Top 10 Worst Prisons in New York State – [All Details]
Top 10 Worst Prisons in New York State – [All Details]

Top 10 Worst Prisons in New York State – [All Details]


New York State is home to several prisons, some of which have gained notoriety for their harsh conditions and troubled histories. In this article, we will explore the top 10 worst prisons in New York State, shedding light on the challenges faced by inmates within these facilities. From outdated infrastructure to issues of violence and overcrowding, these prisons have faced criticism and scrutiny over the years. Join us as we delve into the dark world of the top 10 worst prisons in New York State.

1. Attica Correctional Facility

The Attica Correctional Facility, located in Attica, New York, has gained notoriety for being one of the most dangerous prisons in the state. Built in 1930, this maximum-security facility has faced numerous issues over the years, including allegations of excessive force and poor living conditions.

The prison made headlines in 1971 when a riot broke out, resulting in the deaths of 43 people, including both inmates and correctional officers. The incident exposed the harsh realities faced by prisoners at Attica and sparked a national conversation on prison reform.

Despite efforts to improve conditions since the riot, Attica Correctional Facility continues to struggle with overcrowding and violence within its walls. Inmates often live in cramped cells with limited access to recreational activities or educational programs, leading to frustration and tension.

Recent Developments

In recent years, there have been calls for the closure of Attica Correctional Facility due to ongoing concerns about the treatment of inmates. Advocacy groups and lawmakers have pushed for alternatives to incarceration and the implementation of more humane prison policies.

However, the decision to close a prison is complex, involving considerations such as the impact on local economies and the need for alternative facilities. As of now, Attica Correctional Facility remains operational, and efforts to improve conditions continue.

2. Sing Sing Correctional Facility

Sing Sing Correctional Facility, located in Ossining, New York, is another notorious prison on our list. Established in 1826, Sing Sing has a long and troubled history, earning a reputation for its harsh conditions and strict disciplinary measures.

Historical Significance

Sing Sing gained widespread attention during the early 20th century due to its extensive use of the electric chair for executions. The prison’s electric chair, known as “Old Sparky,” became a symbol of the state’s capital punishment system.

The prison has faced allegations of mistreatment and abuse of inmates over the years. Reports of violence and excessive use of force by correctional officers have raised concerns about the overall safety and well-being of prisoners at Sing Sing.

Efforts for Reform

In recent years, there have been efforts to improve conditions at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Programs focusing on rehabilitation and education have been introduced to provide inmates with the opportunity to learn new skills and prepare for reintegration into society.

However, challenges persist, and the prison continues to grapple with issues such as overcrowding and limited resources. The journey towards meaningful prison reform is an ongoing process that requires sustained efforts from both policymakers and the public.

3. Clinton Correctional Facility

Clinton Correctional Facility, located in Dannemora, New York, has made headlines for one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history. In 2015, two inmates, Richard Matt and David Sweat, managed to break out of the maximum-security prison, leading to a massive manhunt.

The Great Escape

The escape of Matt and Sweat exposed serious security flaws within Clinton Correctional Facility. The inmates used power tools to cut through steel walls and tunnels, highlighting the need for enhanced security measures in the prison.

The incident shed light on other issues within the facility, including allegations of employee misconduct and inadequate supervision. It prompted a thorough investigation and subsequent reforms to prevent similar escapes in the future.

Post-Escape Reforms

Following the escape, Clinton Correctional Facility underwent significant changes to improve security. Enhanced staff training, increased surveillance measures, and stricter protocols were implemented to prevent future escapes and ensure the safety of both inmates and staff.

While the escape at Clinton Correctional Facility was a stark reminder of the challenges faced by correctional institutions, the incident also served as a catalyst for necessary reforms and improvements in prison management.

4. Elmira Correctional Facility

Elmira Correctional Facility, located in Chemung County, New York, is a maximum-security prison known for its aging infrastructure and inadequate living conditions. The facility, which was built in 1876, struggles to meet the modern standards of a humane correctional environment.

Aging Infrastructure

The outdated infrastructure at Elmira Correctional Facility poses numerous challenges for both inmates and staff. The prison’s deteriorating buildings and aging plumbing systems contribute to unsanitary conditions and a lack of proper ventilation.

The aging infrastructure also presents security concerns, as it becomes easier for inmates to tamper with structures or conceal contraband. Efforts to renovate or replace these outdated facilities face financial and logistical hurdles, further exacerbating the issues faced by Elmira Correctional Facility.

