The images displayed here are a part of the archival collection, the Lewis E. Lawes Papers, housed in the Lloyd Sealy Library Special Collections. The images are of items collected by Lewis E. Lawes while Warden of Sing Sing between 1920–1941. Most are photographs taken in and around Sing Sing and illustrate the prison, its inmates and officers, and Lawes himself. Included are photographs of death row inmates executed at Sing Sing, some dating from before 1920.
The Lewis E. Lawes Papers archival collection documents the life and work of Lawes, a world-famous penologist. Lawes was best known for his twenty-one year stint as Warden of Sing Sing, from 1920–1941, and for his often extraordinary ability to keep himself and his viewpoints on crime and punishment in the public eye. An exemplar of the prison reform movement, Lawes was a strong believer in rehabilitation as the function of the penal system and an outspoken opponent of capital punishment. During his administration, rehabilitation programs at Sing Sing ranged far beyond traditional educational and work programs to encompass the care and maintenance of an aviary and a greenhouse, a near professional-level football team, and a Sunday night lecture series that featured eminent personalities from the arts, sports and religion.
Lawes' reputation and ideas reached well beyond the correctional community through a long-running radio program, numerous books and articles, a Broadway play, and a film adaptation of his best known book, Twenty Thousand Years at Sing Sing.