Research


New York House of Refuge Inmate Case Histories

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
The New York House of Refuge was the first juvenile reformatory in the United States. During its existence from 1825 to 1935, the institution implemented many innovative programs for the detention, education, and rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. This series contains detailed information, including personal, family, and criminal history, regarding each inmate (male and female) admitted to the institution.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
70 cubic feet (106 volumes)
Inclusive Dates:
1824-1935
Series Number:
A2064

Arrangement

This series is arranged chronologically by admission date. Case histories are numbered consecutively.

Scope and Content Note

This series provides detailed information regarding the personal, family, and criminal history of inmates admitted to the New York House of Refuge during its one hundred and ten years of operation. The format and contents of the histories vary over time, reflecting the implementation and revision of standard forms used to gather data. Certain data is found in the bulk of the histories: age and place of birth; education; habits; criminal history; parents' names and addresses; description of home (after 1878); parents' occupations (after 1878); conduct after discharge (after 1878); physical description (after 1907); and parole and recommittal information (after 1907).

From 1824 to 1878 (volumes 1-37), most of the case history was compiled in narrative format at the time of admission. These narrative histories include parents' names, address, and nativity; inmate's age, place of birth, and former residence; inmate's prior involvement with the criminal justice system; inmate's prior education; name of court or other agency that made the commitment; "bad habits" such as patronizing theaters or circuses or staying out late; and keeping "bad company," especially with other inmates.

Narrative histories written prior to 1860 often include estimates of an inmate's character and intelligence, including notes on the inmate's grade level and habits of school attendance or truancy. Histories compiled beginning in the 1870s reflect increased concern for literacy and vocational aptitude, and information can be found regarding the inmate's prior work experience and parents' occupations.

These narrative histories are supplemented by "remarks" containing information about the status and progress of an inmate after admission. Remarks relate to a wide variety of topics: punishments or improvements in behavior; indentureship, including master's name, residence, occupation, and occasional reports on inmate behavior; escapes and recommittals; visits and letters from former inmates; and school and vocational training progress.

Beginning in 1878 (volume 38), the narrative histories are supplemented by a printed standard form titled "Examination of the Home." Filled out by a parole agent at the time of admission, these forms contain the following information: inmate's name and age; examiner's name and date of visit to inmate's home; inmate's home address and whether or not it was a tenement; description of the residence, including number of rooms, level on which an apartment was located, quality of furnishings, and number and ages of family members living there; parents' or step-parents' names, occupations, and habits regarding alcohol; indication of whether or not mother and father lived together and if living separately, the reason for separation; inmate's level of education and habits regarding attendance or truancy; and record of inmate's prior arrests.

The standard forms also feature a space for "remarks" regarding the inmate's home environment. Relatives or neighbors are often noted as the source of information in this "remarks" section. Finally, the forms contain a section titled "Examination after Discharge" used for entering information about the former inmate's adjustment to home, school, and/or job after release from the institution. However, this part of the form is rarely completed beyond the name and address of the former inmate, and frequently there is a notation that the former inmate could not be found.

Case histories compiled during the period from 1907 until the close of the institution are recorded on elaborate, four-page standard forms. The first page contains basic admission data; the second page contains information on home examinations; the third page updates previous information after a recommittal; and the fourth page, titled "Notes while under supervision or parole," contains short narrative entries. Beginning in the late 1920s, few entries were made after the first page.

The first, or admission page includes the following information: admission date; house and case history number; judge, court, and details of offense; age at admission and year when twenty-one years old; assignment data, including original assignment to a division and subsequent transferrals; appearance, including skin color, hair color, build (rarely filled in), and facial features; height; identifying marks, scars, and tatoos; parents' names, whether or not still living, nativity, duration of United States residence, occupation, whether living together, religion, and alcohol or tobacco habits; comments on home conditions; home address at admission and subsequent changes; previous arrests, including number and offense; school record prior to commitment, including attendance record, whether literate in English, grade level in public school, grade assigned in reformatory and subsequent promotion; and siblings' names, sex, age, school attendance, whether employed, and whether living at home.

The second page contains information on home examinations, usually including a pre-parole examination and another examination after parole. Data includes name of parole officer and date of visit; general characteristics of the home environment, such as "very good, well kept, neat"; more extensive notes on the home environment; a section titled "pre-parole work examination" with spaces for entering information about employer's name and address, the character of the business, the type of work to be done by the parolee, and the terms of the parole; and a section for information about bank accounts opened for inmates or personal property held in trust by the superintendent. The third page of the standard form contains information entered when a paroled or discharged inmate was recommitted. The entries on this page provide updated information gathered from new home, pre-parole, and parole examinations.

