Forgotten Prison 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.
Forgotten Prison

Forgotten Prison

From KNKX Public Radio

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.

Most Recent Episodes

Episode 6: Every Prison is an Island

McNeil Island is an especially forgotten prison. But, in the end, all prisons are forgotten in some way. In the last episode of Forgotten Prison , hosts Simone Alicea and Paula Wissel wrestle with why that is.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

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