Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Alcatraz Library

Alcatraz Library was the library used by inmates of the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. It was located at the end of D-Block. Upon entering Alcatraz, every inmate was given a library card[1] and a catalog of books found in the library; inmates could place orders by putting a slip with their card in a box at the entrance to the dining hall before breakfast, and the books would be delivered to and from their cell by a librarian.[2][3] The library, which utilized a closed-stack paging system, had a collection of 10,000 to 15,000 books, mainly left over from the army days.[4][2][3]

Inmates were permitted a maximum of three books in addition to up to 12 text books, a Bible, and a dictionary.[3] They were permitted to subscribe to magazines but crime-related pages were torn out and newspapers were not prohibited.[2] Sex, crime and violence were prohibited from all books and magazines, and the library was governed by a chaplain who regulated the censorship and the nature of the reading material to ensure that the material was wholesome.[3][4] Failure to return books by the date given made the inmate liable to removal of privileges.[3] A sign in the library today has an extract from the Federal Bureau of Prisons booklet in 1960 which says: "these men read more serious literature than does the ordinary person in the community. Philosophers such as Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, etc. are especially popular." Other authors include Jack London, Sinclair Lewis, Washington Irving, Zane Grey, Hamilton Garland, Alexandre Dumas, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Conrad, Cervantes and magazines such as Adventure to Time, Better Homes and Gardens and Library Digest.[5] A law library was later added to A-Block.[4]

A library scene in Alcatraz appeared in the 1979 Clint Eastwood film Escape from Alcatraz in which Eastwood's character of Frank Morris converses with another inmate.


  1. ^ MacDonald, Donald; Nadel, Ira (15 February 2012). Alcatraz: History and Design of a Landmark. Chronicle Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4521-0153-8. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Ward, David A.; Kassebaum, Gene G. (19 May 2009). Alcatraz: The Gangster Years. University of California Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-520-25607-1. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Dunbar, Richard (1 January 1999). Alcatraz. Casa Editrice Bonechi. p. 41. ISBN 978-88-8029-940-0. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Minimum Prvileges". 
  5. ^ "For Desperate or Irredeemable Types United States Federal Penitentiary Alcatraz". A History of Alcatraz Island, 1847-1972, Historic Resources Study. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 

Coordinates: 37°49′35″N 122°25′22″W / 37.82639°N 122.42278°W / 37.82639; -122.42278