What Prisoners Ate at Alcatraz in 1946: A Vintage Prison Menu

alcatraz menuWhy would you want to escape from Alca­traz when you could eat Beef Pot Pie Anglaise for lunch on Tues­day, Baked Meat Cro­quettes on Wednes­day, and Bacon Jam­bal­aya on Sat­ur­day? On sec­ond thought, why would­n’t you want to escape.

Above, we have the actu­al menu for the meals served at Alca­traz dur­ing one week in Sep­tem­ber, 1946. (View it in a slight­ly larg­er for­mat here.) Alca­traz was, of course, a high secu­ri­ty fed­er­al prison that oper­at­ed off of the coast of San Fran­cis­co from 1933 until 1963. Some of Amer­i­ca’s more noto­ri­ous crim­i­nals spent time din­ing there — good fel­lows like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kel­ly, Bumpy John­son, and James “Whitey” Bul­ger.

As you may know, Bul­ger is now back on tri­al in Boston. After being released from prison dur­ing the 1960s, he alleged­ly re-immersed him­self in the world of orga­nized crime, before even­tu­al­ly spend­ing 16 years liv­ing as a fugi­tive, large­ly in Cal­i­for­nia. While on the lam, he amaz­ing­ly had the chutz­pah to vis­it Alca­traz (now a tourist site) and pose for a pic­ture where he donned a striped suit and stood behind mock prison bars. I have to won­der whether he had some Puree Mon­gole for old times’ sake?

via SF Gate and Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Odd Col­lec­tion of Books in the Guan­tanamo Prison Library

See a Peru­vian Prison Seized with Dance Fever as They Try to Break a Guin­ness World Record

Phi­los­o­phy in Prison: Weighty Con­ver­sa­tions about Right and Wrong

Two Prison Con­certs That Defined an Out­law Singer: John­ny Cash at San Quentin and Fol­som (1968–69)

by | Permalink | Comments (16) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (16)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

    Because “Beef Pot Pie Anglaise” was a euphamism for some­thing so dis­gust­ing and devoid of pro­tein and actu­al nutri­tion you real­ly did­n’t want to stom­ach it.

    In prison, a good 1/3 of meals to a Civil­ian from the ouside, are what I call “Throw Away Meals”. In oth­er words, they are so dis­gust­ing to you, you just walk to the trash can, dump the whole thing away in dis­gust (and hunger).

    If you are one of the few for­tu­nate ones with peo­ple on the out­side that still care about you, you have a stash of store food you bought, which is main­ly lots of ramen soup, a few canned soft drinks, a few bags of fritos, and maybe some peanuts. You mix the ramen with the fritos and try and make a meal out of it.

    You could say also you have all the free cable tv you want to watch as well. This also is not true. There is one TV, it is mount­ed so high up you crane your neck to see it… to watch it you have to sit in the day­room, a dan­ger­ous area exposed… and its always tuned to some­thing hor­rid… like Fox News Pro­pa­gan­da or WWF wrestling.

    Don’t believe every­thing you hear about prison. If it sounds rosy and sug­ar coat­ed, it is. An illu­sion of words.

  • Auntiekhan says:

    Great post Chop­per!

  • Zink says:

    You’ve def­i­nite­ly been there Chop­per­girl. In jail, I nev­er used my entire ramen pack­et and even­tu­al­ly accu­mu­lat­ed a large col­lec­tion of “sea­son­ings”. I learned which ramen fla­vor would fix each of the lousy dish­es they served. I also became the “fla­vor exchange guy” for who­ev­er want­ed to swap pack­ets. Odd­ly, it all made me a bet­ter cook when I got back home.

    I was an engi­neer­ing guy. All I ever did was get real good at grow­ing my own cancer/chemo med­ica­tion. Wait­ing 180 days for for shock-pro­ba­tion seemed like for­ev­er.

  • Red says:

    Some­how I doubt either of you have been to prison.

  • Goobersgirl says:

    Gee, prison is sup­posed to be pun­ish­ment right? Hard to drum up an sym­pa­thy for any­one grip­ing about it. Espe­cial­ly if those per­sons were not incar­cer­at­ed at Alca­traz at the time when this menu was used. Plen­ty of law abid­ing cit­i­zens would deal with a lot for a guar­an­teed roof over their heads and some­thing to eat on a reg­u­lar basis even if it isn’t four star cui­sine.

  • Goobersgirl says:

    I also agree with Red.

