Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime Science

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive? Computer Program Says They Might Have 89

In June of 1962, three prisoners escaped the penitentary on Alcatraz, in an elaborate plot that was dramatized in a Clint Eastwood movie. A question that has long puzzled the public is whether these men ever made it to shore; the many factors that made Alcatraz a secure prison include sharks, cold water, and contrary currents. Still, some artifacts from the attempt, and perhaps the appeal of stories about survival against high odds, have led many people to believe that the men actually landed safely and faded into society. coondoggie writes This week Dutch scientists from Delft University of Technology presented findings from a computer modeling program they were working on, unrelated to the mystery, that demonstrated the escapees could have survived the journey. "In hindsight, the best time to launch a boat from Alcatraz was [11:30 am], one and a half hours later than has generally been assumed. A rubber boat leaving Alcatraz at [11:30 am] would most likely have landed just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The model also shows that debris in that scenario would be likely to wash up at Angel Island, exactly where one of the paddles and some personal belongings were found.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive? Computer Program Says They Might Have

Comments Filter:
  • Myth Confirmed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't Mythbusters do this years ago?

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:23AM (#48626237) Homepage

      Yep, I think it was considered "Plausible".

      It all comes down to the condition of the escapees, some amount of luck and then ability to keep a low profile.

      I think that the last factor would have been the hardest - keep a low profile after a successful escape.

      • Yeah. They said it was plausible but they also decided that the escapees probably perished, because there were no reports of stolen cars (at least according to Mythbusters. The internet seems to be inconsistent here) or other crimes we'd expect as part of their escape.
        • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @01:12PM (#48627319) Homepage

          Did car reports always get filed on the correct day back then? It isn't like something they're going to put a CSI team on, so it might have really just not mattered to the cops exactly when a car was stolen unless it was one where they caught somebody with it. And then it would be the witnesses who needed to be helped to remember, not the paperwork.

          My understanding of pre-computer paperwork, including during much of my life, is that you really can't say one way or the other if cars were reported stolen on a particular day, or not. And a stolen car was often not reported for a couple days. The first thing people tried to do was get to work because public transit sucked. It might not be until their day off that it gets reported. "Sorry Sir, you can't sign the complaint over the phone, you'll have to come in to the station."

          They didn't need a car though, what they needed was a friend in town. It isn't exactly remote.

          • The first thing people tried to do was get to work because public transit sucked.

            You say that like there is viable public transit in this day in age...??

            • by dave420 ( 699308 )
              Of course. Maybe not where you live, but in a great many parts of the world public transport is excellent.
              • Of course. Maybe not where you live, but in a great many parts of the world public transport is excellent.

                Well, unless specifically stated, since Slashdot is a US centric site, you assume most statements are about the US.

                And aside from a few cities here in the US, there really is no viable mass transit system here. Everyone pretty much needs a car.

            • The first thing people tried to do was get to work because public transit sucked.

              You say that like there is viable public transit in this day in age...??

              If you want to actually catch the bus on the north side of the Golden Gate it is going to cost you $3 or something, and it doesn't run very often. But you can just walk across the bridge and catch a ~$1 bus to anywhere in SF. There are certainly places with sucky public transit, including where I live, but the Bay Area isn't that place; they have really good coverage and frequent service to all but the richest neighborhoods.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Not really, just keep a low profile long enough to make it to Mexico.u.

      • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @04:38PM (#48629023)

        Mythbusters only briefly looked at currents and simulations (at least in the part that made it to the show). They did not attempt to replicate the tidal patterns. The new study has more science behind it. Mythbusters is great because it gets people thinking, but people shouldn't treat the shows as conclusive.

    • Re:Myth Confirmed... (Score:5, Informative)

      by show me altoids ( 1183399 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:35AM (#48626381)
      By the way, the shark thing is bullshit. There are plenty of small sharks in SF Bay, but almost no maneaters. It was a rumor spread to scare potential escapees.
      • Yes, my girlfriend participated in a sanctioned open water swim ironically named Sharkfest. Hundreds of swimmers went from Alcatraz to shore, not one having any encounters with man eating sharks. There are great whites more out toward Golden Gate, but not so much inside the Bay. Even at that even a man eater will only feed when it's hungry so in a one time trip I think the odds are squarely in your favor.

