Monthly Archives: October 2013

Island of the Damned

These daIsland of the Damnedys, Welfare Island is a verdant, residential retreat which was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1973. But in the earlier 20th century it was notorious as the “worst and most unmanageable prison in the world”.

The grotesquely misnamed Welfare Island was known to most New Yorkers as the city’s most wretched hell hole, the setting for some of the darkest episodes in the city’s history since the mid nineteenth century.

When the City officials MacCormick and Marcus organised a raid on the prison in 1934 they had no idea what they were about to stumble upon. Emaciated and scarred inmates, rife with self-mutilation, drug withdrawal and addiction, were crammed into stinking cells kept in appalling conditions.

While shipping them off to hospitals and alternative prisons, the officers discovered a large-scale drugs trafficking operation run by notorious mobster inmates and facilitated by prison staff. As they delved deeper into the workings of the prison it soon became apparent that the scale of the corruption was larger than they ever could have anticipated. The whole of New York was contaminated.

But who was controlling this widespread ring of crime and corruption?

And what dirty secrets were being hidden on the Island of the Damned…?

‘Island of the Damned’ is the compelling true story of New York’s most brutal prison. It is a compelling mix of social, political, and criminal history – essential reading for anyone who wants to understand New York’s past.

“A brilliantly told story.” – Robert Foster, best-selling author of The Lunar Code.

Circus therapy – the answer to war trauma ?

So-called “circotherapy”, developed two years ago in Finland, is today proving successful in helping to rehabilitate Syrian youngsters and adults traumatised by war and homelessness. Originally developed to treat Finnish youngsters with behavioural and emotional problems, Sirkus Magenta, based in Helsinki, began a new project this March, sending twenty trainers to the Middle East to work with PTSD sufferers, the bereaved and homeless.At refugee camps they have been teaching survivors skills ranging from stilt walking and acrobatics to high-wire walking, juggling and uni-cycling. Because it involves teamwork, courage and trust, young people especially, as they learn, soon develop confidence, become less shy and  withdrawn, more outgoing and responsive to others. The trainers also work with entire families, disabled and older people.  Sirkus Magenta recently teamed up with representatives of Finn Church Aid to help refugees at Jordan’s Za’atari camp. An inspiring example of how mastering physical skills can calm troubled minds and repair a fractured psyche under even the most deplorable circumstances.