A little more than a century ago, a horrendous description of an Adirondack village appeared in newspapers, including the Mail and Express published in New York City. At issue was the placement of a yet-to-be-built tubercular sanitarium. Feelings ran so high at the time, you’d swear they were selecting the next Supreme Court justice. But taking sides is nothing new, as proved by use of the written word back then to describe one of the candidate locations. As you’ll see, it’s hard to believe they were talking about the same place. [Read more…] about The Most Negative Sales Pitch Ever: An Adirondack Story
Adirondack Advocates, Officials, Seek Reuse of State Prison
Leaders of Adirondack environmental organizations joined with local elected officials Tuesday to urge Governor Kathy Hochul not to mothball the former Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility in Essex County, NY, as is planned by December 31, but instead to reuse it to bolster conservation and boost employment.
The leaders said there were several possible options that would bring new life to the structure. Reuse would help a small Adirondack community recover from the job losses and lost business opportunities associated with the closure of a state institution, they said. They also pointed to several recent state initiatives that would benefit from an additional state building in the Adirondacks, from which to offer training and housing. [Read more…] about Adirondack Advocates, Officials, Seek Reuse of State Prison
Sing Sing Prison Break: A Hudson River Fishing Tale
The Hudson River Maritime Museum has an extensive collection of oral histories interviews of Hudson River commercial fisherman, including Edward Hatzmann, who was recorded on April 25th, 1992.
Hatzmann recalled a story told to him by fellow fisherman Charlie Rohr, about a prison break from Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. [Read more…] about Sing Sing Prison Break: A Hudson River Fishing Tale
Islands of Punishment and Exclusion
The exclusion of “undesirables” to remote lands has a long history. The shameful attempts by contemporary governments to “solve” the refugee problem in that manner has had precedents.
During the mid-1930s Mussolini dumped socialists and anti-fascists in the inaccessible and malaria-ridden southern areas of the country.
The use of islands as off-shore detention centers has a parallel history. The government of Charles I locked up its opponents at Jersey, Guernsey, or the Isles of Scilly. Having lost the English Civil War, Charles I himself was incarcerated in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Faced with continuing sedition and agitation, Charles II sent several former leaders of the Interregnum into island isolation. [Read more…] about Islands of Punishment and Exclusion
North Country Prisons Talk On ‘Empire State Engagements’
On this episode of Empire State Engagements, Dr. Clarence Jefferson Hall, Jr., talks about his book A Prison in the Woods: Environment and Incarceration in New York’s North Country (UMass Press, 2020). [Read more…] about North Country Prisons Talk On ‘Empire State Engagements’
Prison In the Woods: Environment & Incarceration in Northern NY
The Adirondacks in Northern New York covers approximately 5,000 square miles. Widely known for its natural beauty, recreation opportunities and tourism, it may surprise many of those travelers to learn that the Adirondacks’ trails and amenities are intrinsically connected to New York’s carceral history.
In A Prison In the Woods: Environment and Incarceration in New York’s North Country (Univ. of Mass. Press, 2020), Clarence Jefferson Hall Jr. traces the planning, construction, and operation of penitentiaries in five Adirondack communities – Dannemora, Ray Brook, Gabriels, Lyon Mountain, and Tupper Lake – between 1840 and the early 2010s to show the intersections between the environment and mass incarceration.
Hall’s own personal history adds an interesting aspect to his narrative. His father worked for the New York prison system from 1973 to 1998, mostly at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. He states that “the rhythms of the prison system became natural to our family, just as they did for so many other families in towns and villages across the Adirondacks.” [Read more…] about Prison In the Woods: Environment & Incarceration in Northern NY
British Prison Ships in the American Revolution
This week on The Historians Podcast, Katie Turner Getty discusses the prison ships that the British used to hold prisoners of war during the American Revolution. Turner Getty, a Boston lawyer and independent historian, addressed this topic at a conference sponsored by the Fort Plain NY Museum. She writes articles that appear in the Journal of the American Revolution. [Read more…] about British Prison Ships in the American Revolution
A Prison in the Woods: Environment & Incarceration in the North Country
John Brown Lives! has announced A Prison in the Woods: Environment and Incarceration in the North Country, a virtual book talk with author Clarence Jefferson Hall, Jr. set for Wednesday, May 19th. [Read more…] about A Prison in the Woods: Environment & Incarceration in the North Country
The Mysterious Death of the Angel of Sing Sing
Perhaps you have never heard of Katherine Lawes. Katherine was the wife of Lewis Lawes, warden at Sing Sing Prison from 1920-1941.
Sing Sing had the reputation of destroying wardens. The average warden’s tenure before Lewis Lawes was two years. “The easiest way to get out of Sing Sing,” he once quipped, “is to go in as warden.” In his 21 years he instituted numerous reforms – and an important part of his success was due to his wife Katherine. [Read more…] about The Mysterious Death of the Angel of Sing Sing
Dannemora Escapee Jack Williams: At First, Too Big to Succeed
The one-year anniversary of the infamous Dannemora prison break recently passed, so here’s the story of an inmate linked to a pair of unusual breakouts, excerpted from my book, Escape from Dannemora.
Despite media stories claiming early on that Richard Matt and David Sweat were the first-ever escapees from Clinton Prison, some in the past did it in even more spectacular fashion, and overall, hundreds managed to escape under various circumstances. Among them was Jack Williams, a participant in two Clinton exits involving unusual components featured in no other Dannemora escapes. [Read more…] about Dannemora Escapee Jack Williams: At First, Too Big to Succeed