John Paul Scott

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John Paul Scott (January 3, 1927[1] – February 22, 1987[2]) was the only inmate of Alcatraz to conclusively reach the San Francisco shore by floating. Scott was convicted of bank robbery and the possession of unregistered firearms in Lexington and sentenced to 30 years in prison.[2]



Born in Springfield, Kentucky, John Paul Scott was shipped to Alcatraz Island in 1959 and given prisoner number #AZ2403. On December 16, 1962 he tried to escape from the island together with Darl Lee Parker, a convicted bank robber and hijacker (sentenced to 52 years). The two bent the bars of a window in the latrine of the cellblock, roped down, and made it to the water. They then attempted to float to the San Francisco Shore a distance of 1.4 miles. For that purpose, they made water wings from stolen rubber gloves which they blew up. The escape was noticed at 5:47 a.m.[3] Parker had to give up after a short time because he had broken his ankle during the escape and was recaptured 20 minutes after the escape was discovered on the rock formation Little Alcatraz which lies 100 yards from Alcatraz Island.

Although the Coast Guard was searching the bay, they failed to find Scott. At 7:40 a.m., the Presidio Military police got a call from four teenagers who found an unconscious person at Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. That person was John Paul Scott, suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. After recovering in the Letterman General Hospital, he was returned to Alcatraz.

It seemed impossible to escape from Alcatraz by swimming: The seasonal water temperature in the Bay is about 8°C (46°F)[clarification needed] in December and there is a current of up to 10 knots (18.5 km/h)[clarification needed]. Citing these facts and myths of "man-eating" sharks and razor-sharp rocks, prison officers scared prisoners from trying to escape. When Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin disappeared half a year earlier, the prison officials stated that they had drowned (although the FBI just called them missing). Due to Scott's escape, this line of reasoning was shaken. For the first time it was proven that a prisoner swam approximately three miles to the shore.[4] Many people considered that Morris and the Anglin brothers might have survived.

Later life[edit]

After the closing of Alcatraz, Scott was transferred to Leavenworth, later on to Marion, Illinois, where he made another escape attempt. From there he spent several years at the Oak Park Heights prison in Minnesota. In the end, as the result of health concerns, he died in 1986 in the Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee, Florida.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b "Escapes from Alcatraz Gallery: Escape No. 14". San Francisco Genealogy. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  3. ^ Escapes from Alcatraz 1934 to 1962
  4. ^ San Francisco Genealogy

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