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INFOGRAPHIC: McNeil Island Corrections Center: 136 Years of History

100-PO038 (R 01/2019)


(Rachel Friederich , DOC Communications)

Text Version

Did you know…

  • McNeil Island Corrections Center pre-dates statehood. It opened as a territorial jail in 1875. Washington did not become a state until 1889.
  • MICC operated as a federal penitentiary for more than 100 years! Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) ran it as a state prison for 30 years until its closure in 2011.
  • Though the prison remains closed, the DOC still used the grounds for Special Emergency Response Team, SERT and training exercises. SERT is the correctional equivalent of a SWAT team.
  • Staff who worked at the prison lived on the island. At one point, 52 families resided no the island.
  • A handful of inmates in the DOC’s correctional industries vocational skills program maintain marine operations, landscaping and other general island upkeep. The inmates come by ferry from Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Thurston County.
  • Self-Sustaining: Inmates used to farm vegetables, fruit and livestock on the prison grounds.

Famous Residents

  • Alvin “Creepy” Karpis
    • Claim to Fame: One of the most prolific gangsters of the 1930s
    • Crimes: Robbed banks and killed without provocation, including the sheriff investigating one of his bank robberies
    • Stayed at McNeil from 1962-1969
  • Charles Manson
    • Claim to Fame: Leader of the “Manson Family” cult who carried of a series of murders at his instruction
    • Crimes: Burglaries, robberies, stolen cars, conspiracy to commit murder, murder
    • Stayed at McNeil from 1961-1969
  • Mickey Cohen
    • Claim to Fame: Former pro boxer with ties to the Italian Mafia, boss of Cohen crime family
    • Crimes: Tax evasion, running illegal gambling outfits for American gangsters including Al Capone, involved in the deaths of various gang members
    • Stayed at McNeil for four years during the 1950s
  • Robert Stroud
    • Claim to Fame: Became known as “The Birdman of Alcatraz.” Reared birds during his incarceration and authored two revolutionary books on avian diseases
    • Crimes: Manslaughter, assault, murder of a prison guard
    • Stayed on McNeil from 1909-1921
  • Samuel Bowers
    • Claim to Fame: Founder and Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
    • Crimes: Murdered multiple civil rights activists during the Civil Rights Movement
    • Stayed at McNeil from 1967-1976
  • Vincent Hallinan
    • Claim to Fame: Lawyer who ran for U.S. President in 1952 as a Progressive Party candidate
    • Crimes: Tax evasion, contempt citation defending Harry Bridges of International Longshire Warehouse Union from perjury charges
    • Stayed at McNeil for six months in 1952 during his presidential campaign


  1. “McNeil Island Corrections Center History,” Washington State Department of Corrections
  2. McNeil Island Corrections Center on Wikipedia
  3. “Children of McNeil Island,” on Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration
  4. Ann Burkly, McNeil Island Historical Society