to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
program today, we play some songs about doing crime and doing time …
question about a famous former prison on an island in the San Francisco Bay in
visit the new crime museum in Washington, D.C.
National Museum of Crime and Punishment
National Museum of Crime and Punishment opened recently in Washington,
D.C. It shows an interesting part of
American history. We have more from Faith Lapidus.
The museum exhibits are separated into different time periods in America. For
example, the Great Depression in the early nineteen thirties was a very
difficult period. During this time, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow became
famous for stealing from stores and banks and killing police officers in
several states. Police officers finally
shot and killed them in their car along a highway in Louisiana in nineteen
and Clyde influenced popular culture over time because of their loyalty to one
another. There are many songs and movies about them. In the museum, you can see
a copy of their car with many bullet holes. There is also a bullet from their
real car, as well as a piece of glass from a window.
the most famous criminals in American history was active during the nineteen
twenties. Al Capone was often called
“Scarface.” He was the head of a
criminal group in Chicago, Illinois. He became known as “Public Enemy Number
One.” Capone was involved in many
illegal activities as well as murder.
He finally was sent to jail for not paying income taxes in nineteen
thirty-one. He lived a wealthy life,
which you can see in the jail cell recreated to look like the one Capone
occupied when he was in prison.
Capone lives on in many movies, as well as on television and in books.
“Scarface” is one famous film based on his life. The museum shows the gun that
was used in the movie.
the museum tells about unsolved murders in which the killer has never been
found. These are called "cold
cases." Two of the most recent are the murders of rap performers Tupac
Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. They were shot and killed while in their cars in
the late nineteen nineties.
of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment is about solving crimes. People
can try to solve a "murder." A false dead body, drugs, and weapons
are all part of the case.
learn about toxicology reports, which show what chemicals were in a person’s
body when he or she died. You can also learn how a person's face can be
recreated with a computer or with clay. Most importantly, learning about crime
can help you protect yourself from it.
While we are on the subject of crime, our listener
question this week comes from Mohamad Firouzi in Iran. He wants to know about
the history of Alcatraz Island and the prison that once operated there.
Island is in the harbor of San Francisco, California. It is best known for
being a federal prison, which was also called “The Rock.” It was once the most
famous prison in America.
was a military prison from the late eighteen fifties until the nineteen
thirties. Then it became a federal prison for the country’s worst criminals.
These included murderers, bank robbers and kidnappers. One of the main reasons federal officials
chose Alcatraz Island to detain these prisoners was because they thought it
would be impossible for prisoners to escape.
deep and dangerous waters surround the island. Also, the distance between the
island and San Francisco is too far for most humans to swim. No prisoner was
ever officially reported to have successfully escaped.
in nineteen sixty-two, three men broke out of the prison. Each man worked very
hard at night for many months to cut through the stone wall of his cell. They
made false heads out of paper, paint and hair. On the night of June eleventh,
the men placed the heads in their beds to make it look as if they were
sleeping. Then, the prisoners escaped through the holes in their cells to get
to the water. The men were never seen or heard from again. It is believed that
they drowned while trying to swim to San Francisco.
prison closed in nineteen sixty-three because of the high cost of keeping
prisoners there and the need for major repairs. The last prisoners were moved
to other jails.
nineteen seventy-two, the United States Congress passed a bill creating the
Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Alcatraz Island and the old prison are
part of this area.
year, more than one million people visit Alcatraz to see the prisoners’ cells
and listen to stories about the jail’s history. But unlike the prisoners who
once lived there, visitors can escape from the prison whenever they want and
return back across the harbor to San Francisco.
Music About Crime and Punishment
We end our program with some music about crime and
punishment. Pat Bodnar plays a few
popular and historical songs, like this one, “The Midnight Special.” It was made famous by the folk and blues
musician, and former prisoner, Lead Belly, in the nineteen thirties.
crime songs are about murder. But often
the killer is a sympathetic character like “Janie” in the Aerosmith song, “Janie’s
Got a Gun.”
songs are about famous criminals. “The
Night Chicago Died” was released in nineteen seventy-four by a British band
called Paper Lace. It is about the
famous Chicago crime gang leader Al Capone and an imaginary gun battle in that
next song was first recorded by the Crickets in nineteen fifty-nine. Its message is clear: crime does not pay.
Here the British band, the Clash, performs its hit version of “I Fought the
we leave you with a famous prison song.
Here is the Johnny Cash performing his song, “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program
written by Elizabeth Stern and Caty Weaver who were also our producers. To read
the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,
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