Sing Sing Correctional Facility, 30 miles north of New York City, is known for its cameos in classic films and infamous inmates. Local officials believe the maximum-security men’s prison, which holds 1,600 inmates, also could attract a different sort of clientele: tourists, the Wall Street Journal reports. For decades, local officials have sought to build a museum at Sing Sing. They view the prison as a historic landmark that could draw visitors, who would then eat, shop and explore other attractions in Westchester County. Capitalizing on broad interest in incarceration and so-called dark tourism, Sing Sing Prison Museum would tell the story of Sing Sing’s past and its present, and host criminal-justice events. Local officials believe it would be one of the few prison museums in the U.S. on the grounds of an active prison. “It’s an untold story in a facility with amazing name recognition,” said Jerry Faiella of Historic Hudson River Towns, a regional-tourism nonprofit leading the project.
Brent Glass, director emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said Sing Sing’s history illustrates that of criminal justice in the U.S. “Every chapter in the history of criminal justice in America has a few pages written at Sing Sing prison,” said Glass, an adviser to the project. Late last year, the $50 million project won a $500,000 state economic-development grant. Last month, it selected board officers and the state approved the museum’s charter, a step toward becoming a nonprofit. Consulting firms estimate the museum would draw just over 100,000 visitors each year and increase tourism spending by $12 million statewide.