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Getting Out
What's It Like Doing Time in America

By Sean Doorly

Over 2 million people are behind bars in America -- a world record for the most imprisoned citizens. Nearly 4.5 million are on parole or on probation and 3 million are ex-convicts. Each year nearly 600,000 prisoners are released each day, which is about 1,600 a day.

From holding down a steady job to staying free of drugs -- these ex-convicts face tough challenges when they reenter society. They must be careful or they violate their parole and be sent back to prison. Every year, hundred of thousands of parole violators are sent back to prison.

From Alcatraz to Attica -- get the facts on 10 famous U.S. prisons in our photo gallery. Plus: take our quiz and test your knowledge of the American prison system.


10 Famous U.S. prisons

Location: San Francisco
Year opened: 1934 (closed 1963)
Inmate population: 336
Facts: During its 29 year history Alcatraz incarcerated 1,576 prisoners -- from Robert Stroud, "The Birdman of Alcatraz," to Alvin Karpis, the first public enemy No. 1. There were 14 escape attempts from "The Rock." The prison closed in 1963 because it was too costly to operate -- nearly 1 million gallons of water were shipped to the island each week. Alcatraz is now a national park site -- it has nearly 1 million visitors a year.

Location: Angola, La.
Year opened: 1835
Inmate population: 5,108
Facts: Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is America's largest maximum-security prison. The prison sits on 18,000 acres of farmland-- corn and soybeans are the primary crops. It also has a herd of 1,500 cattle. Angola is the only prison in America that offers a college degree program on prison grounds.

Atlanta Federal Penitentiary
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Year opened: 1902
Inmate population:2,500
Facts: Until Boulder Dam was built in 1932, Atlanta Federal Penitentiary was the largest cement mass in America. In 1920 inmate Eugene V. Debs ran for president of the United States from his jail cell, and won 3.5 percent of the vote. His sentence was commuted a year later, on Christmas Day, by President Warren G. Harding. In 1931, Al Capone began to serve his sentence for tax evasion at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

Location: Attica, N.Y.
Year opened: 1931
Inmate population: 2,200
Facts: In 1971, 1,300 prisoners staged a four-day rebellion and took over Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Forty-two people were killed, including 10 hostages. Nearly 1,500 police and National Guardsmen stormed the prison to quell the riot.

Eastern State Penitentiary
Location: Philadelphia
Year opened: 1829 (closed 1971)
Inmate population: 1,700 at its peak in the 1920s
Facts: Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the earliest American prisons. Its radial floor plan was copied throughout the world by more than 300 prisons. The prisoners were isolated, forced to reflect on their crimes and become penitent. This new Quaker-inspired prison was dubbed a penitentiary. The prison closed after 142 years and is now a museum.

Folsom State Prison
Location: Represa, Calif.
Year opened: 1880
Inmate population: 7,246
Facts: Folsom was one of America's first maximum-security prisons. It's now a medium-security facility. In 1968, country singer Johnny Cash put the prison and himself on the map. Cash performed a live a concert and released a hit album titled "Folsom Prison Blues."

Location: Leavenworth, Kan.
Year opened: 1906
Inmate population: 1,642
Facts: Leavenworth's walls are 40 feet high and extend 40 feet below ground. Robert Stroud, "The Birdman of Alcatraz," spent 30 years at Leavenworth, and this is where he gained worldwide fame as a bird expert.

McNeil Island
Location: Steilacoom, Wash.
Year opened: 1875
Inmate population: 908
Facts: McNeil Island is 2.25 miles wide and 3 miles long, and it's the oldest prison in the Northwest. The remote Washington state prison is the last prison in America located on an island that's only accessible by boat or helicopter. Charles Manson was an inmate here from 1961 to 1966.

San Quentin
Location: San Quentin, Calif.
Year opened: 1852
Inmate population: 5,967
Facts: Overlooking San Francisco Bay, San Quentin is California's oldest correctional institution, and it houses the state's only gas chamber. Charles Manson and stagecoach-robber Black Bart were inmates at San Quentin.

Sing Sing
Location: Ossining, N.Y.
Year opened: 1825
Inmate population: 1,533
Facts: The phrase "up the river" refers to prisoners being sent up the Hudson River from New York to Sing Sing prison. The prison is closely associated with the electric chair, and between 1890 and 1963, 613 men and women were executed by this method. In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death at Sing Sing for espionage during the Cold War.