Monday, February 3, 2014

How are things in Dannemora?

Location:   Dannemora, New York
Year:   1845

The Clinton Correctional Facility (usually called "Dannemora" after the town) is a New York State correctional facility, housing about 3,000 men. 

Tucked away in the midst of Adirondack State Park (though excluded from the Park by Statute), Dannemora is sometimes called "Siberia" by New York's criminal population due to its harsh winter climate and isolation. 

The approach to Dannemora

Founded as a work camp in the 1840s, the men were put to work, unprofitably, mining iron.  The thin iron deposits in the area actually give Dannemora its name---after a mining town in Sweden.

The former mines lay just beyond the current prison
By 1880, the mining experiment had ended, and the former work camp was transformed into a maximum security prison with concrete walls 60 feet high (which still serve). 

60 foot walls

A Tuberculosis Hospital was built on the grounds in the 1880s, and all New York State inmates with tuberculosis were transferred to Dannemora in hope that they could benefit due to the healthy air of the mountains. Eventually, it became a cellblock.

Although  the definition of "insanity" at the time was neither clinical nor legal, a psychiatric hospital for the State's "insane" inmates was built on the grounds in the 1890s (such inmates perforce became Lifers). The psychiatric hospital was closed in the 1930s, and it was converted into an additional cellblock.  

In the early 20th Century, Dannemora had a busier, if less famous, electric chair than Sing Sing Prison.

In the 1940s, the inmates themselves built the Church of St. Dismas The Good Thief on the prison grounds.

St. Dismas Church

Famous former inmates of Dannemora include Lucky Luciano and Tupac Shakur.

1 comment:

  1. IN THE 1970'S I served as chaplain in a Phila. Prison. Our group was known as the St. Dismas Felowship but at we had for a chapel was a small office. This Church is glorious!