English colonists who settled in the Connecticut Colony employed a patriarchal system of justice with town leaders creating early laws. Colonial crimes included blasphemy, idleness, adultery, and stealing, and the punishments were harsh and swift. Branding, ear cropping, dunking, and public stocks and whipping posts located on town greens were common ways to create social control. By the late 18th century, however, views on corporal punishment began to change and officials opened the state’s first prison in an abandoned mine in Simsbury (now East Granby) where those incarcerated would serve time for their crimes. In 1827 the state opened the Connecticut State Prison in Wethersfield to house prisoners and in 1963 relocated prisoners to the modern Osborn Correctional Institute in Somers.
More on Crime and Punishment from the CT Digital ArchiveBrowse more interactive content on the CT Digital Archive website.
Gerald Chapman: America’s First “Public Enemy Number One”
On October 12, 1924, in New Britain, Connecticut, Gerald Chapman... …[more]
Connecticut State Library. “Executions in Connecticut Since 1894,” 2005. Link.
Connecticut State Library. “Research Guide to the ‘Amistad Affair,’” 2016. Link.
Yale University, The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition. “The Black Law of Connecticut (1833) - Citizens ALL: African Americans in Connecticut 1700-1850 - PDF,” 2016. Link.
Connecticut State Library. “Wethersfield Prison Records Warrants - Database,” 2016. Link.
Department of Economic & Community Development. “Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine,” 2017. Link.
“Broadside - Fugitive Slave AD - Ten Dollars Reward!,” 1803. Connecticut History Illustrated, Connecticut Historical Society. Link.
Connecticut State Library Digital Collections. “Collection: Samuel Wyllys Papers - Depositions on Cases of Witchcraft, Assault, Theft, Drunkenness, and Other Crimes Tried in Connecticut 1663-1728.,” 2011. Link.
Caron, Denis. A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave. Hanover, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2006.
Phelps, Richard. A History of Newgate of Connecticut, at Simsbury, Now East Granby: Its Insurrections and Massacres, the Imprisonment of the Tories in the Revolution, and the Working of Its Mines Also, Some Account of the State Prison at Wethersfield. Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1860. Link.
Phelps, Noah A. A History of the Copper Mines and Newgate Prison, at Granby, Conn. Also, of the Captivity of Daniel Hays, of Granby, by the Indians, in 1707. Hartford, CT: Case, Tiffany & Burnham, 1815. Link.
Steenburg, Nancy Hathaway. Children and the Criminal Law in Connecticut, 1635-1855: Changing Perceptions of Childhood. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005.
Boynton, Cynthia Wolf. Connecticut Witch Trials: The First Panic in the New World. Charleson, SC: The History Press, 2014.
Connecticut State Library. Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1662/1663-1789 - Six Volumes and Index. Connecticut Archives Series 1. Hartford, CT: Connecticut General Assembly, 1913. Link.
Connecticut State Library, and Connecticut. General Assembly. Crimes and Misdemeanors. Second Series, 1671-1820 Five Volumes and Index: Index. Connecticut Archives Series 2. Hartford, CT: Connecticut General Assembly, 1970. Link.
Phelps, Richard. Newgate of Connecticut: Its Origin and Early History. Being a Full Description of the Famous and Wonderful Simsbury Mines and Caverns, and the Prison Built Over Them. Hartford, CT: American Publishing Company, 1876. Link.
Domonell, William. Newgate, from Copper Mine to State Prison: A History. Simsbury, CT: Simsbury Historical Society, 1998.
Goodheart, Lawrence B. The Solemn Sentence of Death: Capital Punishment in Connecticut. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.
Taylor, John M. The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, 1647-1697. New York, NY: Grafton Press, 1908. Link.
Tomlinson, R. G. Witchcraft Prosecution: Chasing the Devil in Connecticut. Rockland, ME: Picton Press, 2012.
Wilson, Jenny. “Battling Bootleggers, Rum Runners and Secret Supplies of Hooch: Prohibition Era’s Dry Squads and Patrol Boats Struggled to Stop the Illegal Flow of Liquor.” Hartford Courant, April 25, 2014, sec. Moments In History | Courant 250. Link.
Leavenworth, Jesse. “Bungled Heist Of Silk Shipment Left Security Guard Dead.” Hartford Courant, April 7, 2014, sec. Moments In History | Courant 350. Link.