The final page of the standard form is a blank, lined sheet titled "Notes While under Supervision on Parole." This page contains very brief narrative entries, probably made by the parole officer. Entries include the following types of information: notes on interviews with the inmate; orders for a home examination; notes on time remaining until discharge; decisions that the inmate is "unfit" due to chronic physical or mental health problems or behavioral disorders; notes that a parolee was arrested or otherwise abused parole privileges; and cross references to pages in parole journals.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Inmate case records are generally disclosable 75 years after date of discharge, but some information in case records of any date may be exempt from disclosure pursuant to Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL (Public Officers Law, Article 6), sect. 84-90; and Personal Privacy Protection Law, or PPPL (Public Officers Law, Article 6-A), sect. 91-99. For this reason, microfilm containing case records less than 100 years old is not available through interlibrary loan.

Alternate Formats Available

Microform is available at the New York State Archives through interlibrary loan.

Related Information

Other finding aids

Each volume in the series includes a name index. Cumulative alphabetical indexes covering volumes 1-31 (1824-1869) are available in original paper format only.

Custodial History

The Department of Correction placed these records on loan to the Syracuse University Library from 1960-1977. The department's successor agency, the Department of Correctional Services, reacquired the records and subsequently transferred them to the State Archives.

Access Terms

Corporate Name(s):
Geographic Name(s):
Subject(s):
Genre(s):
Function(s):

