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was the designer of the arrangement of solitary or separate cells which was authorized by the legislature of New York in 1819. This is said to have been the first law for separate imprisonment, although priority is sometimes claimed for another state. When Brittain was agent and warden at Auburn, Captain Elam Lynds* was the principal keeper, and when Mr. Brittain died in 1821 Captain Lynds was placed in full charge of the prison. In many accounts he is given credit for the details of the Auburn plan. One writer says that Lynds made experiments with his new discipline without legislative authority; and that the act of 1819 was merely an approval of what he had already attempted.
An old account says that Captain Lynds, without any legislative direction, changed the discipline at Auburn so that the prisoners were confined in the cells during the night but employed in common workshops during the day. In connection with this he imposed a rule of silence which was long a prime feature of the Auburn system. He also required the lock step in marching and fed the convicts in their cells instead of in a common dining room. A committee of the legislature consisting of Messrs. Allen, Hopkins and Tibbitts visited
* Elam Lynds was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, 1784. His parents moved to Troy, New York, when he was an infant. He learned the hatter's trade and worked at it for some years. In the War of 1812 he held a captain's commission in a New York regiment. When the Auburn State Prison was opened in 1817, Captain Lynds was made the first principal keeper, and four years afterwards he became warden. He made many experiments with a view to furnishing better occupation and to improving the general condition of the prison. He devised the main features of what is now known as the Auburn System of imprisonment. When it was proposed to erect a new state prison at Mount Pleasant on the Hudson, Captain Lynds was selected to take charge of the enterprise. He began this work in 182;, and successfully prosecuted it for four years with prison labor, when the Sing Sing prison was completed according to the original plan. After his retirement from the prison service he lived in New York City, where he died in 1855.
When writing the article on the State Prisons of the United States it seemed to the author that it would be exceedingly interesting if the illustrations could include a portrait of Captain Elam Lynds, who was the founder of the Auburn or congregate plan of imprisonment, and was also the pioneer in the method of building prisons entirely by the labor of prisoners. Accordingly requests were sent to various prison officials of New York, and search was made in book stalls and print shops in different places; but no portrait of him could be found. After my manuscript and illustrations had been sent to Professor Henderson, a lady in New York City, Mrs. Phillip J. Grant, who was at one time interested in prison matters, kindly offered to make further search. She caused an advertisement to be placed in a newspaper there, and in a few days there came to her a letter from Mrs. Cornelia Lynds De Forest, the daughter of Captain Elam Lynds. Mrs. De Forest makes her home with her niece, Mrs. Calhoun, the wife of Hon. J. Gilbert Calhoun of Hartford.
According to an arrangement made by Mrs. Grant, I called upon Mrs. DeForest, who showed me the portrait of her father and gave many interesting details of his life. With the consent of Mrs. De Forest the picture was placed by Mrs. Calhoun in the hands of. a photographer in Hartford who made the copy from which the cut is reproduced for this book.
the prison and were so impressed with the value of the changes that they persuaded the legislature to adopt and extend them.
Under an act of 1821, following an experiment in Pennsylvania, New York adopted a scheme of grading which proposed three classes. The most dangerous and impenitent composed the first class, which was doomed to constant confinement in solitary cells with no companion but their own thoughts and, if the keeper saw fit, a Bible. The second class, to be the less incorrigible, should alternate between solitary confinement and labor as a recreation. The third, being the most hopeful, were to work in association by day and to be in seclusion by night. The first class was separated from the others on Christmas, 1821, and consisted of eighty-three of the most hardened prisoners who were committed to silence and solitude. In less than a year five of the eighty-three had died, one became an idiot, another when his door was opened dashed himself from the gallery, and the rest with haggard looks and despairing voices begged to be set to work.
In 1824, a committee of the Assembly consisting of Samuel H. Hopkins, George Tibbitts and Stephen Allen was appointed to consider the subject of punishments and prisons. The committee sent Captain Lynds into other states to observe prison conditions elsewhere. In 1825 this committee made a report recommending the repeal of the law for solitary imprisonment and urging that all prisoners should be kept at work for the sake of their own health and for the public welfare.
As the New York and Auburn prisons were inadequate the same committee was authorized to select a site for a new and larger prison. It was decided to build another at a place called Mount Pleasant-on-the-Hudson which since, under the name of Sing Sing, has become inseparably associated with the imprisonment of convicts just as the name of Botany Bay is forever linked with the transportation of felons. The selection of the site was dictated by the fact that at Mount Pleasant there were great marble quarries which the prisoners could work to advantage and profit.
In May, 1825, Captain Lynds was directed to select one hundred convicts and a sufficient number of keepers from the Auburn prison and proceed to construct the new prison. Captain Lynds was a man of great energy and firmness of character. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and his military experience was of large service to him when he removed the convicts to the new site where, without any barriers, they were employed in constructing the prison buildings.
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His work at this place has been mentioned with great approbation by many writers. Major Griffiths, the English inspector, makes a very appreciative reference to it in The Secrets of the Prison House. The fact that Captain Lynds succeeded in accomplishing this work without any serious disturbance, amply proved his capacity as an executive. One writer of his day says of his beginning with one hundred convicts: "He led them to the spot and camped on the bank of the Hudson without a place to receive or walls to secure his dangerous companions. He made every one a mason, carpenter or other useful laborer with no other power than the firmness of his character and the energy of his will, and thus for several years the convicts were engaged in building their own prison."
The buildings at Sing Sing were finished according to the original plan in 1829; they contained 800 cells, and 200 were added in the following year. In May, 1828, when enough cells were completed, all the convicts from the New York prison were removed to Sing Sing, and the prison erected in 1797 was abandoned and sold. In 1835 another wing was added to Sing Sing. Spacious and convenient additions have been made from time to time for the accommodation of some of the departments; but the cell blocks retain their original form and have been condemned for many years as insufficient and altogether unsuitable.
In 1844, when more room was needed, the legislature of New York enacted that: "There shall be a state prison established at some place in this state, north of a line running east and west of the city of Albany, for the purpose of employing the state prison convicts in mining, and the manufacture of iron, together with the manufacture of such articles from iron as are principally imported from foreign countries. Such prison shall hereafter be known and called by the name of the county in which it may be located." Ransom Cook, who had been the commissioner to inquire into the feasibility of a prison for special industries, was appointed the agent to carry out this law. Convicts were drafted from Sing Sing and Auburn and by their labor the buildings were erected; and here was established a prison that has been more widely known by the name of Dannemora, the town, than by the name of the county as the law enjoins.
A prison is now under construction at Bear Mountain to take the place of Sing Sing.* The new establishment will be arranged
* Hon. Samuel J. Barrows, whose decease in April, 1909, was lamented by all friends of humanity, was a member of the commission that selected the site and adopted