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Sing Sing - Alcatraz on the Hudson

Inside the walls of Sing Sing
Inside the walls of Sing Sing
Karl R. Josker

Sing Sing maximum security prison, located a scant 30 miles north of Manhattan on the east side of the Hudson River, is in line to become one of New York State’s newest museums, according to Senator Chuck Schumer at a press conference this morning at the prison. He is asking for federal funding to the tune of $25 million dollars to turn the old power plant – the one that generated the electricity to run their infamous electric chair “Old Sparky” - into a 22,000 sq ft museum. (A decade ago when the first museum was proposed in was estimated to cost $5 million.)

Equating Sing Sing with the maximum security prison on an island in San Francisco Bay, the Senator called it the “Alkatraz of the East Coast.” Since Alcatraz Island is a national park visited by more than a million people each year, hopes for another tourism boom in the already tourist magnet Hudson Valley are high.

According to The Guardian “Proposed exhibits for the museum – separated from the prison's current 1,600-strong population – include a recreation of "Old Sparky", the electric chair that killed 614 inmates including Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and the original cellblock, built by prisoner labor in 1825.”

Lost in the flurry of publicity for the new museum is the fact that the Village of Ossining (where Sing Sing is located) already has a prison museum in the Caputo Community Center on Broadway. It features pretty much what the new one proposes: cells, extensive photographs, prisoner crafted weapons and even a replica of the original electric chair used during its more than 65 year run. It does not, however, have the cache of being on the prison grounds, nor did it cost $25 million.