McNeil Island in South Puget Sound is the Alcatraz you've never heard of. The now-abandoned prison on McNeil operated for 136 years. Today, the island is home to the Special Commitment Center, which houses Washington state's "sexually violent predators." A collaboration between KNKX and the Washington State Historical Society, Forgotten Prison tells the stories of inmates, guards, and children who grew up on the island. The history of this forgotten place can tell us a lot about how and why we lock people up.
TRAILER: Forgotten Prison, a new podcast about McNeil Island
KNKX premiers Forgotten Prison on Jan. 22, a new podcast featuring McNeil Island — the Alcatraz you've never heard of.
Episode 1: Forgotten
There are a thousand stories about McNeil Island. And odds are, you haven't heard any of them. In Episode 1 of Forgotten Prison, hosts Simone Alicea and Paula Wissel explain how we came to abandon one of the country's first federal prisons.
Episode 2: Not a Prison
While the prison on McNeil Island closed in 2011, Washington state still runs the Special Commitment Center there. It's where the state keeps "sexually violent predators" who have served their prison time, but are deemed too dangerous to release into society. Technically, the commitment center is not a prison, but the reality is more complicated.
Episode 3: Designing Incarceration
The abandoned prison on McNeil Island and its 136-year history can tell us a lot about why we lock people up and how it has changed over time. Hosts Simone Alicea and Paula Wissel explore the decaying structures on the island to learn how the modern American prison system came to be.
Episode 4: Island Life
One obvious thing that made the prison on McNeil unique was its island location. In Episode 4 of Forgotten Prison, we hear from former guards, inmates and children who grew up there, as well as someone descended from island homesteaders, about life in and around an island prison.
Episode 5: It Happened Here
Studying the history of an American prison is really just a study in American history. Pick a major event, and odds are good you can find at least one story related to McNeil Island.
Earthquake on island
I particularly liked the episode that discussed the Nisqually earthquake. I too was on the island that day coincidentally teaching a class about emergency management to staff and guards in the fire station. Being so close to the epicenter I saw ripples of earth rolling toward me at the peak of this. Everyone had to leave class and run into danger to make sure people were safe. It was then difficult for me to get off the island on the ferry (because it is a prison) so that I could check on my family and start working on response efforts of my own as a hazmat responder.
Great job on the series. I really enjoyed it
Interesting and Informative
I learn something new from each episode. The hosts are charming and lovely to listen to. A very unbiased and informative Podcast on the history of McNeil Island.
It’s a good show!
I live near the island so I listened to the show to learn a bit about some local history but It is so well done and captivating that I would listen to it even if it didn’t have that local flavor!