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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York Prisons and Jails: Historical Research: Lewis Lawes and Sing Sing Prison

A guide to historical to current resources on prisons and jails in New York City and New York State. By Ellen Belcher


Bibliography by:

Prof. Ellen Belcher, Special Collections Librarian

John Jay College Library

June 2013 [rev. February 2018]

Available in the Lloyd Sealy Library,

Items located in the Special Collections Room can be consulted by appointment – items in Special Collections are on the open shelves but are non-circulating

LEWIS E. LAWES PAPERS (1883-1947) These papers document the life and work of Lewis E Lawes, who was Warden of Sing Sing Prison from 1920 to 1941.
More information.

Unpublished finding aid available

Photographs from this collection are available here

Books & Publications by Lewis Lawes:

Author search term: Lawes, Lewis Edward, 1883-1947

See also: list of L.E. Lawes’ articles on p. 5 in the finding aid to the Lewis E. Lawes Papers

1924   Man's judgment of death: an analysis of the operation and effect of capital punishment based on facts, not on sentiment.  (1969 reprint Montclair, N.J., Patterson Smith) - John Jay College Stacks   HV8694 .L3 1969

1929 Life and death in Sing Sing. Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, Doran and Co., Inc - Special Collections Room - HV 9475 .N72 S5484 1929

1931   Does the death penalty curb crime? Judge Marcus A. Kavanagh, affirmative argument; Warden Lewis E. Lawes, negative argument. (Little blue book; no. 1594)  Special Collections & Special Collections Room - HV 8699 .U5 K38 1931

1932   Twenty thousand years in Sing Sing.  John Jay College Special Collections  

1932 edition -  Special Collections Room & Special Collections - HV 9475 .N72 S549 1932

1933 edition  - Special Collections - HV 9475 .N72 S549 1933

1942 edition  - Stacks - HV 9475 .N72 S549 1942

1932   Minute mysteries [detectograms], by H. A. Ripley; with a foreword by Lewis E. Lawes. - Stacks - GV1507.D4 R56

1933   Sing Sing.  - Special Collections Room - HV9475 .N72 S5486 1933

1934    Time vs crime. [Ossining, N.Y.?.] – not at Lloyd Sealy Library

1935    Cell 202, Sing Sing.  New York: Farrar & Rinehart, inc. - Special Collections   HV6785 .L3

1937    Life and death in Sing Sing. with a foreword by Adolph Lewisohn.  Garden City, N.Y.: The Sun Dial Press, Inc. - Stacks - HV 9475 .N72 S5484 1937

 1938 Invisible stripes. New York, N.Y.: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., John Jay College Special Collections HV9475 .N72 S5483 1938

 1940    Meet the murderer!  New York: Harper – Stacks & Special Collections - HV 6245 .L27 1940

Selected Books about Lewis Lawes

Blumenthal, Ralph. Miracle at Sing Sing: how one man transformed the lives of America’s most dangerous prisoners.  New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2004. John Jay College Stacks  HV9470 .B58 2004 

Mackey, Philip English Voices against death: American opposition to capital punishment, 1787-1975.   New York : B. Franklin, c1976. John Jay College Stacks   HV8699 .U5 V64

Rouse, John Jay. Firm but fair: the life of Sing Sing warden Lewis Lawes. [New York?] : Xlibris Corp., c2000. John Jay College Stacks   HV9470 .R69 2000

