Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

By | May 7, 2018

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

On a two-mile stretch of land in New York’s East River, a 19th-century horror story was unfolding . . .

Today we call it Roosevelt Island. Then, it was Blackwell’s, site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals. Conceived as the most modern, humane incarceration facility the world ever seen, Blackwell’s Island quickly became, in the words of a visiting Charles Dickens, “a lounging, listless madhouse.

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