by James V. Bennett
Director, Bureau of Prisons

Despite the fact that most of our institutions were crowded as never before in the history of the Federal Prison System, with the exception of one episode when five prisoners attempted to escape from Alcatraz, no serious disciplinary problems occurred during the past year. This incident occurred on January 13, 1939, when five prisoners succeeded in sawing and breaking the bars of their cells and of the cell house and thus reached the shore of the island during a heavy fog that enveloped the institution. They were apprehended, however, within a half hour. The incident was possible because we were forced to house a few problem cases in an old cell block which had not been modernized. Funds are now available, however, for making necessary improvements should this be considered desirable.

Indicative of the morale of the general inmate body at Alcatraz is the fact that the inmates submitted 16 manuscripts of 173 received in the Short Story Prize Contest which was opened to the inmates of all Federal penal and correctional institutions. Two of the Alcatraz papers were selected by the judges as prize winners. In a scenario contest held during the [9] previous year the Alcatraz inmates also showed considerable interest and submitted 8 of the total 63 manuscripts. One of the Alcatraz authors received a third prize and another honorable mention for his work.

There was some increase in the number of escapes from Federal institutions during the past year due to the fact that a larger number of prisoners were transferred to our camps, farms, and minimum-security construction projects. No prisoner, however, escaped from within the walls of any of our prisons and out of 44 who escaped 30 were reapprehended and returned. Twenty-four of the escapes were from the Prison Camps, most of them being Mexican border-jumpers sent to the road camp near Tucson, Arizona.

[FEDERAL OFFENDERS: 1938-39:pp. 8-9]