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Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and…
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Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York (original 2018; udgave 2018)

af Stacy Horn (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1776116,941 (3.74)7
"It's now known as New York City's Roosevelt Island. Originally called Blackwell's Island, it housed a lunatic asylum, prison, hospital, workhouse and almshouse in the 19th century. This book re-creates what daily life was like on the island, what politics shaped it, and what constituted therapy and charity in the nineteenth century"--… (mere)
Medlem:rmdcroach
Titel:Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York
Forfattere:Stacy Horn (Forfatter)
Info:Algonquin Books (2018), Edition: 1, 304 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York af Stacy Horn (2018)

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In 1828, New York City purchased a small island. Located in the East River, Blackwell Island was the perfect location for a new asylum. At first, the plans were for a humane facility to help the mentally ill, indigent and criminal elements in the city. They estimated the number of mentally ill in the city to be less than .5% and planned an initial structure to house 200 people. The mentally ill and criminals would never be housed together and the facility might be able to help some of the chronically indigent in the city as well. They got a big surprise when the initial facility opened and had 199 patients (almost at max capacity) within days. The asylum was enlarged multiple times, and the plans for a humane facility was overpowered by cost cutting measures, bad planning and ignorance. In the 100 years Blackwell Island was used as an asylum the conditions, treatment of patients and medical services there were suspect and often cruel. Damnation Island tells the story of Blackwell Island and its inhabitants.

This book is very well researched and documented, which made it difficult to read. I had to read a chapter at a time...and go cool off....then return. What a grim picture of life in the 1800s. People could be committed for eccentricities or completely fraudulent reasons. Many women were committed because they were in the way or difficult, not because of any mental illness. Conditions in the institution were abysmal. Treatments were even worse. And this went on for 100 years!! Racism even played a part in the treatment of patients. The Irish were seen as incurable and intrinsically insane. Wow...really?? This book is a real eye opener about the use of institutions to pack away citizens seen as problems, without any real care about the quality of their life, health or care. At one point, the city was proud that they could run the institution at a cheap per-patient cost, completely oblivious to the fact that meant there was not enough food or medical supplies to go around. Patients were overcrowded, exposed to diseases and vermin, kept in unsanitary conditions and mistreated. Criminals housed on the island were hired as orderlies and workers and further mistreated patients. Just a sad tale all around.

I enjoyed this book, despite the grim subject manner. I am glad that there have been vast improvements in the mental health field, laws passed to protect people from fraudulent commitment, and health and safety regulations for institutions. I know that atrocities still occur, but I'm hopeful that they are nowhere near the level that happened on Blackwell Island.

Stacy Horn is the author of several non-fiction books including The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad and Waiting For My Cats to Die: A Memoir. Damnation Island is well researched and interesting. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Algonquin Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
The title is very fitting, Damnation Island is the well researched history of Roosevelt Island, a two mile island in the East River. The original intentions of what to do with this island were well meaning but the idea of how to house three different populations of people, the poor, the ill and criminal were not well thought out and the buildings themselves were sweltering hot in the summer with only thin slits for windows, cold in the winter and the rooms became filthy. The description of the filth on the audio book would make you be outside immediately, where ar least the air was better.

The inmates who had a criminal record were very poor and were used to take care of the ill who were also very poor. No training, very poor food, just terrible conditions What made all of this worse was the resistence to improving the buildings, the food, clothing was fuled by politucs. Charles Dickens visted the island and was horrified. A young woman reporter took on the assignment of a tell all of what it was like by pretending to be a lunatic. Nellie Blye's report was well written and gained a lot of readers. The conditions were truly shocking.

That is just a brief glimpse of the history. I am not going into detail, but I assure there will be times when you listen to the story that you will be thankful to be living now and also not there.

I bought the audio book myself and think that the author had the right amount of detail to help you imagine what it was like. I highly recommend it. ( )
  Carolee888 | Sep 2, 2020 |
In David Morrell's 1972 novel “First Blood,” Rambo is arrested for vagrancy because he lacks a job and has less than five dollars in his pocket. Treated like a criminal, he becomes one, and all the violence and death that follows stems from that arrest for the crime of being poor.

A century before that story takes place, poverty and crime were even more closely linked, as Stacy Horn explains in “Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York.” New York, in fact, had just one agency, the Department of Public Charities and Correction, for dealing with the poor, the mad and convicted criminals.

In consequence, Blackwell's Island (now Roosevelt Island), a narrow, two-mile long stretch of land in the East River, became home to a lunatic asylum, a workhouse, an almshouse, a charity hospital and a penitentiary. Convicts from the penitentiary were used as nurses and aides in the other institutions, leading to mistreatment barely worse than that provided by the hired staff. The only place in the city where poor people could be treated for syphilis was the penitentiary hospital, but one needed to be a convict to be admitted. No problem. Patients were simply charged with a crime.

The phrase "out of sight, out of mind" was never more apt than on Blackwell's Island, where the city's most undesirable residents were sent, promptly forgotten about and, in many cases, died. Just pennies a day were provided for food and other necessities for each of the thousands sent there. The prisoners were actually considered to be the lucky ones, for they at least had sentences with release dates. So many others sent to the island had, in effect, life sentences.

Reform came slowly. What reform there was partly due to Nellie Bly and other newspaper reporters who went undercover to reveal what life was like on the island and partly due to William Glenney French, a priest who visited the island almost daily for many years and whose reports helped bring change and also proved invaluable to Horn's research.

Yet though corrections and care for the poor and the mentally ill were eventually divided among different departments, some things haven't changed much. Horn points to Rikers Island, where convicts today are still treated much as convicts were on Blackwell's 150 years ago.

Horn's book shows evidence of padding. A trimmer account would have been more readable. Still this is a valuable, fascinating book for it shows how attitudes toward society's undesirables have changed since the 19th century — and how they haven't. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Aug 21, 2019 |
This book was a hard read, because of its really depressing subject. However, Stacy Horn did a good job of detailing all the different, miserable aspects of Damnation - Welfare - Roosevelt Island in NYC! ( )
  yukon92 | Feb 23, 2019 |
A true to life horror story. I guess you could say, well, that's in the past, but is it really? Blackwell Island, New York, four institutions built to shelter, the poor, the mad, the sick or the mad, supposedly compassionately. Almst from the beginning this did not work, not enough money, doctors, supplies, criminals providing care for the insane, you can imagine how that worked out. Charles Dickens touring the facility was behind appalled, the smells, the noises, lack of care, thought he had toured hell.
The author dprnds most of her writing on the ssylum, where the most records were available for research. She brings to like several different cases, including of of a dister of charity who was committed by her sister. I can't believe done of the things I read, all the inmates took baths, using the same water, whdthrr ridden with lice or encrusted either feces. Makes me shudder. The book explains how this came to be, but certainly something different could have been done.

It would be easy to dimiss this as ignorance in the past, but challenges in the poor, sick, criminal and mental health areas are still critical today. Granted, there are better treatments available, but prison reform is desperately needed as all the above groups are often imprisoned together, done that certainly shouldn't be there. Mental health cuts, unconsciousable, programs being cut right and left , with nothing provided in there place. We can say we are better now, know better now, but again are we?

Eye opening and informative, cringe worthy reality. ( )
  Beamis12 | Sep 29, 2018 |
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"It's now known as New York City's Roosevelt Island. Originally called Blackwell's Island, it housed a lunatic asylum, prison, hospital, workhouse and almshouse in the 19th century. This book re-creates what daily life was like on the island, what politics shaped it, and what constituted therapy and charity in the nineteenth century"--

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