        • by Cramer ( 69040 )

          Now repeat that Sharkfest with a single solitary swimmer. No film crew. No chase boats. No shark repellent. Just one thrashing piece of meat in the currents. See how far you get before something nibbles on ya'.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Yup, and they survived so they said "plausible" but if you read the after notes they both firmly believe they absolutely survived.

  • I find it hard to believe that these guys escaped and then disappeared without a trace forever. Why didn't we ever hear anything from them after the escape?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because they didn't want to go back to jail so they probably went out of country or changed their identities.
    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:20AM (#48626221) Journal

      > Why didn't we ever hear anything from them after the escape?

      Because they'd be sent back to prison if they revealed themselves. They had also embarrassed the warden of the "escape proof" Alcatraz in a very public way. Their first week back likely would have been rather unpleasant.

    • > Why didn't we ever hear anything from them after the escape?

      Now why isn't this upvoted to 5 (Funny)

  • So these guys jumped into a rubber raft on a June day and paddled across the bay at nearly HIGH NOON? Kinda conspicuous, don't you think? Unless it was foggy as all hell, which is definitely possible.
    • The summary has a typo.

    • Unless it was foggy as all hell, which is definitely possible.

      what are the chances of making a blind crossing in the fog in a homemade rubber raft?

    • Guys fron San Quentin once attempted an escape with a makeshift canoe painted with the legend "Rub a Dub Dub, Marin Yacht Club!". It sunk and they were re-imprisoned.
    • by Cramer ( 69040 )

      Who's to say they didn't have a man on the outside in a boat to pick them up some distance from the prison? (I'd sure as hell have the rest of the my get-away planned to the last detail.)

  • Who cares (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1. Mythbusters (and others) have already tested this in real life (not a computer program) and said they could have survived.
    2. They could have survived, but they didn't survive. Unless they lived out the rest of their lives in isolation; we would have heard something from them.

    • If they had the smarts to pull off the escape, why assume they wouldn't have the smarts not to boast about it?

    • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:51AM (#48626585)

      Unless they lived out the rest of their lives in isolation;

      This was 1962. Living under an alias, with no SSN or ID (or a fake) was considerably easier than it is today.

      • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Informative)

        by nabsltd ( 1313397 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @03:49PM (#48628685)

        This was 1962. Living under an alias, with no SSN or ID (or a fake) was considerably easier than it is today.

        Most people don't realize that only a few states had just recently started putting photos on licenses at that time, while the rest had no pictures.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Plenty of criminals hide in plain sight. If you honestly think that cops/FBI/whomever could just walk down the street and point out the criminals from memory then you're kidding yourself. Not to say that law enforcement is totally inept but scores of crimes probably happened the same day they escaped. While they certainly made the news not many are going to remember who they might be for any real length of time.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      What's so crazy about the idea that they lived out the rest of their lives with assumed identities?
    • 1. Mythbusters (and others) have already tested this in real life (not a computer program) and said they could have survived. 2. They could have survived, but they didn't survive. Unless they lived out the rest of their lives in isolation; we would have heard something from them.

      No bodies were ever found, which is evidence of them making it to land. Life on Alcatraz is something you'd avoid going back to at all costs, including learning to live a low key, law abiding life.

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:23AM (#48626255)
    Think about it - they obviously didn't reoffend, right? If they had, they'd have been detected and returned (probably with a few extra bruises) to the Rock. Therefore, in the case of these three men the system worked perfectly - whether they escaped or not.
    • you know, i had never thought of prison escapes in that light before. aside from desperate convicts doing whatever it takes to avoid capture, it's the ultimate form of rehabilitation.

      • Illegal immigrants are also very well-behaved, for very similar reasons.
        • unfortunately we can only deport one of those groups.

        • As a group they're pretty good, still have their bad apples. There's quite a few sitting in prison for various offenses.

          I think that if you're an illegal immigrant and predisposed to criminal activity there's always the drug gangs willing to hire. As which point your a drug gang member and not an illegal immigrant, even if you're in the USA illegally.

          Deportation after 1 offense probably helps.

