6 Of The Most Notorious Alcatraz Inmates

James "Whitey" Bulger's 1959 Alcatraz mugshot. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Alcatraz. The Rock. Located in San Francisco Bay, the former island prison was once home to some of America’s most notorious gangsters, thieves, and killers. Alcatraz was utilized as a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. The island’s location over one mile from from San Francisco made it a feared place for criminals.

Although there were several escape attempts during Alcatraz’s 30 year reign as a federal penitentiary, no one ever made it to the mainland. Alcatraz was home to the worst criminals in the country. Alcatraz housed many inmates during the thirty years the island operated as a prison, and below are 6 of the most infamous men who once called The Rock home.

An early mugshot of Bulger. Biography

James “Whitey” Bulger

Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger grabbed headlines when he was captured in Santa Monica, California in 2011 after more than 15 years on the run. Bulger was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for many years after he vanished in 1995, having been tipped off that his arrest was imminent.

Bulger had led a life of crime since he was a teenager in the tough, working-class, Irish enclave of South Boston. He was known as a street brawler and he developed a penchant for committing robberies and hijacking trucks full of goods near Boston’s waterfront. He was in trouble with the law from a very young age, and was first sent away in the 1950s on a bank robbery charge.

Bulger spent time in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta before he was transferred to Alcatraz in 1959. Bulger spent three long years in the island prison fortress in the bay before he was transferred to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas in November 1962, and then to the Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania before he was paroled in 1965.

After his parole, Bulger returned to his native Boston and picked up where he had left off. He became embroiled in the Boston gang wars of the late 1960s, and eventually took control of the Winter Hill Gang in the late 1970s. Bulger and his associates controlled illegal activities in Boston through force, murder, and intimidation. Though it didn’t come out until much later, Bulger acted as an FBI informant for many years. This partnership helped him and his gang avoid prosecution for decades. Bulger fled Boston in 1995 and lived under an assumed name, mostly in California, until his capture in 2011. Today, the 87-year-old crime boss is serving a life sentence at a prison in Florida.


  • Thaddaeus Dolzall

    Your picture of Alvin Karpis is not correct, that is Harry Campbell (322-AZ). Campbell was a member of the Barker-Karpis gang and received a life sentence for his role in the Bremer kidnapping. Alvin Karpis was prisoner number 325-AZ.