These days, 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 â€œworst 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 Yorkâ€™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.