Alcatraz Screw: My Years as a Guard in America's Most Notorious Prison

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9780826213969: Alcatraz Screw: My Years as a Guard in America's Most Notorious Prison

Alcatraz Screw is a firsthand account from a prison guard’s perspective of some of the most storied years at the infamous U.S. Penitentiary at Alcatraz. George Gregory began his career as a guard for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1940. Following his training, he was sent to the federal prison at Sandstone, Minnesota. A few years later he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Badly wounded at Iwo Jima, he returned to Sandstone after a long rehabilitation. When the Bureau of Prisons closed Sandstone in 1947, Gregory was transferred to Alcatraz, which had been a federal penitentiary since 1934.

For the next fifteen years, Gregory worked on “The Rock.” He takes the reader along on a correctional officer’s tour of duty, showing what it was like to pull a lonely, tedious night of sentry duty in the Road Tower, or witness illicit transactions in the clothing room, or forcibly quell a riot in the cell blocks. Gregory provides an insider’s account of the tenures of all four of Alcatraz’s wardens and their sometimes contradictory approaches to administering the institution. He knew and regularly interacted with such legendary inmates as Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz) and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Without glamorizing or demonizing either the staff or the convicts, Alcatraz Screw provides a candid portrayal of corruption, drug abuse, and sexual practices, as well as efforts at reform and unrecorded acts of kindness. Various incidents in the memoir convey the fear, hatred, frustration, boredom, and unavoidable tension of being incarcerated. With the inclusion of maps and diagrams of Alcatraz Island, as well as photographs of inmates, officers, and the prison itself, this book offers insight into life at the notorious Alcatraz from an unprecedented perspective.

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About the Author:

George H. Gregory was a correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary at Alcatraz from 1947 to 1962.

From Library Journal:

There has been a resurgence of interest in Alcatraz. In The Great Escape (2001), Jolene Babyak gives her version of the only successful escape from the Rock, and in Alcatraz Justice (2002), Earnest Lageson rehashes a long-forgotten trail of three inmates involved in a hostage situation. Now, Gregory, a former prison guard, has written his memoir of 15 years at Alcatraz. Given his background as a marine in World War II, it is no surprise that Gregory was a hard-nosed officer who stressed his ability to keep a dangerous population in line. Yet he also includes in the memoir some priceless prison vignettes. For example, he describes a fracas in the yard between a young officer and some seasoned cons, a confrontation between a doctor and his patients, and the poignant story of a mentally deranged inmate whom he saved from the abuse of the other officers. Although Alcatraz was unique because of its remote location, readers may be surprised to learn that the conditions at the prison, and the characteristics of its inmates, were not so different from those that exist today. For comparison, try Ted Conover's Newjack (2001), the memoirs of an officer in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in the 21st century. Alcatraz Screw will probably not appeal to the general reader, but it will certainly appeal to readers interested in prison life and those who have a special interest in Alcatraz. Recommended for crime collections in public libraries.
Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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