John Paul Scott

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Not to be confused with Jon Paul Scott.

John Paul Scott (January 3, 1927[1] – February 22, 1987[2]) was an American criminal, who is noted as the only escapee from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary known to have reached the San Francisco shore by swimming. He was recaptured almost immediately.


Scott was born in Springfield, Kentucky. He was convicted of bank robbery and the possession of unregistered firearms in Lexington, Kentucky, and sentenced to thirty years in prison.[2]


He was sent to Alcatraz Island in 1959, and given prisoner number #AZ2403. On the evening of December 16, 1962, the 35-year-old tried to escape from the island, together with 31-year-old Darl Lee Parker (inmate #1413-AZ), a convicted bank robber and hijacker (sentenced to 50 years). While working on culinary duty, in a storage room below the kitchen, the two bent the bars of a window in the latrine of the cell block, climbed down a rope, 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. He was recaptured, twenty 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 one of four teenagers who had found an unconscious man at Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. That man proved to be John Paul Scott, suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. Apparently he had been carried by the ebbing tide to this location, approximately 3 miles from Alcatraz. After recovering in the Letterman General Hospital, he was immediately returned to Alcatraz.[4]

It had seemed impossible to escape from Alcatraz by swimming.[5] The seasonal water temperature in the Bay is about 53 °F (12 °C) in December[6] and the current can exceed 6 knots.[7] Citing these facts, as well as occasional visits from Great White Sharks and razor-sharp rocks, prison officers had discouraged most escape attempts. When Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin had escaped and disappeared half a year earlier, prison officials had said that they had likely drowned (although the FBI just listed them as missing). Scott's escape shook this line of reasoning. For the first time it was proved that a prisoner could escape (if only temporarily) by swimming.[8][9]

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. He died in 1987 in the Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee, Florida.[4]


  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. ^ a b "John Paul Scott". Find a Grave. Retrieved 26 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Klein, Christopher. "10 Things You May Not Know About Alcatraz". History in the Headlines. Retrieved 26 February 2017. 
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "BookletChart Gulf of the Farallones NOAA Chart 18645" (PDF). NOAA. Retrieved 13 October 2015. Outbound tidal current is strongest about 4 hours after high water at the Golden Gate Bridge and attains a velocity in excess of 6 knots at times. 
  8. ^ San Francisco Genealogy
  9. ^ Howley, Elaine K. "The Art of the Escape". U.S. Masters Swimming. Retrieved 26 February 2017. 

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