Built in 1844, it originally served as a site where prisoners were used to work in local mines in both Dannemora and nearby Lyon Mountain. This enterprise would not be profitable, and by 1877, mining had ended, and the prisoners were put to work on other trades. With this change, the prison experienced growth, and in 1887 it was given new concrete walls more than 60 feet (18 m) tall that still stand. In 1892, the first prisoner was executed in the electric chair at the prison, beginning the use of capital punishment at Clinton Correctional. Twenty six men were executed between 1892 and 1913. This period also saw many prisoners cured of tuberculosis due in part to the clean air in the Adirondacks, leading to the importation of prisoners with this disease from other prisons.
In 1899, a mental health facility, the Dannemora State Hospital, was built on the grounds to house prisoners who became insane while serving their sentence. Such prisoners were retained in the facility if they remained insane following the completion of their sentence.
In 1929, Clinton Correctional witnessed a riot which, coupled with riots in other prisons in that year, led to prison reform in New York State. This led to the building of schools in the prison, and the renovation or rebuilding of most of the structures within the prison walls, making the facility more modern. The Church of St. Dismas, the Good Thief was built from 1939 to 1941; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. In the later half of the 20th century, the prison's mental institutions closed and were converted into an annex to house more prisoners.
Notable inmates (in alphabetical order of last name)
Michael Alig: 10-year sentence due to murder of his drug dealer in the late 1990s.
Anthony Brasmeister: 25 years to life, at the age if 17, for the double murder of a 13 year old and 15 year old teens outside of Amsterdam, New York in 2012.
Robert Chambers: the "preppy murderer", who served much of his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility for the manslaughter conviction of Jennifer Levin, as well as a later sentence for drug possession after heroin was found in his cell and new criminal charges were brought.
Jeffrey Conroy: was convicted April 19, 2010 of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime for fatally stabbing Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. He was the first person to be convicted of a hate crime for a death in Suffolk County Long Island.
Gregory Corso: Italian-American poet, one the inner circle of "The Beat Generation" along with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Sentenced at 17, Corso served about three years for stealing a suit.
Vincent Johnson, serial killer known as "Brooklyn Strangler": Serving a life sentence for the murders of five prostitutes in 1999 and 2000.
Marlon Legere: Serving life without parole in connection with the shooting deaths of NYPD detectives Robert Parker and Patrick Rafferty in Brooklyn.
Charles "Lucky" Luciano: One of the driving forces behind the development of Italian organized crime in the United States served 10 years of a 30- to 50-year sentence for running a prostitution ring before being deported to Italy after World War II.
Maino: Rapper from Brooklyn, New York City, charged for numerous street and gunpoint crimes.
Francesco (Ferrante) Pronio: Convicted of the Murder of his mistress on December 12, 1928. He was sentenced to the Electric Chair, but in April 1930 Governor Roosevelt pronounced him to be Insane and sentenced him to ClintonCorrectional Facility. He was to be electrocuted if he ever was pronounced sane. He died in the institution in 1968 at 81 years old.
Joel Rifkin: referred to as "Joel the Ripper" by tabloids after a five-year killing spree. Murdered 17 women, and is serving 203 years to life.
Luis Rosado: Inmate charged with the murder of Larry Davis (who shot six police officers in 1986) at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility during recreation.
Altemio Sanchez (also known as The Bike Path Rapist): American serial killer who murdered at least three women and raped at least 14 others in and around Buffalo, New York, over a span of 25 years (1981–2006).
2Pac (real name Tupac Shakur): Served 9 months on a sexual abuse conviction from February to October 1995 before being released on appeal.
Shyne (real name Moses Michael Leviy): Beginning in 2001, served a sentence of 8 to 10 years on convictions of assault, criminal weapons possession, and reckless endangerment. Released and deported back to his native Belize
Eric Smith: Convicted of killing and sexually assaulting a four-year-old boy at age 13.
Carmelo Soraci (forger): Convicted of forgery. Served 10 years. Stain glass window artist for the St. Demas Church at Denamora.
Martin Tankleff: Former Belle Terre, New York resident freed after his conviction for killing his wealthy parents Arlene and Seymour Tankleff was overturned citing evidence that others committed the murders.
John Taylor: Sentenced to death for shooting seven employees of a Wendy's restaurant in Queens, New York City, killing five and seriously injuring two. Taylor was re-sentenced to life without parole.
Lee Van Glahn: Currently serving a life sentence plus 54 years to life for the murder of two Brooklyn prostitutes and the rape, sodomy and attempted murder for a third prostitute in Brooklyn. Convicted in 2005.
Joel Steinberg: Attorney convicted for the abuse of his common law wife, Hedda Nussbaum, and the abuse murder of his four-year-old stepdaughter.