Staffing Shortages

Another pressing issue at Elmira Correctional Facility is the shortage of correctional staff. Insufficient staffing levels make it difficult to maintain order and ensure the safety of inmates and staff members.

The prison administration has acknowledged the problem and made efforts to attract and retain qualified personnel. However, recruiting and training new staff members takes time, and the shortage continues to impact the overall functioning of the facility.

5. Rikers Island

Rikers Island, located in the East River between the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx, is one of the most well-known and controversial prisons in New York City. The facility has been plagued by allegations of violence, corruption, and substandard conditions for many years.

Infamous Reputation

Rikers Island has gained a notorious reputation for its culture of violence and abuse. Reports of inmate fights, excessive use of force by correctional officers, and inadequate medical care have raised serious concerns about the treatment of prisoners on the island.

The size and population of Rikers Island, which houses thousands of inmates, contribute to the challenges faced by the facility. Overcrowding, combined with a shortage of resources and understaffing, has created an environment prone to violence and misconduct.

Closure Plans

In recent years, there have been calls to close Rikers Island and replace it with smaller, more modern facilities that prioritize rehabilitation and community reintegration. The goal is to create a more humane and effective correctional system that focuses on reducing recidivism and providing necessary support to individuals in custody.

Plans for the closure of Rikers Island are underway, with a focus on developing alternative solutions and diverting resources towards community-based programs. However, the process is complex and requires extensive coordination between various stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition.

6. Green Haven Correctional Facility

Green Haven Correctional Facility, located in Stormville, New York, is a maximum-security prison that has faced criticism for its inadequate mental health services and limited rehabilitative programs.

Mental Health Challenges

One of the primary concerns at Green Haven Correctional Facility is the lack of sufficient mental health services. Many inmates require psychiatric care or counseling, but the prison struggles to provide comprehensive and timely treatment.

The absence of adequate mental health support often exacerbates the challenges faced by inmates, leading to higher rates of self-harm and suicide. Recognizing the importance of addressing mental health in the correctional system, efforts have been made to enhance psychiatric care within the facility.

Rehabilitation Programs

Rehabilitation programs play a crucial role in preparing inmates for successful reentry into society. Unfortunately, Green Haven Correctional Facility has limited access to these programs, hindering the process of rehabilitation and reducing opportunities for personal growth and development.

Efforts are underway to expand the availability of educational and vocational programs within the prison. These initiatives aim to equip inmates with the necessary skills and knowledge to secure employment and reintegrate into their communities effectively.

7. Auburn Correctional Facility

Auburn Correctional Facility, located in Auburn, New York, is one of the oldest prisons in the United States. While it has historical significance, the facility faces several challenges that contribute to its inclusion on our list of worst prisons in New York State.

Solitary Confinement Practices

Auburn Correctional Facility has faced scrutiny for its use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. Solitary confinement involves isolating an inmate in a small cell for 22 to 24 hours a day, often for extended periods.

Critics argue that prolonged periods of isolation can have severe psychological effects on inmates, leading to increased rates of mental illness and self-harm. Efforts have been made to limit the use of solitary confinement and explore alternative approaches to discipline within the prison.

Lack of Rehabilitation Opportunities

Similar to other prisons on this list, Auburn Correctional Facility struggles to provide inmates with adequate access to rehabilitative programs. Limited educational and vocational opportunities hinder the process of skill-building and preparation for successful reintegration into society.

Addressing the lack of rehabilitation programs requires investment in resources and a shift in the overall approach to corrections. By focusing on rehabilitation and support, prisons can play a crucial role in reducing recidivism rates and promoting positive change.

8. Wende Correctional Facility

Wende Correctional Facility, located in Alden, New York, is a maximum-security prison that has faced criticism for its treatment of mentally ill inmates and a lack of transparency in its operations.

Mental Health Concerns

The treatment of mentally ill inmates at Wende Correctional Facility has raised significant concerns. Inadequate access to mental health services and the use of solitary confinement as a response to behavioral issues can exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

Efforts have been made to improve mental health services within the prison, including increasing staffing levels and providing specialized training to correctional officers. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure the well-being and proper care of mentally ill inmates.

Lack of Transparency

Transparency and accountability are crucial aspects of a functioning correctional system. Unfortunately, Wende Correctional Facility has faced criticism for its lack of transparency in its operations and reporting.

