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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York Prisons and Jails: Historical Research: Archival and Unique Resources at Lloyd Sealy Library & Other Institutions.

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

Manuscript Collections relating to Prisons/Prisoners/Incarceration in Lloyd Sealy Library's Special Collections

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Chapter 251 [John Jay Chapter 1981 - 1985]

These documents record the successful advocacy conducted by this A.I. chapter to free political prisoner Tariq Ahsam from Pakistan prisons. The chapter was chaired by former chief librarian, Eileen Rowland.

DAVID BERKOWITZ COLLECTION

Letters received by David Berkowitz [aka Son of Sam] while incarcerated in prison written by various correspondents.

CENTER FOR KNOWLEDGE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANNING RECORDS (1975-1978) (Martinson Collection)

These records document the work of a grant-funded project to study the impact of intervention on recidivism, by Robert Martinson and technical consultant Judith Wilkes. More information is available on this collection.      A finding aid is available.

ALBERT DE SALVO PAPERS (claimed to be the Boston Strangler)

Correspondence of prisoner Albert De Salvo, mainly with the members of the Bailey family. Also included are gifts sent to the family of jewelry and leatherwork made by him in prison. Thought by some to have been the 'Boston Stranger', De Salvo was murdered while incarcerated .  A finding aid is available.

THE RECORDS OF THE FORTUNE SOCIETY 1966-2016

Donated to to John Jay in 2015 & 2016, representing the beginning of a collaborative effort to preserve the records of The Fortune Society,, which recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. The collection holds administrative records, a full run of Fortune News as well as photographs, publications, reports, correspondence (including correspondence with prisoners), prisoner art and many other types of records documenting the work and growth of this organization, which provides services to formerly incarcerated persons, their families and communities. This collection is still in the preliminary stages of processing. Please contact us for specific topics and records.

NORMAN BRUCE JOHNSTON COLLECTION OF PRISON PLANS

This collection of architectural plans of prisons around the world was collected by Dr. Norman Bruce Johnston, a sociologist who has studied and written about prison architecture. Dr. Johnston assembled the collection over many years, and some of the plans have been reprinted in his books. A finding aid is available.

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 availablePhotographs from this collection are available here

GARY MCGIVERN AND MARGUERITE CULP PAPERS 1967 -2003

This collection documents the life of Gary McGivern, who was a prisoner at Green Haven and other NY State prisons. It also documents clemency campaigns for his release, organized by Marguerite Culp. Other prisoners, prison reform programs, organizers and activists are also documented. A finding aid is available.

PILSBURY SCRAPBOOK (1872-1879)

One volume documents the lives and careers of Amos Pilsbury and his son Louis Dwight Pilsbury. They both served as prison guards and administrators in New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut. Amos Pilsbury was also general superintendent of the NYPD. A finding aid available. 

PRISON NEWSPAPERS COLLECTION

Sample issues of prison newspapers collected by James McGrath Morris for his 2002 book Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate.   A list is available.

THEATRE FOR THE FORGOTTEN

Videotapes, press clippings and additional materials document the work of this organization which was formed to teach theatre to incarcerated and at-risk youth. A list of this collection is available.

JEROME WASHINGTON PAPERS

These papers consist of correspondence mainly related to the publication of Bright Spot in the Yard by Washington, which is a compilation of his writings while in prison. A finding aid is available

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