Alcatraz was opened as a federal penitentiary in the spring of 1934 in the era of the gangsters. It was opened more for publicity value then the incarceration level. Alcatraz was the most feared prison in the world and the most expensive. There were only so many Al Capone's and machinegun Kelly's; so the prison had empty cells. In order to justify the cost, the government brought in incorrigibles from other prisons. Men that had committed smaller more petty crimes; men like Henry Young. .
Henry Young was born in Kansas in 1913. His parents died 10 years later leaving Henry to raise his younger sister. At the age of 17 Henry went into a local store to try to get a job. He was refused work. Out of desperation he reached into the cash register and took five dollars. The store was also doubled as the town's post office. Henry Young was tried and convicted of a federal crime; mail robbery. Henry's sister was taken to live in an orphanage. He would never see her again.
In March 25th 1938 four prisoners tried to escape from the Island of Alcatraz. Two were killed and two survived. The surviving prisoners were Henry Young and Rufus McCain. McCain betrayed his fellow inmates by tipping off the associate warden Mr. Glenn. He was rewarded for his betrayal and left in the general population while Henry Young was sent to solitary. .
The federal guidelines regarding solitary confinement states that the maximum stay for an inmate must not exceed 19 days. In a 5x6 cell, no toilet, nothing but a hard rock floor to sleep on, and in complete darkness, Henry Young would spend the next 3 years and two months of his life. With no exercise and no one to talk to, he began to withdraw as a person. The only visitors he would have would be the associate warden Mr. Glenn; who would make visits regularly to beat him and to tear down his spirit. Henry Young was forced to make friends with insects and rats in order to keep from going completely insane from loneliness.