Damnation Island

Title: Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th Century New York

Author: Stacy Horn
Publisher: Algonquin, May 2018

Summary/Review: Though we all know how awful many if not most mental health facilities were, even into the 20th century, this book was a revelation.

In the 1800’s, Blackwell’s Island, now Roosevelt Island in New York’s East River, was home to a lunatic asylum, prisons, hospitals, poor houses and work houses. All built with the greatest of intentions, but all ending as abominations. From over-crowding, physical abuses, and utter disregard for sanitary practices, these buildings meant to protect, rehabilitate, and heal were actually death traps and torture chambers.

Horn focuses on a few major and minor players for a well-rounded look into lives that were so tragically affected, and a few who tried in vain to change the system.

Who will like this book: For readers who like narrative non-fiction and history.

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Recommended by: Sue B., Circulation

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