Left -- Inmate stripes pre-1904: One stripe for first timers, 2 for second offenders and 3 for even more frequent repeaters. Right -- Inmate solid grays begin 1904.
. . . Guy Cheli has laid out in arresting text and historical illustrations a very realistic view of almost two centuries of Sing Sing Prison life.
Every social system finds it necessary to incarcerate individuals who deviate from acceptable social behavior.
From the early days of New Amsterdam, with its pillory, ducking stool, and stocks, punishment was more ridicule than condign.
As time went by, however, the big city at the mouth of the Hudson River had to grapple with the problem of what to do with its prisons and a mounting number of convicted criminals . . . .
In this sympathetic study, the author traces the history of America's mythic prison - thanks to Hollywood, the most famous prison in the world.
The Ossining prison has also remained in the forefront of reform as documented in this book. From the time when prisoners were marched in lockstep from their tiny cells to the Spring Street Quarry to labor all day in all weather for pennies, the state has taken a quantum leap to the prison's present incarnation as the Ossining Correctional Facility.
But . . . despite 30-plus years of soporific commuting by rail along the Hudson River, I can still feel a twinge of apprehension as the train slows to stop between the burned-out walls of the old 1828 Sing Sing Prison.
Two illustrations above depict 19th Century inmates marching lockstep -- (left) to a workshop and (right) to noontime meal at Sing Sing.
NYCHS presents these text and image excerpts from Images of America: Sing Sing Prison by permission of its author Guy Cheli who retains the copyright © and reserves all rights thereunder. For more about his book, contact Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com and/or Ossining Historical Society at www.ossininghistorical.org
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