Efforts are being made to enhance transparency within the facility, including increased oversight and regular audits. By holding correctional institutions accountable for their actions, it becomes possible to identify areas for improvement and ensure the fair and just treatment of inmates.

9. Shawangunk Correctional Facility

Shawangunk Correctional Facility, located in Wallkill, New York, is a maximum-security prison known for its high levels of violence and the prevalence of gang-related activities.

Gang Activity

Gang-related activities pose a significant challenge within Shawangunk Correctional Facility. The presence of gangs creates a hostile and dangerous environment for both inmates and staff, leading to an increased risk of violence and conflicts.

Efforts to combat gang activity include increased monitoring, intelligence gathering, and the implementation of stricter security measures. By addressing the root causes of gang involvement and offering alternative paths, prisons can help individuals break free from the cycle of violence.

Staff Safety

The prevalence of violence within Shawangunk Correctional Facility not only affects inmates but also poses risks to the safety of correctional staff. Overcoming this challenge requires a multifaceted approach, including adequate staffing levels, comprehensive training, and the implementation of strategies to de-escalate conflicts.

The safety and well-being of both inmates and staff are essential for maintaining a secure and rehabilitative environment within the prison. Efforts must be made to prioritize safety and ensure the effectiveness of the correctional system.

10. Fishkill Correctional Facility

Fishkill Correctional Facility, located in Beacon, New York, has faced numerous allegations of abuse and mistreatment of inmates. The facility’s troubled history highlights the need for comprehensive reforms within the correctional system.

Allegations of Abuse

Fishkill Correctional Facility has been the subject of investigations into allegations of abuse by correctional officers. Reports of excessive use of force, harassment, and denial of basic rights have raised serious concerns about the treatment of inmates.

Accountability and oversight are crucial in addressing these issues. Investigations must be conducted thoroughly, and measures should be put in place to hold individuals accountable for their actions. Implementing a culture of respect and professionalism within correctional institutions is essential for ensuring the fair and humane treatment of all individuals in custody.

Advocacy for Change

Advocacy groups and organizations have been instrumental in bringing attention to the issues faced by Fishkill Correctional Facility. Through their efforts, they have highlighted the need for comprehensive reforms that prioritize the well-being and rights of inmates.

By advocating for change, these organizations play a vital role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy decisions. Their work is essential in creating a more just and compassionate correctional system that focuses on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Are these prisons still in operation today?

A1: Yes, all the prisons mentioned in this article are currently in operation.

Q2: Has there been any improvement in the conditions of these prisons in recent years?

A2: Efforts have been made to improve conditions in these prisons, but challenges persist. Reforms and investments in rehabilitation programs, mental health services, and staff training are ongoing.

Q3: What are the alternatives to incarceration being considered for these prisons?

A3: Alternatives to incarceration, such as diversion programs, community-based rehabilitation, and restorative justice initiatives, are being explored as potential solutions to reduce reliance on traditional prisons.

Q4: How can the public support prison reform in New York State?

A4: The public can support prison reform by advocating for policy changes, supporting organizations working towards reform, and promoting initiatives that prioritize rehabilitation and community reintegration.

Q5: Are there success stories of prison reform in New York State?

A5: While challenges remain, there have been success stories of prison reform in New York State. Certain facilities have implemented innovative programs that focus on education, vocational training, and mental health support, leading to positive outcomes for inmates.

Q6: What role does rehabilitation play in addressing the issues faced by these prisons?

A6: Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in addressing the issues faced by these prisons. By providing inmates with the necessary support and resources to address the root causes of their involvement in criminal activity, rehabilitation can contribute to reducing recidivism rates and creating safer communities.


The top 10 worst prisons in New York State face a range of challenges that impact the well-being of both inmates and staff. Issues such as overcrowding, inadequate resources, violence, and a lack of rehabilitation opportunities highlight the urgent need for comprehensive prison reform.

Efforts are being made to address these challenges and improve conditions within these facilities. Through the implementation of rehabilitation programs, mental health services, and enhanced security measures, there is hope for meaningful change in the correctional system.

However, prison reform is a complex and ongoing process that requires continued advocacy and support from policymakers and the public. By prioritizing rehabilitation, addressing systemic issues, and promoting alternatives to incarceration, we can work towards a more humane and effective correctional system in New York State.

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