          But I actually sort of agree with mmell, assuming they didn't simply shift towards committing crimes against other

    • Sure, unless they re-offended under a new identity, your idea is ROCK SOLID!
    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:34AM (#48626367)

      Think about it - they obviously didn't reoffend, right? If they had, they'd have been detected and returned (probably with a few extra bruises) to the Rock. Therefore, in the case of these three men the system worked perfectly - whether they escaped or not.

      Didn't re-offend? You mean, didn't get caught. There's a difference.

      • You mean, didn't get caught. There's a difference.

        They'd have to have kept those crimes to extremely petty ones at the most. Even though the 1960's didn't have facial recognition, the TSA (for what that's worth), instant background checks, widespread Social Security Number checking mechanisms, or any of the stuff we have today? They definitely had fingerprinting, and at least some semblance of a national fingerprint database of sorts to check against (the FBI would have had these guys' fingerprints after th

        • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @04:00PM (#48628771) Homepage Journal

          It wouldn't be the first time either... I recall a few instances in the '80s and even the '90s where some schlub or other escaped prison in that era (or before), got himself a new identity, and decades later did something stupid (IIRC, in one case the dumbass ran for a local public office, and a local reporter researching his background found the inconsistencies).

          Nazi war criminals are another example of them fading into society. Quite a few have died or even slid into dementia before being found.

          I remember reading about the dementia case - they're holding this murder trial (in Germany) and the accused can't even remember that he's in a courthouse half the time. But they're so balls up on prosecuting him that they're doing daily competency tests - if he passed the test the trial went forward that day. Otherwise it didn't. They spend years trying to prosecute him(with delays getting longer and longer due to him sliding further into dementia), he's obviously reached the point that even if convicted all that's going to happen is that they'll assign a prison guard to his room in the care facility at some massive expense(other medical issues besides slowly losing his mind ensured that, their prison system didn't have that level of care available), etc...

          And he was only supposed to have been a common camp guard at the time, which was deliberately ignored back during the Nuremberg trials.

      • Didn't re-offend? You mean, didn't get caught. There's a difference.

        The Anglin brothers Alfred Clarence (born May 11, 1931) and John William (born May 2, 1930) were born in Donalsonville, Georgia, and worked as farmers and laborers. Together they started to rob banks in Georgia and were arrested in 1956.

        Frank Lee Morris was born in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 1926, and spent most of his early years in foster homes. He was orphaned at age 11 and was convicted of his first crime at the age of 13, and by his late teens had been arrested for crimes ranging from possession of narcotics to armed robbery.

        In 2014 researchers at Delft University, using a computer model, concluded that if the men set off approximately at midnight, when the currents might have worked in their favor, they could have made landfall; but if they left in the hours either side, the currents would have been too strong to overcome and they very likely died.

        June 1962 Alcatraz escape [wikipedia.org]

        In other words, habitual criminals with limited skills and prospects.

        Morris, with an IQ of 133. had never found a way to walk away from a crime that would not end in his arrest.

        The timing would have had to have been damn near perfect based on computer models constructed some fifty years later.

    • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Thursday December 18, 2014 @11:48AM (#48626563)
      You say that as if the US penal system's primary goal is to rehabilitate rather than punish. Our system is designed not to rehabilitate, rather it enacts harsh punishment as a theoretical deterrent to crime, and more recently has become a for-profit private enterprise.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You say that as if the US penal system's primary goal is to rehabilitate rather than punish. Our system is designed not to rehabilitate, rather it enacts harsh punishment as a theoretical deterrent to crime, and more recently has become a for-profit private enterprise.

        No. Prisons do 4 things:

        1. Punish the offender.
        2. Discourage others from offending.
        3. Protect society from the offender.
        4. Rehabilitate the offender so they don't offend again.

        The degree of success in each category varies dramatically.

  • Who could not fit into society, and needed to be continually brutalized and have their rights broken to save us from them! So how could they fade into obscurity among us?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Rover got them. The warden [imdb.com] knows all about The Rover.

  • I assume that the summary was blindly copy-pasted from the linked story before they fixed their text.

    The attempt did, of course, occur around 11:30pm.

    coondoggie writes

    No, no he didn't. Why do we continue with this charade?

A programming language is low level when its programs require attention to the irrelevant.

Working...