The New York House of Refuge was the first juvenile reformatory established in the United States. The reformatory was opened in 1824 on the Bowery in Manhattan, New York City, destroyed by a fire in 1839, and relocated first to Twenty-Third Street and then, in 1854, to Randalls Island.
Through its 111-year history the reformatory was privately funded, receiving only guidance, supervision and additional funding from state agencies.
James W. Gerard and Isaac Collins of the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism conceived of the idea for the House of Refuge in 1822. Gerard visited prisons, conferred with justices and criminal lawyers, and in 1822 submitted a proposal to the Society for the establishment of a reformatory for juveniles that would segregate them from adult prisoners. The Society appointed John Griscom to chair a committee to draw up a detailed plan for the facility. Other members of the committee were Isaac Collins, Cornelius Dubois, James W. Gerard, Hiram Ketchum, and Eleazer Lord. On December 19, 1823 Griscom submitted a detailed report that was enthusiastically adopted by Cadwallader Colden and thirty managers of the Society. Funds were privately raised and on March 29, 1824, by an act of New York State legislature, the Society was merged into the House of Refuge.
One of the inmates of the House of Refuge was Austin Reed, whose posthumously published memoir The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict recounted, in part, his tenure in the institution in the 1830s.
The institution drew acclaim from touring French prison reformers Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831, and writer Charles Dickens, who described it approvingly in his 1842 American Notes. The institution was also examined in an 1871 report of a New York State Commission on Prison Labor, considering the relationship of prison labor to free-market labor.
Architect and construction engineer R.G. Hatfield (1815 - 1879) designed the House of Refuge's vast new 1854 building on Randalls Island, following a fire at the previous Manhattan location.
Beginning in 1901 female inmates were removed to the newly opened New York State Reformatory for Women, now the Taconic Correctional Facility. In the 1930s, younger male inmates (ages 12 to 15) were transferred to the new state training school at Warwick, and the older boys to the newly constructed state prison in Coxsackie. The House of Refuge closed on May 11, 1935.
The New York House of Refuge was the first juvenile reformatory in the nation. ...