Incarcerated Gardeners: Albert Smith

Mugshot of Alcatraz inmate and gardener Albert Smith

Albert Smith, found guilty of four counts of robbery, was sentenced to serve 10 to 24 years in prison. Initially imprisoned in Atlanta, he was sent to Alcatraz in 1945 after an attempted escape. Smith began work duties as a gardener the following year, primarily on the west lawn where he could be supervised from the guard tower. He continued this work until he left Alcatraz in 1952.

Interoffice correspondence from August 1948 describes Smith's behavior:

Smith seems to do his gardening work satisfactorily and has done everything I have ever told him. He seems to be a fairly good worker as his garden doesn't look too bad considering the amount of water he can use, and I have never seen him loafing on the job.

Incarcerated persons were permitted to request meetings with the warden to discuss concerns, and Smith requested several meetings to ask for permission to use more water on his lawn and to request a plant spray called Black Leaf 40. The warden wrote to a captain in charge, saying that he did not like the idea of a poisonous spray being circulated through the prison, and asking that someone look into it. As for the water, Smith was advised that "water was a very scarce item on the Island and that it was difficult for us to permit the excessive use of water in any way."

In January 1952, Smith was transferred to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. Leading up to this date, Smith began asking to be transferred back to Atlanta to be closer to his family. A progress report dated July 1951 notes that Smith was "trying to maintain a good record" and did his work willingly. He was eventually paroled in March 1955; he then moved to New Orleans to live with an aunt. His supervised parole continued until September 1962. At this time, his parents were no longer living and he had inherited five acres of swamp land in Louisiana.