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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York Prisons and Jails: Historical Research: Books/Articles/Web resources

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


Academic Search Complete

To search for articles try adding Criminal Justice Abstracts to your Academic Search Complete search by clicking on 'choose databases' using the keywords suggested below [John Jay login]

While this guide focuses on historical research on NY and NYC prisons and jails, the Lloyd Sealy Library collects comprehensively and internationally on criminal justice, including prisons and jails.

Try searching OneSearch Advanced Search with subject word searches modified to the country, state, municipality, prison or jail you are researching. e.g.: "Prisons AND England"; "Jails AND Cook County"; "Corrections and Kentucky"

Encyclopedias and Reference Books

Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities. Mary Bosworth, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2005. 1334 pp. 2 vols.

McShane M, Williams F. Encyclopedia of American prisons New York : Garland Pub., 1996.    Reference - HV 9471 .E425 1996

Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, eds. Detroit: Gale, 2006.

The social history of crime and punishment in America: an encyclopedia. Thousand Oaks, Calif. : SAGE, c2012.

Web Resources

NY Correction History Association website has the most information on the history of NYC and NYState correctional facilities.

History of NYC DOC on the City of New York Department of Corrections website

Organization and History on the New York State Commission on Corrections

History on the Correctional Association of New York website

Women's Prison Association is more than 170 years old.

Links to corrections websites for all other US States on

Prison Policy Initiative researches prisons and makes their Reports available on their website

Prison Abolition Resources


Davis, A., & Freeman, S. (2003). Are Prisons Obsolete? Seven Stories Press. freely available to borrow from Internet Archive and Reserve Room - 3 hour loan HV9471 .D375 2003

Racial Capitalism & Prison Abolition Zine  (Oct 14, 2020) Written and illustrated to make accessible the theories of Black Marxist and prison abolitionist scholars including Cedric Robinson, Robin D.G. Kelley, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Mariame Kaba, Angela Davis and others.

Abolition Organizations

Black and Pink  from their website: The organization began as an explicitly anarchist project, so the name - Black & Pink - was chosen to represent the black flag of anarchism and the power of queer politics and experience. The Prison Library Support Network has posted the Black & Pink Prison Abolition Syllabus

NYC Jericho Movement  Jericho is a movement with the defined goal of gaining recognition of the fact that political prisoners and prisoners of war exist inside of the United States.

Critical Resistance, NYC Critical Resistance was formed in 1997 when activists challenging the idea that imprisonment and policing are a solution for social, political, and economic problems came together to organize a conference that examined and challenged what we have come to call the prison industrial complex (PIC).

Beyond Prisons Podcast


Suggested Search Terms

Try using these search terms clicking on Keyword in Subject in OneSearch Advanced Search

Prisons and New York

Jail and New York

Correctional and New York

Prisoners and New York

if researching the history of a certain NY correctional facility, try searching the name of that facility as a keyword ie:

   "Rikers" or ""Bedford Hills"

Try searching the following subject headings in CUNY+

Corrections -- New York (State)

Corrections -- New York (State) -- New York (or any other county in New York)

Corrections -- New York (State) -- Periodicals

Corrections -- New York (State) -- Statistics -- Periodicals

Correctional institutions -- New York (State)

Correctional institutions -- New York (State) -- New York

Jails -- New York (State)

Jails -- New York (State) -- New York

Prisoners -- New York (State) -- Statistics -- Periodicals

Prisons -- New York (State)

Prisons -- New York (State) -- History

Prisons -- New York (State) -- Periodicals