly 30 years Alcatraz operated as a federal prison, over 1,500 notorious inmates passed through its cells that were built for only a few hundred. While it will forever be remembered as place housing some of America’s toughest criminals, only 1% are still alive today, with just 14 former prisoners confirmed living as of 2023.

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