Former USP-Alcatraz Correctional Officer (Guard) George DeVincenzi still lives in San Francisco, and visits his former ‘home away from home’ quite frequently! Looking ‘chipper’ at a young 84 years, ‘Mr. D’ did his ’rounds’ over the holiday weekend – and shared some of his unique, and sometimes startling, memories from ‘the Rock’.
DeVincenzi grew up in the Italian district of San Francisco -North Beach, and curiosity led him to a job at USP-Alcatraz from 1950 to 1958 – keeping such noted prisoners as Robert ‘the Birdman of Alcatraz’ Stroud, ‘Machine-Gun’ Kelly, and former Public Enemy #1 – Alvin ‘Creepy’Karpis. (He also supervised Robert ‘Cold-Blue’ Luke – prisoner #1118AZ – who’s return to Alcatraz you can read about in other articles on this site.)
On his first day on the job, during the first hour, the 23 year-old DeVincenzi was assigned to the ‘Barber Area’ – where convict ‘Barbers’ provided cost-effective haircuts for their fellow ‘cons’. On this particular Monday, the ‘Barber’ was Freddie Lee Thomas, #893AZ, and the first ‘customer’ was Joseph Barsock, #884AZ.
Strict Alcatraz rules included silence during the hair-cut, so when Thomas could be heard whispering to the ‘customer’ (Barsock), the very green Officer issued a quick warning- “any more small-talk and this session is over -you’ll both be sent straight to your cells!’
Within a minute words were exchanged by the prisoners, and before DeVincenzi could intervene, Barsock tried to ‘rise up from the chair – and was stopped by Thomas who stabbed him in the neck, chest and abdomen – with the seven-inch metal shears!
In the fracas DeVincenzi tackled the attacker, and was cut several times on the legs, before taking the shears – ending the fatal attack -but not before Thomas was able to lunge down one last time to the dying fellow prisoner – kissed him on the cheek, and said – ‘I love you!‘
Welcome to ‘the Rock’, George ! . . . “Next customer” . . .