Newgate was the earliest Jail/Prison in NY, established by John Jay in 1797,. see: Member of the institution. (1815). A View of the New-York State Prison in the City of New-York. By a member of the institution. Printed by T. and J. Swords. [JJay login required] Images from the 1801 first edition are freely available here [book available by appointment in our Special Collections Room]
The Legal Aid Society of New York is Tracking the COVID-19 virus in NYC Jails.
See also the NYC Municipal Library's Where to find Resources on Corrections and Correctional Facilities. - We have several but not all of the resources listed in their guide, such as most, but not all NYC-DOC Annual Reports, some of which are freely available online which superseded Annual Report of The Commissioners of Public Charities and Correction of the City of New York (which we do not have here at John Jay) several issues of which are freely available online. You may also request copies of historical records from the NYC Municipal Archives
The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) is a nine-person, non-judicial oversight board that regulates, monitors, and inspects the correctional facilities of the City Minutes of their meetings from 1970 - present are freely available online. Their reports are also freely available online
Other resources: CQ - Corrections Quarterly Journal and The DOC Year in Review posted on the NYC-DOC page on ISSUU. The New York City Jails Action Coalition, Correctional Association of New York, The Fortune Society. To compare NYC with other jail jurisdictions in the U.S. try using the Vera Institute Incarceration Trends web-resource.
WNYC Radio Archives has been digitizing 1940s episodes of the NY-DOC/NYPR radio program Toward a Return to Society in addition to the audio files, episode summaries and transcripts are freely available.
From the NYC-DOC website:
The New York City Department of Correction, as a distinct entity, dates back to 1895, when the Department of Public Charities and Correction was split into separate agencies - the Department of Public Charities, with jurisdiction over the City’s hospitals and almshouses, and the Department of Correction. DOC was given jurisdiction over the City’s penal institutions including the Penitentiary and Workhouse on Blackwell’s Island (now called Roosevelt Island); City Prison, Manhattan (Tombs); and five District Prisons and the City cemetery (Potter’s Field) on Hart Island, off City Island in the Bronx. Other existing jails in Queens, Brooklyn, and Richmond counties, which in 1895 were not yet incorporated into the City of New York, fell under jurisdiction of their county sheriffs.
Blackwell’s Island was the Department’s main base of operations until the mid-1930s when the century-old Penitentiary and the 85-year-old Workhouse there were abandoned. Blackwell’s inmates were transferred to the newly constructed Penitentiary on Rikers Island, the first permanent jail structure on Rikers.
The City purchased Rikers Island in 1884 for $180,000. The original Island was 87 and one/half acres. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th, the Island was expanded by landfill to its current 415 acres. Today, the Island is the Department’s main base of operation, with 10 separate jails capable of housing up to 17,000 inmates. It is also home to the Department’s Transportation Division and numerous other support operations such as, central laundry, central bakery, K-9 and Marine units.
A detailed history of the NYC Department of Correction can be accessed on the Web site of the New York Correction History Society. The NYCHS was established through the initiative of the NYC Department of Correction in conjunction with other participating New York state, City, county and community-based correctional agencies. In addition to NYC Department of Correction materials, the Web site of this State Regents nonprofit historical society features extensive information on a variety of other NY correction-related subjects.
Hart Island several different NYC-DOC facilities were located here, "Potter's Field" is still an active cemetery under the jurisdiction of NYC-DOC.
Jefferson Market Jail Greenwich and 6th aves, several NYC-DOT facilities, as well as city courts were at this location.
Ludlow Street Jail (70 Ludlow Street - was both a NY County Jail under jurisdiction of the NY County Sheriff and a Federal Prison)
(2020) Mooney, J., & Shanahan, J. (2020). Rikers Island: The Failure of a “Model” Penitentiary. The Prison Journal (Philadelphia, Pa.), 100(6), 687–708. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032885520968238
(2018-present) NYC Road Map to Closing Riker's - webpage with nformation on 'borough jails plan' and status reports.
2018 "Department of Correction" NYC Mayor's Office Management Report. pp 81ff.
see also a summary and analysis in NYC Patch.
2018 Jails Action Coalition (JAC), “It Makes Me Want to Cry: Visiting Rikers Island.” on the experiences of visitors to Rikers Island.
2017 Siegler, A. & Rosner, Z. & MacDonald, R. & Ford, E. & Venters, H. "Head Trauma in Jail and Implications for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in the United States: Case Report and Results of Injury Surveillance in NYC Jails." Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, vol. 28 no. 3, 2017, pp. 1042-1049. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/hpu.2017.0095
see also summary article of above study in Gotham Gazette
This page and guide was compiled and is constantly updated by Ellen Belcher, Special Collections Librarian. Contact me with questions and suggestions at ebelcher [at] jjay.cuny.edu