Push for Sing Sing Prison Museum

Inside the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, there are stories to tell.

More than 600 inmates were put to death in the electric chair here, famous and infamous residents like mobster Lucky Luciano and "Son of Sam" serial killer David Berkowitz served time here. There were violent uprisings, and the prison, on the picturesque banks of the Hudson River in Ossining, played starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters.

"Sing sing is like a brand," said Dana White, Ossining Village Historian. "I've seen photos of bars in Berlin called 'Sing Sing' where the waiters wore stripes. It's got an image of this kind of gangster; you know Hollywood kind of reality, which isn't really what it is."

Today, Sing Sing is a working prison where some 1600 men are doing time, some for the worst of crimes.

However, it's also a place where some of those convicts are working hard to emerge as new men, said prison Superintendent Michael Capra.

"This is where people come to when they have done their worst, and it showcases what we as employees here can do to reset norms and reset their lives really and put them back on track so when they leave here they don't come back again," Capra said.

Reconciling the lockup's present with its notorious past is the goal of a long-running project to create a museum at Sing Sing, one officials hope could one day be on par with San Francisco's Alcatraz. The main exhibition would be housed in the prison's old, now vacant, powerhouse, with hopes of opening the facility's original 1825 cell block to the public.

"The visitor experience talks about the history from the start of facility in 1825 and will bring you right into what’s taking place today," said Jerry Faiella, the executive director of Historic Hudson River Towns, which is overseeing the project.

Faiella estimated the project will cost at least $35 million dollars, but would pump millions back into the local Westchester County economy over time.

"We think this has a tremendous at of appeal," he said, noting the prison is easily accessible from New York City by Metro North, with plans to run boat service on the Hudson.

The museum would showcase original artifacts and the stories of those who served and worked here, but also play a part in current discussions on prison reform and social justice

Dana White, who is also on the board of the Sing Sing Prison Museum said that it would be a place for "talking to people about who is incarcerated, why are they incarcerated, what are the trends? Then look at the system; are there ways to make it better?"

"It's here. It's got such amazing history, it's got countless astonishing stories to tell, so why don't we do that and why don't we do it right and why don’t we do it in a way that can effect change in the system?" White said.

There's still a lot of work to be done and a lot of money to be raised before this museum becomes a reality, so far just over $1 million has been allocated. Still, the team behind the project hopes to have the museum open by 2020.