C. INSTITUTIONAL RECORDS
STATE PRISON OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK (NEWGATE)
On November 28, 1797, the first State prison opened in New York City. While the official name of the new prison was the State Prison of the City of New York, it was commonly known as Newgate Prison. The prison was authorized by the legislature in 1796 (Chapter 30). This legislation also called for another prison to be built at Albany, but this second prison was never built. A board of inspectors and the justices of the State supreme court had general authority over Newgate Prison. In addition, several New York City officials and the State's attorney general also had a role in the prison's internal management. The prison was administered by an agent and a principal keeper.
Newgate was founded on many of the concepts used in prisons in Pennsylvania, a pioneering state in penal reform. There were several areas where Newgate deviated from Pennsylvania models, in particular the reduced use of solitary confinement and use of the prison solely for felons rather than including vagrants, suspects, or debtors. Newgate soon established an elaborate prison labor system where inmates were engaged in production of shoes, barrels, woodenware, woven goods, and other items. For a number of years, these industries turned a profit, but overall the prison industry was not as successful as intended.
From its opening, Newgate was plagued with overcrowded conditions. Built in 1797 to house 450 inmates, by 1820 Newgate housed well over 800 inmates. The prison used a controversial pardon system to help alleviate overcrowding that resulted in many inmates being released before serving their appropriate sentence. Adding to the prison's problems was the fact that Newgate was built solely for male felons and was not equipped to handle female criminals, juvenile delinquents and criminally insane inmates sent there.
The legislature soon recognized the need for changes in the State's prison. In 1816, it authorized construction of a new prison at Auburn. To increase discipline, flogging was soon introduced at State prisons. In 1824, the New York House of Refuge for juvenile delinquents was established and younger inmates were removed from Newgate. In 1825 insane convicts were transferred from Newgate to the Bloomingdale Asylum in New York City.
Conditions at Newgate continued to deteriorate, however, and in 1825 (Chapter 25) the legislature authorized construction of Sing Sing Prison to replace Newgate. In 1828, Sing Sing opened and male inmates were transferred there from Newgate. Until a women's prison opened later at Sing Sing, women inmates from Newgate were temporarily transferred to Bellevue Penitentiary in New York City. In 1828, Newgate Prison closed and was sold to New York City for use as a city prison.
A0775. Register of prisoners received, 1797-1810. .3 cu. ft. (1 volume)
This volume contains summary information on inmates received annually into Newgate. Within each year, the register is divided into four sections: White Men, White Women, Black Men, and Black Women. For each inmate, the register provides name, birthplace, crime, county of conviction, sentence, and date of sentence. In addition, before 1803 the register includes information on place of residence, occupation, skin complexion, hair color, height, and distinguishing characteristics. Statistical summaries are included after each annual register and include a breakdown of inmates received by crime, race, sex, place of birth, county of conviction, and length of sentence.