For some biographies of other inmates and prominant people on Alcatraz, one great place to look at is at Alcatraz: The Warden Johnstone Years.
Early LifeHe was born on the 20 June 1911 in Kansas City .His parents had an abusive relationship and his father, an alcoholic, was often violent and once pointed a gun at his mother and sister. His father also taught him how to fix shotgun shells and steal.
"He and Mrs. Young were to busy waging marital war to teach the children much value." Amelia Young, Henri's paternal aunt.
After his mother remarried he felt confused and ran away from home only to become a hobo.
When he was released in 1933 he wondered to Washington and was arrested for inebriation. He was kicked out of town. He stole a suit in Spokane and was sentenced to the Washington State Penitentiary for burglary. Like many correctional institutes, this institute failed miserably and in fact helped Young learn more tricks and make some acquaintances.
He was granted parole in 1935 and along with 2 prison friends, Jack Backer and Sherman Baxter, stole a car and held up a bakery. The baker denied having any money and was duly killed by Young. They ran to Portland and robbed the First National Bank. They would have successfully made it but their car broke down and within minutes, deputies surrounded them. They were all sentenced to 20 years, recommended at McNeil Penitentiary. Despite the recommendation, Young was sent to Alcatraz.
AlcatrazYoung had a bad relationship with the guards and disrespected the rules and regulations. These rules were arbitrary and strange but they were meant to be obeyed. Young got into trouble for laughing aloud and talking in the mess. He was sentenced to solitary confinement where he received bread and water except for one good meal every third day.
30 Days later he was released and less than a month after this he imagined seeing worms in his soup, clearly an indication of some kind of mental illness. However, no action was taken.
He was put in solitary confinement again, after a search of the laundry elevator uncovered $25 for a mail robber. When he was freed, he was put to work in the kitchen.
Prisoners resented the silence system, an unreliable mail system and a lack of good time compensation and in January 1936 some of the men working in the laundry begun a revolt. Deputy Warden Shuttleworth called for reinforcements and lined all the strikers up, warned them and locked them in their cells. The following morning, 24 kitchen workers including Young joined the laundry strikers. Young dumped 400 pounds of vegetables in the basement. He was caught and placed in "D Block" or open solitary confinement. Seven strikers were placed in the dungeon under the cell house.
Between the 1936 and 1937 strike Young did not remain out of trouble but was constantly tormenting and being tormented by the guards. They would punish him for wasting food, refusing to pass his cup to the end of the table, talking in line and screaming at the top of his lungs. On the 20 September he and several other prisoners stayed in their cells after the noon meal and he was again locked up in solitary confinement.
After his release to the "D-Block", he continued to antagonise guards but this time he was sentenced to the sensory deprivation chamber. About two weeks later he returned to the usual prison, to all intents appearing to be a model prisoner.
He had made the acquaintance of Arthur "Doc" Barker, one time leader of the Barker gang. Barker formed a new prison gang consisting of Alvin Karpis, Rufus McCain, William Martin and Young. Barker had tested the rock's security over the past two years and had monitored past attempts.
Young seemed to put the full force of his anger on McCain but Young was still very unpopular with the guards and so whenever there was a fight Young received the most severe punishment. He became unstable, abusive and combative. The officers' patience had worn out and they went beyond merely subduing him to control him.
McCain earned the respect of the guards while Young was in solitary confinement and ended up as orderly in the isolation block, delivering Young's supper to him. For the most of 1940, Young was in solitary confinement but on his official report it shows that he was not in once.
When Young returned the conflict was revived and everybody knew "What McCain was going to do to Young." The hate was mutual.
One the 3 December McCain apparently taunted Young by cursing at him and making terrorising remarks. Prisoners commented on Young's appearance as pale and nervous - not in full possession of his faculties.
At 10 a.m. as Officer Spencer was doing the monthly inventory, Young slipped down into the tailor shop and stabbed McCain.
At Henri Young's trial his young attorneys took all the weight of the murder off Young and placed it on the conditions on Alcatraz Island, blaming the conditions directly, for his lapse of logic and sense. His extended periods of time in solitary confinement and rule of silence were all forms of torture and any man would crack under these conditions.
The press had a field day. Opposition to Roosevelt's administration was quick to reprint articles on the character of the people who ran the prison. The press neglected to note reforms made on the island. The bad publicity forced Warden Johnson to ease the silence rule, stop use of the dungeon and rebuild "D-Block."
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