Why do we have prisons? When Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont visited Sing Sing Prison in May 1831 seeking an answer to that question, the institution had already gained worldwide fame—and infamy.
The Sing Sing Prison Museum (SSPM) will tell the extraordinary 200-year story of incarceration and engage visitors in the questions and debates that occupied Tocqueville, Beaumont and future generations of observers, critics and reformers.
Today, we seek to understand how the prison system can best meet the ideals of our democratic society. How do we define justice in a republic that values freedom and liberty? What is the purpose of punishment and confinement? What are the connections between race, education, and poverty and the justice system? What are the impacts of recent movements for restorative justice and prison abolition?
SSPM has launched a capital campaign to raise $1.1 million to match a challenge grant of $364,745 from the National Endowment for the Humanities
The NEH grant and matching funds will renovate the former prison Powerhouse as an arts and humanities center. SSPM’s long-range plan will connect the Powerhouse through a secure 350-foot corridor to the historic Cellblock, built by incarcerated men in 1825.
The SSPM plan includes the completion of a Preview Center in the Powerhouse in 2021, the renovation of the Powerhouse garage in 2023, and a grand opening of the Museum in 2025, the prison’s 200th anniversary.
The architecturally distinctive and environmentally sustainable design concept for the renovation of the 6,000 square foot Powerhouse garage will offer space for exhibits as well as a venue for diverse programing and events including theater, music, dance, art and lectures (see artist’s rendering).
In addition, SSPM will partner with social service organizations and educational institutions to provide re-entry counseling for formerly incarcerated people and counseling for families of men incarcerated at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.
State and local officials have enthusiastically endorsed the Museum and its programs, recognizing the positive impact on regional economic development and establishing Ossining as a center for the national conversation on criminal justice reform.
The Museum will be a site of conscience, helping us to reimagine the criminal justice system. In 2019, we presented Flyaway Production’s “The Wait Room,” a site-specific dance and aerial performance about the physical and emotional burden of incarceration on women and families. We plan to continue to present transformative works and thoughtful programs with our partners, including, Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, Pace University, Columbia University’s Center for Justice, Interfaith Prison Partnership, Bethany Arts Community, and the Jacob Burns Film Center.
SSPM’s capital campaign goal is to raise $1.1 million by 2023 to match a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the Infrastructure and Capacity Building program. This NEH grant is a rare honor for a new initiative.
Since 2016, we have also received grants from Empire State Development; Humanities New York; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Westchester Community Foundation; National Trust for Historic Preservation; American Express; and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Above, photo by Babita Patel for Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison
The trustees of Sing Sing Prison Museum sponsor a therapeutic garden inside Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Master gardener Douglass DeCandia works with people in the mental health unit, addressing a need identified by Sing Sing Superintendent Michael Capra.
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Goal by July 15, 2021*
*Please donate or pledge by July 15
SSPM’s popular webinar series Justice Talks enjoys a large following including students at Ossining and Peekskill High Schools who participate in a new criminal justice curriculum developed in collaboration with SSPM. Above, SSPM trustee Michele Washington and graduate students, after touring the Powerhouse.
The challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities represents a turning point for the Sing Sing Prison Museum.
With your matching funds, we will create a space for the arts and humanities that will engage, educate and inspire visitors to think in new ways about our criminal justice system. Through innovative exhibitions and programs we will raise timely and timeless questions about the purpose of incarceration in a democracy.
This is not a typical bricks and mortar project. In collaboration with social service organizations and educational institutions, we can have a positive impact on people who are incarcerated, correctional officers, crime victims and their families. These services are especially important after the events of 2020—pandemic, recession, social justice protests.
Our plan is ambitious. There has never been a better time for the Sing Sing Prison Museum to open its doors. We need your help! Thank you!
You can help the Powerhouse become a powerhouse of knowledge, creativity, and education.For greatest impact, pledge or donate by July 15, 2021.
Checks Payable to Sing Sing Prison Museum / Mail to:
Sing Sing Prison Museum
127 Main Street, Ossining, NY 10562
Please contact Nicole Belle DeRise at 914-236-5407 or email@example.com
Make your gift today online at www.singsingprisonmuseum.org (option to pay by installments!)
Sing Sing Prison Museum is a 501 (c) (3) not for profit organization. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
Sing Sing Prison Museum is the extraordinary place where the complex and compelling stories of incarceration are shared on the grounds of one of America’s most historic active prisons. A site of self-reflection and learning, the Museum challenges all of us to imagine a more equitable criminal justice system and to take action toward building a more just society.
127 Main StreetOssining, New York 10562914-236-5407 firstname.lastname@example.org www.singsingprisonmuseum.org