Alcatraz Clergyman Father Bush Recalls Time on “The Rock”

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Father Bush S.J. at Alcatraz Landiing
Father Bush S.J. is the only living former member of the clergy who served at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary opened in 1934 and when it closed its cell doors for the last time in 1963 more than fifteen hundred prisoners had served time on the Rock. Throughout the prison’s 29-year history there was an average of one guard for every three prisoners. Today, there are only four or five surviving Alcatraz ex-cons and about four surviving guards. Of the many members of the clergy who saw duty on the Rock, the only living, former clergyman is Father Bernard Bush S.J. It was curiosity about the mysterious island penitentiary in the middle of San Francisco Bay that first attracted Father Bush’s attention. The young seminarian decided to volunteer his services on Alcatraz in 1958. Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer on Alcatraz Island, administered today by the National Park Service, for a visit with Father Bush while en route from the island prison aboard an Alcatraz Cruises vessel as he vividly shares his recollections from his four years on the Rock.


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Alcatraz Island.
Alcatraz from the Bay. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Alcatraz from the outside
Alcatraz with “The Yard” just over the wall. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer