Phase One

Your team of experts will have to combine your knowledge and understanding of the prison breakout in order to make an effective presentation to a panel of FBI officers. Remember, the FBI need to know how the breakout occurred, where the criminals might be headed and how to prevent this from happening again. 


Before you can present your case to the FBI, you first have to understand it.  The first phase of this assignment will be the research phase, where you will become an expert in your field.  Every person within the group will become experts in one particular aspect of the case, and will be responsible for the research and the reporting on that particular topic.  The specialized areas are:

Crime Scene Investigator

You are meticulous and detail-oriented and you are also the lead expert for your team. You must examine a lot of data with a fine-toothed comb in order to re-create the escape plan/path.  Your job requires you:

Where do I start?

There are many sites and books that will help you research your case. These are just a few starting points!

Use Google Earth to find Alcatraz on a map and its relation to the San Francisco coast. How far is it?  You can also find photos of the island if you zoom in on the island.

Here are some maps of the island and prison.  Be sure to examine the 1977 map to see how everything was laid out.

Alcatraz History provides a plethora of information on different breakouts, escape route maps, inmate daily activities and more!

This easy-to-use Almanac weather history tool allows you to find weather conditions going back to 1946, accessing historical weather data for more than 1,300 stations across United States and Canada.  

What clues does this Komo News video provide as to the escape direction and method?

You may want to check Youtube for videos of the inside of Alcatraz prison, interviews, theories.

This is an official FBI report on the incident at Alcatraz.

John Paul Chase was an inmate at Alcatraz. During his imprisonment, he made oil paintings of the San Francisco coastline. Can his paintings help to answer some of the questions you know face?

Check out the National Park Service site for a general introduction to the island and some information about its past.

The BBC should have some useful articles and videos.

Marine Biologist/Environmentalist

You have a good grasp of the natural factors at play in this escape attempt. You must examine the environmental factors at work in and around the San Francisco bay. You will are also in charge of public safety. Your expertise in the case should be used to:

Where do I start?

There are many sites and books that will help you research your case. These are just a few starting points!

The Federal Bureau of Prisons website provides a lot of information about escape attempts and sea-life, as well as the difficulties of swimming from the island to the mainland.

Even today people swim from Alcatraz Island to the mainland.  This 2002 newspaper article describes the event and the risks involved. The Gazette

This ABC video on sharks describes that habits of sharks in the San Francisco Bay area.

The US Geological Survey website provides a map showing the strength of current in central San Francisco bay.

This 4 minute video from National Geographic describes a escape attempt from 1937 as well as the implications of the tides and temperature of the water. National Geographic

Check out the National Park Service site for a general introduction to the island and some information about its past.

Google Earth would be a great tool to check out the landscape around Alcatraz. Also, be sure to click on the "Oceans" layer (on the left-hand toolbar) in order to find some more materials for your investigation.

The University of California provides information and maps of the growth of urbanization over time. Look closely at the dates!


You're a person with a head for details, and enjoy focusing on the practical approaches to a problem. You will be responsible for looking into the problems with the building and guard duties in 1962 and how to fix those problems for the future. Your research will:

Where do I start?

There are many sites and books that will help you research your case. These are just a few starting points!

This site tells you about several escapes attempts made by prisoners in the past, including the current case.  Read over these stories to find out if there are measures the guards can take to prevent escape attempts from occurring again.

This website describes some of the measures Alcatraz took to keep prisoners in-check. Are there ways to improve these systems? Remember, it is 1962 and household computers do not exist yet!!! Keep your strategies with the times!

This section mentions the role of the guards and chain-of-command at Alcatraz

You may want to check Youtube for videos of the inside of Alcatraz prison.

The Alcatraz Alumni Association has some excellent photos of the prison on this website, if you look through the slideshows.

Listen to this audio interview of the night of the breakout with eye-witnesses from years later.

How Stuff Works provides several articles on Alcatraz and how it functioned.

This Newspaper Archive allows you to view newspapers describing the reason the prison closed in 1963.

Check out the National Park Service website for a general introduction to the island and some information about its past.

The New York Times might provide some useful articles. Be sure to click on the button that gives you articles from 1851-present! 


***You may find other useful links, which is great! You are also allowed to check out links not listed under your own expertise because much of the content overlaps.


Phase Two

Now that you're an expert in your field, you have to report on what you know.  You will get back into your groups, and discuss the following questions.  Some of the links you have been given over-lap, others do not, but all of your research is connected so be sure to collaborate and share information!  Perhaps some information you came across might help one of your team members.  As you discuss, each member will write their responses down in note form, and hand them in for marks.

  1. What was each member surprised to learn about the case?
  2. What would each member like to know more about the case?
  3. What aspects of your investigation/suggestions are its strongest selling points?
  4. What drawbacks are there to your investigation/suggestions that you should try to downplay?


Phase Three

You've got your research, and you've planned out the best way to present your case to the FBI.  All that's left for you to do is prepare your presentation.  In the presentation, each expert within the group should talk about their aspect of the research, rather than having one person doing all of the talking.

Remember; a large part of any presentation is the visuals you use, so be sure to use the best visuals you can to demonstrate your points.  If you're creating a powerpoint presentation, be careful not to use too much confusing text.  Instead, use images and graphics as a way of highlighting the things you're already saying, rather than trying to fit all of the text of your speech into the visuals.  Check back on the rubric often, to make sure that you're focusing on the right things.  And finally, have fun!

Be prepared to answer any questions the FBI panel may have for your team!