Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison until 1963. Later, in 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received landmarking designations in 1976 and 1986.
Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In 2008 the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry started serving the island. Alcatraz has been featured in many movies, TV shows, cartoons, books, comics, and games.
First used as a prison by the U.S. Army during the Civil War, "The Rock" became a maximum security penitentiary in 1934, during the post-Prohibition, post-Depression America. Federal officials talked about creating a special prison for kidnappers, racketeers, and individuals guilty of predatory crimes. In fact, the public peace seemed constantly threatened by crime - and Alcatraz seemed to be the ideal response to that threat.