A longtime chapter of Essex County history comes to a close

ELIZABETHTOWN Sheriff Henry Hommes wasted no time in moving prisoners to the new Essex County Jail in Lewis once the final okay had been granted. Hommes received final approval from the New York State Commission of Correction on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 2 to house prisoners in the new jail. At about 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Essex County Sheriffs Department started to move the final sixteen prisoners located in the module jail in Elizabethtown. The final prisoners were moved out by noon, marking the end of an era. Over 17,000 prisoners have been housed at the old jail, which opened in the 1860s. Im excited, but sort of mixed about moving away from the county complex, said Hommes. The prisoner population of Essex County was at 34 inmates, with many being boarded out. Hommes said it was one of the lowest populations the jail had seen recently, but that made the transition easier. While most of the Sheriffs department has been moved, emergency dispatchers still remain in Elizabethtown. For those curious about the history of the Essex County jail, a new web site is a must-see. In connection with the opening of the new Essex County Jail in Lewis, the New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) has created a "virtual tour" of the county's old jail building -- interior as well as exterior -- in Elizabethtown and the old jail's pre-computer record keeping. NYCHS timed unveiling its virtual tour presentation to coincide with the Oct. 1 "decommissioning" of the Elizabethtown site. The starter page for the web presentation can be accessed from a large "Ledgers of NY's Essex County Jail" icon on the NYCHS home page: www.correctionhistory.org I thought (the web site) was pretty awesome, said Hommes. The person who set it up obviously spent a lot of time on it. Among the subjects explored in the presentation's texts and images are: The Nov. 15, 1948 breakout of inmates William Moody and Edmund Hart that left jailer Earl Torrence dead from a brutal bludgeoning by Hart. Essex County's so-called "Chinese Jail" where the county housed federal immigration case detainees during the early 20th Century. Stories of Essex inmates convicted of murder and executed. The number of children -- ages as young as 10 -- jailed. The occupations listed for the minors included "mining." How inmate accounts were kept with book entries and sales slips in the era long before computers. NYCHS is a Regents-chartered nonprofit historical society dedicated to the pursuit, preservation, and promotion of the histories of correctional services in New York -- city, state and county; governmental and nongovernmental.

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