Detailed Description

Dates Contents Box Volume Roll

Accretion: A2064-78
1824-1825 Volume 1, 1-69 1 1 1
1825-1827 Volume 2, 70-328 1 2 1
1827-1829 Volume 3, 331-574 1 3 1
1829-1830 Volume 4, 575-799 1 4 1
1830-1832 Volume 5, 800-1077 2 5 2
1832-1834 Volume 6, 1078-1325 2 6 2
1834-1835 Volume 7, 1326-1595 2 7 2
1835-1836 Volume 8, 1596-1808 2 8 2
1836-1838 Volume 9, 1809-2118 2 9 3
1838-1839 Volume 10, 2119-2393 3 10 3
1839-1841 Volume 11, 2394-2655 3 11 3
1841-1842 Volume 12, 2656-2951 3 12 4
1842-1843 Volume 13, 2952-3290 3 13 4
1843-1845 Volume 14, 3291-3603 4 14 4
1845-1846 Volume 15, 3604-3867 4 15 4-5
1846-1847 Volume 16, 3868-4133 4 16 5
1847-1849 Volume 17, 4134-4468 5 17 5
1849-1850 Volume 18, 4469-4813 5 18 5
1850-1851 Volume 19, 4814-5153 6 19 5
1851-1852 Volume 20, 5154-5430 7 20 6
1852-1853 Volume 21, 5431-5932 7 21 6
1853-1855 Volume 22, 5933-6480 8 22 6
1855-1856 Volume 23, 6481-6852 8 23 6
1856-1857 Volume 24, 6853-7229 9 24 7
1857-1860 Volume 25, 7230-8094 10 25 7
1860-1862 Volume 26, 8095-9047 11 26 8
1862-1864 Volume 27, 9048-9869 12 27 9
1864-1865 Volume 28, 9872-10712 13 28 10
1865-1866 Volume 29, 10713-11571 14 29 10
1866-1868 Volume 30, 11573-12439 15 30 11
1869-1871 Volume 32, 13295-14147 17 32 12
1881-1882 Volume 41, 19770-20233 17 41 17
1871-1873 Volume 33, 14148-14995 18 33 13
1873-1875 Volume 34, 14996-15827 18 34 13
1875-1876 Volume 35, 15828-16663 19 35 14
1877-1878 Volume 37, 17496-18335 19 37 15
1876-1877 Volume 36, 16664-17495 20 36 15
1878-1879 Volume 38, 18336-18815 21 38 16
1882-1883 Volume 43, 20713-21194 21 43 18
1883-1884 Volume 44, 21195-21679 25 44 19
1884-1885 Volume 45, 21680-22153 25 45 19
1885-1886 Volume 46, 22154-22628 26 46 20
1886-1887 Volume 47, 22629-23106 26 47 20
1887-1889 Volume 48, 23107-23584 27 48 21
1889-1890 Volume 49, 23585-24110 27 49 21
1891-1892 Volume 50, 24111-24562 28 50 22
1892-1894 Volume 51, 24563-25012 29 51 22
1894-1895 Volume 52, 25013-25457 30 52 23
1895-1896 Volume 53, 25458-25908 31 53 23
1896 Volume 54, 25909-26358 32 54 24
1896-1897 Volume 55, 26359-26856 33 55 24
1897-1899 Volume 56, 26857-27358 34 56 25
1899-1900 Volume 57, 27359-27830 35 57 25
1900-1901 Volume 58, 27831-28330 36 58 26
1901-1902 Volume 59, 28331-28828 37 59 26
1902-1903 Volume 60, 28829-29325 38 60 27
1907-1908 Volume 64, 30775-30965 42 64 30
1908 Volume 65, 30966-31155 43 65 30
1908-1909 Volume 66, 31156-31347 44 66 31
1909 Volume 67, 31348-31537 45 67 31
1909-1910 Volume 68, 31538-31749 46 68 32
1910-1911 Volume 69, 31750-31965 47 69 33
1911-1913 Volume 70, 31966-32180 48 70 33
1913 Volume 71, 32181-32393 49 71 34
1913-1914 Volume 72, 32394-32573 50 72 34
1914 Volume 73, 32574-32745 50 73 35
1914-1915 Volume 74, 32746-33077 51 74 35
1915 Volume 75, 33078-33404 52 75 36
1915-1916 Volume 76, 33405-33625 53 76 36
1916-1917 Volume 77, 33626-33843 53 77 37
1917 Volume 78, 33844-34063 54 78 37
1917-1918 Volume 79, 34064-34281 55 79 38
1918 Volume 80, 34282-34495 56 80 38
1918-1919 Volume 81, 34496-34700 57 81 39
1925-1926 Volume 89, 36192-36301 57 89 42
1919 Volume 82, 34701-34873 58 82 39
1919-1920 Volume 83, 34874-35045 59 83 39
1922-1924 Volume 86, 35650-35866 62 86 41
1924-1925 Volume 87, 35867-36072 63 87 41
1925 Volume 88, 36073-36191 64 88 42
1928 Volume 94, 36881-37054 64 94 43
1926 Volume 90, 36302-36420 65 90 42
1926-1927 Volume 91, 36421-36563 65 91 42
1927 Volume 92, 36564-36706 66 92 43
1927-1928 Volume 93, 36707-36880 66 93 43
1928-1929 Volume 95, 37055-37222 67 95 44
1929-1930 Volume 96, 37223-37387 67 96 44
1930 Volume 97, 37388-37553 68 97 44
1930-1931 Volume 98, 37554-37708 68 98 45
1931 Volume 99, 37709-37868 69 99 45
1931 Volume 100, 37869-38029 69 100 45
1931-1932 Volume 101, 38030-38191 70 101 46
1932 Volume 102, 38192-38353 70 102 46
1932-1933 Volume 103, 38354-38514 71 103 46-47
1933 Volume 104, 38515-38675 71 104 47
1933-1934 Volume 105, 38676-38871 72 105 47
1934-1935 Volume 106, 38872-39067 72 106 47
1868-1869 Volume 31A, 12440-12899 16A 31A 12
1868-1869 Volume 31B, 12900-13294 16B 31B 12
1879-1880 Volume 39A, 18816-18976 22A 39A 16
1879-1880 Volume 39B, 18977-19292 22B 39B 16
1880-1881 Volume 40A, 19293-19530 23A 40A 17
1880-1881 Volume 40B, 19531-19769 23B 40B 17
1882 Volume 42A, 20234-20454 24A 42A 18
1882 Volume 42B, 20455-20712 24B 42B 18
1903-1904 Volume 61A, 29326-29544 39A 61A 28
1903-1904 Volume 61B, 29545-29818 39B 61B 28
1904-1905 Volume 62A, 29819-30070 40A 62A 28
1904-1905 Volume 62B, 30071-30308 40B 62B 28
1905-1907 Volume 63A, 30309-30538 41A 63A 29
1905-1907 Volume 63B, 30539-30774 41B 63B 29
1920-1921 Volume 84A, 35046-35187 60A 84A 40
1920-1921 Volume 84B, 35188-35350 60B 84B 40
1921-1922 Volume 85A, 35351-35486 61A 85A 40
1921-1922 Volume 85B, 35487-35649 61B 85B 40-41