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Miracle at Sing Sing: How One Man Transformed the Lives of America's Most Dangerous Prisoners Hardcover – June 15, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (June 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312308914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312308919
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,411,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his 22 years as warden of Sing Sing prison through the 1920s and 1930s Lewis Edward Lawes oversaw the execution of more than 300 inmates. In Blumenthal's beautiful and bracing account of those years, Lawes, a death penalty opponent, experienced the pain of each death as though it were one of his own family. Against convention, Lawes saw his charges as individuals with talents, flaws and the need for fundamental respect. In looking out for his "boys," Lawes fought existing practices, misguided reformers and a public that would sooner forget those who have run afoul of the law than come to grips with the social conditions that produce such people. Blumenthal, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, presents a swirling cavalcade of Runyonesque characters—unrepentant multiple murderers, career armed robbers, fallen society swells and tragic young people whose lives were altered by some impulsive act. He brilliantly captures in them the same spark that drove Lawes's entire career—a basic and irreducible humanity. Always Blumenthal brings the narrative back to the inmates and their trusted overseer. When Lawes retired in 1941, work at Sing Sing stopped and prisoners wept openly. With exquisite detail and real passion, Blumenthal has brought to life a legend and the world he sought to make better. B&w photos.
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Review

"...informative and entertaining..." - New York Times Book Review

"Ralph Blumenthal has given us a remarkable portrait of a remarkable man... Blumenthal is a gifted storyteller... He has given us a tale worth telling." - David Nasaw, author The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst

"The astonishing and compassionate life of Lewis Lawes has remained one of the buried gems of American prison history until now. Ralph Blumenthal's biography of this patron saint of the dispossessed and discarded restores Lawes to a place of worthy prominence in American history."
- James Morris, author of The Rose Man of Sing Sing

"With exquisite detail and real passion, Blumenthal has brought to life a legend and the world he sought to make better." - Publishers Weekly

"If Lewis Edward Lawes's long career as warden of Sing Sing were written as a novel, it would surely be criticized as implausible... A story almost too good to be true, but too true to miss." --Mario Cuomo

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The prison movie has been a staple for decades, with perhaps its peak in the thirties. It will come as a surprise that much of Hollywood's fascination for prison life, shown in pictures like _20,000 Years in Sing Sing_, was due to an enormously popular penologist, warden Lewis E. Lawes, who served at Sing Sing from 1919 to 1942. Indeed, Lawes wrote the book on which that movie is based, as well as other best-selling books turned into movies, and stage and radio plays. He liked being a media star, but he was also a devoted public servant with humanitarian aims for the prisoners in his charge. _Miracle at Sing Sing: How One Man Transformed the Lives of America's Most Dangerous Prisoners_ (St. Martin's Press) is an absorbing look at Lawes's work within the prison and without, and has lessons for our own time.

Lawes started as a guard, moved into youth reformatories, and had success in getting the youths to work together. His successes took him to the intimidating assignment of warden at Sing Sing. Lawes wanted the job and campaigned for it, but he knew what he was up against; he was the seventh warden in four years. In his first address to the men, he even joked about the impermanence: "If you want to get out of this place quickly, you have to come in as warden." The men laughed, but they also heard from him that they would get privileges that they earned, and that as the warden walked the yard he wanted to be addressed on any subject they liked. He believed in sunshine, open air, sports and music as civilizing influences. His sports efforts became legendary. The Sing Sing Orioles played the New York Yankees (with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig) at Lawes Field in 1929 (Yankees 15, Orioles 3). The outcomes of the games didn't much matter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on March 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lewis Lawes was the warden of Sing Sing prison for nearly 25 years when previous wardens lasted a period of a few months to a few years. Those who were jealous of Warden Lawes criticized his methods of running the prison with his belief in treating the prisoners with respect and dignity while still maintaining discipline through mutual respect. Although several individuals walked to their death in the prison's electric chair Lawes was an opponent of the death penalty. He also felt it sad that several prisoners had to go to prison in order to learn a trade rather than in an educational system outside the prison. Since most of the prisoners never had an education beyond the sixth grade they should have been able to acquire a trade when academics was not suited to them. He often referred to the men in the prison as his "boys" and while in New York City he and his wife may have been in a restaurant when the waiter came over to them and said the meal was "on the chef", one of Lawes's former "boys." The same held true when riding in a taxi. The driver would say the ride was on him, one of the warden's former "boys." Lawes felt a special kinship towards the men he was in control of, and he felt personally offended and disappointed when in April of 1941 the worst breakout in Sing Sing's history occurred and two guards were killed. The inevitable criticism took place saying that Lawes was too lenient with his prisoners, but Lawes was not found to be at fault in what took place. Nevertheless, Lawes felt let down by what happened and he resigned shortly thereafter.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is inspiring about how one man positively effected the lives of many inmates. And what I enjoyed the most was the insight into the hearts and minds of so many men who were about to be executed. Information that is impossible to get elsewhere. Well done I say!
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By cj. robinson on December 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Item arrived before estimated arrival date, item looked brand new, I will definitely purchase from this place again! I'am very pleased with my item!
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