Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary is the largest maximum-security prison in the United States. Located fifteen miles north of Kansas City in Leavenworth, Kansas, it began accepting inmates in 1903. Leavenworth was the first federal penitentiary. During its century of use, Leavenworth has housed such famous outlaws as "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert F. Stroud, who later became known as the "Bird Man of Alcatraz" where he was later moved.
Alcatraz, meaning pelican, is located on an island in San Francisco Bay. It was the first permanent U.S. Army military fort on the West Coast beginning in the early 1850s, then became a military prison in the early 1860s. In 1933 and 1934 it was transformed into a prison for the nation's most dangerous criminals. Alcatraz, also known as the Rock, was essentially escape-proof because it was surrounded by shark-infested waters. Alcatraz operated until 1963 when it was closed. In 2000 it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a major tourist attraction.
San Quentin State Prison, located in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco, is California's oldest prison. Pris-oners finished building San Quentin in 1854. They were housed offshore on a boat while constructing the prison. In 1893 it became California's execution site. Hanging was the standard means for execution until 1938 when the gas chamber came into use. Although a maximum security prison for over one hundred years, by 2000 San Quentin was serving as a medium security facility for six thousand inmates.
Sing Sing Correctional Facility is a state prison located in Ossining, New York, and took its name from that village. Built in 1825, Sing Sing became known for executing death row prisoners by electrocution. Between 1914 and 1971 all of the state of New York's executions took place in the prison's electric chair. Sing Sing remained a maximum security facility for male offenders.
Attica Correctional Facility, a state prison located in Attica, New York, has held many of New York's worst criminals since it opened in 1933. It is best known for a bloody prison riot in 1971 that resulted in forty-two deaths—thirty-one inmates and eleven prison guards. It is the only U.S. prison that uses a tear gas system piped throughout the facility to quiet conflicts. Attica holds many criminals who have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms—often twenty-five years to life—for committing murder.