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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York Prisons and Jails: Historical Research: Research New York State Prisons

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

NY Prison Reports

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]

Every year several agencies reported on conditions, administration, budget and incidents of prison facilities and prisons. Reading through these reports will give a detailed year by year account from each prison. Information includes incoming and outgoing financial accounts, production of products and services provided from prison labor, titles of books purchased for the library, food purchased for the kitchens, detailed accounts of punishments inflicted on individual prisoners, Illnesses and deaths of individual prisoners, incarceration and discharged numbers, escapes and uprisings.  Also reported upon are construction and renovation of facilities.

New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NY-DOCCS) is updating their COVID-19 Report daily.  Also available online from NY-DOCCS are a monthly report and 2019 SHU [solitary confinement] report. Also available are Laws Rules and Directives including current DOCCS rules and regulations.

You can browse titles we have in our collections. Suggested subject headings include:

 Corrections -- New York (State) |

Web-Available Resources

New York State Archives - Holds many record groups relating to NY State Prisons,  you can search for them here. including:

The New York State Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision or DOCCS-NY has made many of their recent reports freely available online.

Correctional Association Prison Monitoring Reports

The New York Times December 4th and 5th, 2016, special report on the racial discrimination in disciplinary practices in the N.Y.S. Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

The New York State Commission of Corrections according to their website is: " a three member deliberative body, which meets monthly to discuss variances, maximum facility capacities, proposed changes in regulations, mortality investigations, and other matters that may arise." They issue annual and statistical reports as well as reports on investigations on specific incidents in NYS prisons and local  jails.

Prison Policy Initiative historical statistics are available in their New York State Incarceration Profile.

US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics

Reports & Resources on History of Individual NYS Prisons

The John Jay Library holds many reports, prisoner rules and regulations and books on individual NY State Prisons, search CUNY+ by keyword  with the name of the prison.

NY State Library and Archives has a list of their collections on Prisons & Inmates in addition, they have put together The Attica Uprising and Aftermath: Selected Documents from the Office of the Attorney General they also hold New York State Commission of Correction Blueprint Plans, Drawings, and Specifications for Improvements to State and Municipal Jails, Penitentiaries, and Public Buildings

The NYS DOCCS provides a map and a a list of currently operating NY State prisons.  Most are also featured on the New York State Correctional History Association website.

The Visitors. (2009). Scorpion TV.  (John Jay login required) Every Friday night about 800 people, mostly women and children, almost all of them African American and Latino, gather in Manhattan for the long journey to rural New York to visit their loved ones in prison.


Archival Collections in Other Institions

The New York State Library in Albany, NY holds the Records of the New York State Department of Correctional Services and the records of some Prison and Reformatories.

NYPL prison resources are featured in the blog post by Mark Boonshoft (2017) Prisons, Property and the American Revolution

Annual Reports on New York State Prisons

note that some of the annual reports of  NY State prison/corrections also include information and reports on New York County jails.

Reports by State Agencies:

New York (State). Inspectors of State Prisons. Annual report of the Inspectors of State Prisons. [John Jay holds 1848-1870 in paper, microfilm] Open Special Collections - HV8352 .A29 | Special Collection Microfilm - HV8352 .A29 |We have digitized this title with the Internet Archive.

[above are OneSearch links]

New York (State). Prison Dept. Annual report of the Superintendent of State Prisons... [published 1876-1926] Open Special Collections - HV8352 .A3 | Special Collection Microfilm - HV8352 .A3 |Some issues are digitally available on the Hathi Trust Library | We have digitized some issues with the Internet Archive

New York (State). State Commission of Prisons. Annual report of the State Commission of Prisons. [published 1896-1927] Special Collections - HV8352 .A292 We have digitized this title with the Internet Archive |

New York (State). State Commission of Correction. Minutes of the proceedings of the State Commission of Correction. [published 1927 - 1958] Special collections room - in process

New York (State). State Commission of Correction. Annual report of the New York State Commission of Correction. [published 1927-present] Open Special Collections - HV8352 .A293 | Special Collections Microfilm - HV8352 .A293a | 2008-present reports are published online

New York (State). State Probation Commission. Annual report of the New York State Probation Commission. Special Collections - HV9305 .N7 A3

New York (State). Division of Parole. Annual report of the Division of Parole of the Executive Department. [S.l. : s.n.], 1931- (Albany, N.Y. : J.B. Lyon Co.). Open Special Collections HV9305 .N7 A46

Psychological screening program for correction officer applicants / State of New York, Department of Correctional Services. Albany, N.Y. : The Dept., Special Collections HV9475 .N7 P75a

DOCS today. Albany, N.Y. : New York State Dept. of Correctional Services, 1987- ? Periodicals HV9261 .D2 [some issues are  freely available on the NYS-DCCS website  from 2003-2004 and 2007-2010]

Inmate Mortality Report. State of New York: Department of Correctional Services. Reference HV9475 .N7 I56a also available electronically.

Reports by Independent Groups and Organizations

Prison Association of New York.  Annual report of the Prison Association of New York for the year ... [published 1882-1960, John Jay has an incomplete run] Open Special Collections - HV8987 .C8 | Some issues available digitally from the Hathi Trust Library

Prison Association of New York. Annual report of the executive committee of the Prison Association of New York. John Jay has only the 20th (1865) | More issues are held by NYPL and N-YHS 

Correctional Association of New York. Annual report of the Correctional Association of New York. [published 1961 - ? John Jay has up through 1970] Open Special Collections - HV8987 .C8

Correctional Association of New York. Annual report to the legislature. New York : Correctional Association of New York,  Special Collections HV8987 .C8

Annual report of the Woman's Prison Association of New York -freely available at Hathi Trust Library

Monograph Reports by date (oldest to newest)

1871 Report of the State Commission on Prison Labor : together with the proceedings of the Commission, minutes of evidence, and an index of subjects. freely available on HathiTrust Library

1932 Young, Clifford M. (chief inspector, State commission of correction, Albany, N. Y.) Women's prisons, past and present and other New York state prison history. freely available on HathiTrust Library

1983 New York (State). Legislature. Assembly. Republican Task Force on the Corrections Crisis. Crisis management, the state of corrections in New York State : the report of the Assembly Republican Task Force on the Corrections Crisis.
Special collections HV8352 .N54 1983
An abstract to this report is available on NCJRS