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Al Capone Essay

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Al Capone still remains one of the most notable residents of "the Rock." In a memoir written by Warden James Johnston, he reminisced about the intensity of public interest around Capone's imprisonment, stating that he was continually barraged with questions about "Big Al." Each day newspapers and press flooded his office with phone calls, wanting to know everything from how Capone liked the weather on "the Rock," to what job assignment he was currently holding.

Before arriving at Alcatraz, Capone had been a master at manipulating his environment at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta. Despite strict convictions from the courts, Capone was always able to persuade his keepers into procuring his every whim, and often dictated his own privileges. It was said that he had convinced many guards to work for him, and his cell boasted expensive furnishings which included personal bedding along with many other amenities not extended to other inmates serving lesser crimes. His cell was carpeted, and also had a radio around which many of the guards would sit with Al conversing and listening to their favorite radio serials. His friends and family maintained residence in a nearby hotel, and each day he was flooded with visitors.

Capone started his life of crime at a young age. Rumored to have started pimping prostitutes before reaching puberty, he was raised on the tough streets of Brooklyn and earned extra money as a bouncer in various brothels. By the age of twenty, Capone had moved to Chicago and was managing a popular nightclub named The Four Deuces. By 1924, Capone had his hand in various rackets, including prostitution rings, bootlegging, and gambling houses and was believed to be earning over $100,000 per week.
Capone had mastered the art of politics, and as a wealthy, powerful gangster figure, he attempted to balance his activities. Despite his illegitimate occupation, he had become a highly visible public figure. He made daily trips to City Hall, opened soup kitchens to feed the poor, and even lobbied for milk bottle dating to ensure the safety of the city's children. City officials often were embarrassed by the politic strength of Capone, and began leveraging his illegal activities through police raids, along with setting intentional fires to his places of business.

In the beginning, the public glamorized Capone's activities and...


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...on Alcatraz, he made several attempts to con Johnston into allowing him special privileges, but all were denied. Johnston maintained that Capone would not be given any special rights and would have to follow the rules as would any other inmate.

Capone eventually conceded and one day made the comment to Johnston, "It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked." Capone spent 4 ½ years on Alcatraz and held a variety of jobs. Capone's time on Alcatraz was not easy time. Capone got into a fight with another inmate in the recreation yard and was placed in isolation for eight days. While working in the prison basement, an inmate who was standing in line waiting for a haircut, exchanged words with Capone and stabbed him with a pair of shears. Capone was admitted into the prison hospital and released a few days later with a minor wound. Capone eventually became symptomatic from syphilis, a disease he had evidently been carrying for years. In 1938, he was transferred to Terminal Island Prison in Southern California to serve out the remainder of his sentence, and was released in November of 1939. Capone died on January 25, 1947, in his Palm Beach Mansion from complications of syphilis.


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