  • James says:

    Goobers­girl, prison is sup­posed to be about reha­bil­i­ta­tion, not pun­ish­ment.

  • Zink says:

    Red, Goobers­girl — Obvi­ous­ly nei­ther of you have done time. Chop­per­girl nailed it when she men­tioned the TV. You have to put up with idiots who con­stant­ly watch WWF wrestling, Jer­ry Springer, real­i­ty shows, and even worse — prison doc­u­men­taries. Hell, I want­ed to for­get I was in there. And they always have the vol­ume up loud.

    For the record, I was in the Muh­len­berg Co, Deten­tion Cen­ter in Greenville KY (July-Decem­ber 2012). The state sends Class‑D felons to local jails for the dura­tion. I was sent from Louisville Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cor­rec­tions where the food is hor­ren­dous­ly worse. I bet Chop­per­girl knows what a “zabo” is. (look it up in an Urban Dic­tio­nary).

    More proof — I was the only guy in that jail with an engi­neer­ing degree. I was bored, but they did let me use a cal­cu­la­tor — so I did what I could. From the cen­ter of the east wall of the MCDC in Greenville, look North 69°41’16’East, 11.45 miles. You can see the cen­ter of the 3 pow­er plant stacks that the TVA built after they razed Par­adise, KY as in “where Par­adise lay” (see John Prine).

  • lyredragon says:

    James, you’re liv­ing in a dream world. There are only cer­tain places in this world where prison is rehab. The Nether­lands, for exam­ple. The US sys­tem is a Penal sys­tem. Penal, by def­i­n­i­tion, means pun­ish­ment.

  • James Bain says:

    In my youth, I made the mis­take of think­ing no court would con­vict me of some­thing I did­n’t do, and end­ed up in what amount­ed to coun­ty jail in Ponce, Puer­to Rico, my home­town.
    Need­less to say, incar­cer­a­tion is NOT about reha­bil­i­ta­tion-recidi­vism rates tes­ti­fy to that being BS. In fact, many inmates repeat­ed­ly com­mit­ted pet­ty crimes for a roof over their heads and three square meals dai­ly.
    For a time, one par­tic­u­lar cook we had did all he could to make our meals palat­able, if not down­right tasty, but he last­ed all of nine months and gru­el ruled again, in the form of rice and beans for lunch and din­ner-with occa­sion­al pieces of chick­en or pork from the prison farm and cream of wheat for break­fast. That’s every day. Every day. Fam­i­lies did what they could to help smug­gle in spices and the like. Enter­pris­ing inmates smug­gled in bet­ter veg­eta­bles from time to time, but most­ly, it was drea­ry and dis­heart­en­ing.
    I made peace with almost every­one. It’s impos­si­ble to get over extreme igno­rance, though, and it’s a mir­a­cle I got out alive.
    That said, I think every­one should be required to spend a year in jail-as a form of rais­ing our social con­sciences. I sus­pect few­er peo­ple would treat all inmates with dis­dain and prob­a­bly more peo­ple would strive to stay out.

    • Jeannie4444 says:

      Thank God you made it back home, right? Unfor­tu­nate­ly, here in the U.S., incar­cer­a­tio­nis all about two major cor­po­ra­tions mak­ing big bucks off of a lot of peo­ple they allow to rot and starve. Here’s hop­ing some­one wakes up to the fact that it’s time to stop need­less wars and incar­cer­a­tion and con­cen­trate on giv­ing peo­ple the edu­ca­tion and pow­er to become the crea­tures God intend­ed them to be.

  • thecrud says:

    If every­one had to do at least a year. The pow­ers that be would make them into a coun­try club.

  • Bill W. says:

    Huh. Same type of menu-items they used to feed us in the mil­i­tary; I was always amused when they’d list condi­ments as one of the things served for that par­tic­u­lar meal.

  • derek vanname says:

    iv’e been to prison 40 times

  • Pattie says:

    What i do know is all the monies giv­en to pris­ons for food is stolen by who­ev­er takes in the mon­ey and the pris­on­ers get half of what they are real­ly sup­posed to get. Like they are sup­posed to get 2 hot dogs and 2 rolls or 2 slices of bread but instead they get only one..and so on. So the pris­on­ers are always hun­gry. Some pris­ons actu­al­ly have good cooks and some don’t same as restau­rants. They are lucky when they get an Ital­ian cook..lol

  • Fynes Moryson says:

    What? No bologna sand­wich­es.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.