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From Houses of Refuge to 'Youth Corrections': Same Story, Different Day

NCJ Number
Randall G. Shelden
Date Published
31 pages
This paper presents an overview of the historical development of young offender institutions and the abuses within the walls of these institutions from the first concept of 'houses of refuge' to today's youth correctional prisons.
Over 180 years ago the first of a long line of prisons specifically designed for young offenders was created in New York City, called the New York House of Refuge. The creators called it a school. The aims of the house of refuge, as noted under a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court decision, were to reform the youth within the house and separate them from the corrupting influences of improper associates. What was learned through subsequent investigations was an enormous amount of abuse existed within these institutions along with a failure to provide any semblance of reform. The abuses continued throughout the years within the institutions that followed, such as training schools, detention centers, reception and diagnostic facilities, and youth correctional institutions (prisons). Today, similar scandals are seeb in more modern institutions such as the California Youth Authority (CYA). This paper summarizes the most recent scandals of the CYA and similar institutions and identifies linkages to the earlier houses of refuge; a legacy of almost 200 years of juvenile imprisonment. Table, references, and notes