The true life story of Jim Quillen, whose tough upbringing takes him from loving son and protective brother to daring criminal and hardened Alcatraz con before his redemption and living the American dream.
Jim Quillen grew up in a broken home in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1920's without any stability or parental guidance. In the 1920s, when Jim Quillen is still a little boy, his unstable mother tries to kill her husband and her children (Jim and his sister Kate) by gassing them while they sleep. The children end up in various foster homes and soon Jim is running with a local gang of hoods and learning how to be a criminal before entering and escaping from a numerous youth offender institutions and a number of federal prisons.
By the time he’s eighteen, Jim lands in a prison for young men, from which he escapes only to be caught again. He tries to go straight, joins the Marines and excels in basic training, but he gets kicked out for his criminal record. Hitchhiking his way home from the base, he gets picked up by a pair of hoods who convince him to help them rob a liquor outlet. They get caught and Jim is sent to San Quentin. He reaches out to his family for comfort and receives a reply from his dad disowning him and telling him he's not his real father. Jim lashes out by escaping from San Quentin with his new pal Jack. They go on a crime spree in LA, robbing rich boutiques by day and partying by night like a Hollywood producer. Then the LA Times puts him on the front cover "wanted dead or alive" and with the heat bearing down on them and the FBI on their tail, the fugitives are forced to flee halfway across the country. Jim flees to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and then Cheyenne Wyoming being chased close behind by the FBI across the four states. As the dragnet closes in, Jim and Jack grow desperate and kidnap two wealthy men, taking them across the Wyoming state line before finally being ambushed and arrested. He finally gets incarcerated as "Number 586" on Alcatraz as the youngest ever inmate in the fastest federal trail in US history.
Jim and Jack are sentenced to 45 years – this time on Alcatraz Island. At twenty-two years of age, Jim is the youngest ever convict on the Rock. Undeterred, he attempts to escape by chiseling through a utility tunnel under the kitchen. He's snitched out, given 19 days in the Black Hole and sent to the D Block super max security wing. But Jim's not done trying yet. In 1946 he becomes involved in the so-called Battle of Alcatraz when the prisoners take over Alcatraz, joining up with several desperate cons who manage to take control of the gun gallery in order to blast their way out of the prison. Jim is right there with them, hurtling towards certain death, but gives up when the situation becomes hopeless and several guards are murdered in cold blood. As the prison is under siege, the Prison Warden and Governor of California have to call in the national guard, army and marines to secure Alcatraz. It is a three day massacre with the murder of guards and inmates after continuous tear gas, gun and machine gun fire, rocket attacks, explosions and devastation before order is finally restored as the prisoners are bombarded from the outside by the US military.
Jim is cleared of any crime and can't believe his luck. He thinks it is a calling. He befriends the Alcatraz priest and Jesus Christ. The priest reconnects him with his family who forgive him and help he see the new light. He is given a responsible job in the Alcatraz hospital and thrives under the nurturing of the priest. Even Warden Johnson begins to see a new Jim Quillen.
It's only then, at his lowest ever point, that Jim decides to find a better way.
He creates a new life for himself behind bars leading - after ten years - to his ultimate release where he finds an honest job, a beautiful wife, daughter and lives happily ever after. His daughter encourages him to get a Gubernatorial and a Presidential pardon from Ronald Regan and Jimmy Carter respectively. This finally closes the chapter on his life of crime. Jim dedicated his life henceforth to his loving family and teaching inner city kids that crime does NOT pay.
Writer: Mike Baranik