Selected Books on Sing Sing Prison, Staff and Prisoners

Note: Lloyd Sealy Library has many, but not all of these items, check CUNY+

  • Laying of corner stone of Sing Sing Classification Prison, Saturday, October 2, 1920, 2:30 P.M. Ossining, N.Y. : Sing Sing Prison Press Special Collections Room: HV9475 .N72 1920
  • Baker, Amos T. “A Clinical Study of Inmates Sentenced to Sing Sing Prison for Murder 1st Degree.” American Journal of Psychiatry 91/4 (1935) pp. 783-790.
  • Bermudez Pereira, Al: 2006    Sing Sing State Prison one day, one lifetime. Pittsburgh, Pa: Dorrance Pub. Co., Inc.,
  •  The big house New York, N.Y.:A&E Television Network 1997  Videorecording, 2 videocassettes (200 min.) description: The men who served time in America's most notorious prisons speak out in this look at Alcatraz, Sing Sing, Leavenworth and Eastern State Penitentiary.
  • Blake, George W Report on Sing Sing Prison. Albany, N.Y., 1913.
  • Brice, James R 1839    Secrets of the Mount-Pleasant State Prison, revealed and exposed : an account of the unjust proceedings against James R. Brice, esq. by which he was convicted of the crime of perjury ... Albany: Brice, 
  •  Burr, Levi S 1833    A voice from Sing-Sing; giving a general description of the state prison Albany, N.Y.
  • Chapin, Charles 1920    Charles Chapin’s Story written in Sing Sing Prision. New York: Putnam
  • Conover, Ted. Newjack : guarding Sing Sing. New York: Random House, c2000. John Jay College Stacks  HV9475 .N72 S563 2000
  • Conover, Ted. Holding the key : my year as a guard at Sing Sing  London : Scribner 2001, 2000
  • Cheli, Guy Sing Sing Prison.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c2003. John Jay College Stacks   HV9475 .N72 S5628 2003
  • Christianson, Scott.  Condemned: inside the Sing Sing death house.  New York: New York University Press, c2000.  John Jay College Stacks HV 8699 .U5 C4 2000
  • John Conroy and Steven Schoen Sing Sing: the view from within New York Winter House,1972
  • Edmonds, John W. A letter, from John W. Edmonds, one of the inspectors of the State Prison at Sing Sing, to General Aaron Ward : in regard to the removal of Capt. Lynds, as principal keeper of that prison. John W Edmonds. New York : W.G. Boggs, 1844
  • Ingels, James Thirty Years in Sing Sing. Toronto: Evangelical Publishers, c1945. 
  • Special Collections - HV 9475 .N72 S545 1945
  • Squire, Amos O Sing Sing doctor 1935
  • Goewey, David. Crash out: the true tale of a Hell’s Kitchen kid and the bloodiest escape in Sing Sing history. New York: Crown, c2005. John Jay College Stacks   HV8658 .R56 G64 2005
  •  González, Edelmira Prisiones de Estados Unidos. [in queens] Havana : Imp. Montiel 1943
  •  Ingles, James Thirty years in Sing Sing. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1945
  •  Jansson, Gunnar Dödsdömde fången Gunnar Jansson berättar själv från åren i Sing Sing : dömd till döden 15 dec. 1949 i New York, USA för mord på kinesen Lee Hong, att avrättas den 23 jan. 1950. [in Swedish] Malmö : Kristall,1967
  •  Keeler, Harry Stephen Sing Sing nights, New York, E.P. Dutton & Co.,1928
  •  Kurlander, Lawrence T.: Report to Governor Mario M. Cuomo :  the disturbance at Ossining Correctional Facility, Jan. 8-11, 198. Albany:: Director of Criminal Justice, [1983] Reference - HV 9475 .N72 S548 1983
  •  Lane, Horace Five years in state's prison, or, Interesting truths showing the manner of discipline in the state prisons at Singsing and Auburn, exhibiting the great contrast between the two institutions, in the treatment of the unhappy inmates, represented in a dialogue between Singsing and Auburn. New-York : Printed for the Author, by L. Pratt & Son, 1835 4th ed.
  • Sing, John List of convicts: discharged by expiration of sentence, and by pardon, from the state prison at Mount-Pleasant, from the 1st January, 1832, to the 31st of December, 1832, inclusive. New York :1833 (1 copy in N-YHS library)
  •  Luckey, John Life in Sing Sing state prison as seen in a twelve years' chaplaincy / New York : N. Tibbals, Morris, James McGrath, 1866 Special Collections - HV 9475 .N72 S5534 1860;view=2up;seq=22
  •  Prison sketches. New York: Published by Carlton & Porter [for the] Sunday-school Union, 1850
  •  The Rose Man of Sing Sing: a  true tale of life, murder, and redemption in the age of yellow journalism . New York: Fordham University Press, 2003. John Jay College Stacks PN4874 .C45 M67 2003
  •  Maffucci, John J The Sing Sing connection. Bloomington, IN : 1stBooks, 2003
  •  McGrath, Edward F I was condemned to the chair New York : A.L. Burt, 1934
  •  NY State DOC Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, N. Y. : its history, purpose, makeup and program. Albany: : Dept. of Correction, 1953 [Rev.]
  •  Number 1500 Life at Sing Sing. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1904. (not in John Jay Collections)
  • Ossining Historical Society Sing Sing Prison electrocutions, 1891-1963.Ossining, N.Y.: Ossining Historical Society, 1989. John Jay College Reference & Special Collections HV 8986 .S56 1989
  • Papa, Anthony 15 to life: how I painted my way to freedom Los Angeles, Ca.: Feral House, 2004
  • Panetta, Roger G Up the river: a history of Sing Sing Prison in the nineteenth century.  Unpublished PhD Dissertation, CUNY,1999.
  •  Piñero, Miguel. Short Eyes. New York: Hill & Wang 1975.
  • Star-bulletin [newspaper published monthly at Sing Sing Prison] Ossining, N.Y.: Sing Sing Prison, 1917-1920
  •  Sullivan, Florence J Sing Sing, capital punishment, and "honest-graft" New York, N.Y. : Connolly Press, c1927  Special Collections - HV 9475 .N72 S567 1927
  •  Tannenbaum, Frank Osborne of Sing Sing. (With an introduction by the Honorable Franklin D. Roosevelt)  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina press, 1933. John Jay College Stacks HV8978.O7 T3

Archival Collections Not at John Jay College

These records are at the New York State Archives. Some are digitally available, such as Sing Sing Inmate Case Register , the Sing Sing Prison Administration Registers 1865-1939, Photographs of Sing Sing Prison.

Sing Sing Prison. ; New York (State).; Dept. of Correction. Admission registers for prisoners to be executed, 1891-1946. .5 cu. ft. (2 volumes) These bound volumes, also known as receiving blotters, provide summary information on inmates sentenced to be executed. The information included is as follows: name and aliases; place prisoner was received from; court, judge, term, jail time; plea, crime, term out by commutation, expiration, or pardon; place of birth, age, occupation; marital status; physical description; education; religion; habits; use of drugs or tobacco; employment; parents and children living; residence when arrested; name of relative or friend; previous commitments; statement of execution or commutation; also included are hand notes at the bottom listing the order in which the prisoners were executed (i.e. first execution, second execution, third execution at Sing Sing Prison).

New York State Archives, Albany: Agency record NYSV86-a363 describes the history and functions of the Dept. of Correctional Services resulting in creation of record series./ Agency record NYSV88-a223 describes the history and functions of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility resulting in creation of record series./ Volume list./

Suggested Websites

New York Prisons and Jails: Historical Research, Lloyd Sealy Library Research Guide

New York Corrections History Society

Guide to Records of the Department of Correctional Services in the NY State Archives