A call to reduce negative stigmas

Everyone deserves a chance, even an Alcatraz Escape Artist

Natalie Rech, Guest Columnist

I grew up reading all of the Nancy Drew novels. My favorite movie when I was younger was “Scooby Doo,” and I was more than thrilled when Scooby and the rest of Mystery Inc. made a second appearance in theaters. When my mom deemed me old enough, I watched every episode of “CSI: Miami,” and I am still in the process today of finishing “Criminal Minds” and “SVU.” So, yeah, you could pretty much just call me Sherlock Holmes. So when I heard about a letter that had recently been made public from a possible Alcatraz escapee do you think that intrigued me? You betcha.

The supposed letter was handwritten by a man claiming to be John Anglin, one of the three men involved in the infamous 1962 escape attempt from Alcatraz – but can we even call it an ‘attempt’ if there might be evidence of a successful escape?

The story goes like this (in some version or another): Brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris used average tools within the prison that they could get their hands on – some even say they used a spoon – to dig their way through a wall and into the the shafts behind it.

They proceeded to climb out of the building and attempted to cross the bay using a makeshift raft of more than 50 raincoats and life vests. I’ll stop right there to say this: these guys almost deserved to escape successfully with that sort of ingenuity behind their plan, am I right? Anyway, the bodies of the three men were never found, and it was presumed that they had drowned in the bay’s rough waters and their bodies had been swept out to the Pacific.

Until now that is.

Some say that the letter is a hoax, and attempt to back their opinion by the inconclusive results from the handwriting and DNA tests performed by the FBI. Other doubters say that there is no way on earth that these men could have possibly escaped and never be found again purely because “there is absolutely no reason to believe that any of them would have changed their lifestyle and became completely law abiding citizens after this escape,” said the Marshals Service in a statement given to CBS. Ye of little faith.

Many believe the same thing the Marshals Service does about released prisoners: they can’t change their ways. The statement degrades humans as they attempt to work their way back into society. Flash back to 1961, when psychiatrist Thomas Szasz said “if a person is given a label (by society), they will eventually fall in to the role given to them by that label.” Nobody can ever be expected to return to normalcy when everyone around them treats them as less than they are.

We need to reduce negative stigmas and bring about positive attitudes, especially to those recovering from illness, injury, or some time in jail. Give people a chance. This man from Alcatraz surely deserves it.