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HAND BOOK of the New York State Reformatory At Elmira.

By Fred C. Allen, Private Secretary to the Board of Managers

This Handbook includes excerpts from board of manager’s reports and an abstract of laws relating to the reformatory.

The Summary Press 1916
Online Reprint by Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice 2004

The New York State Reformatory at Elmira

 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

By F. C. Allen



General Superintendent.

The last century witnessed a wonderful development in the social life of the nation. The poor are now aided by governmental, individual and organized charity; so that the beggar is fast disappearing from our midst. Hospitals have been provided for the sick, and homes for the incurable, aged, and infirm. The hours of the workingman have been shortened, child labor curtailed, the conditions of laboring women improved, together with more cleanly and sanitary conditions of living.

A Dorothy Dix showed the way, and the lunatic is now properly cared for; the epileptic and the feeble minded are also within the fold our most tender care. A Howe gave his life to the blind, and a Gallaudet to the deaf mute, making it possible for a Helen Keller to graduate from Radcliffe. All of this manifests the marvelous advancement made in the last century, the great burden of which is cheerfully borne by a generous people in their prosperity. Even now the criminal, the most despised and the longest neglected of all our unfortunate classes, is receiving an attention un-thought of at the beginning of the century. Through all the past he has been the subject of retributive punishment alone; once a criminal, always an outcast; increasing steadily in numbers under repressive measures until he became a menace to civilization.

It is needless for me to picture to you the condition of our prisons and the treatment of criminals of a century ago. Nowhere has the advancement been made in dealing with these dangerous unfortunates, that has been made in this country. To be sure, Maconochie, rich in his experience at Norfolk Island, outlines to a committee of the British Parliament, measures and methods akin to those in vogue in our country to-day, and Sir Walker Crofton was successful in incorporating like methods in the prison system of Ireland; but the belief that many prisoners, under proper treatment may be reformed, has taken deeper root in the American mind than in any other part of the world; so that belief in the possibility of the reformation of the criminal may properly be called the American idea in penology.

This belief in the possibility of the reformation of the criminal gave the Auburn and Pennsylvania penitentiary systems to the world; but it was only a trifle over a quarter of a century ago, through the efforts of such men as Doctor Dwight, Doctor Wines and Mr. Brockway of New York, that the underlying principles of a strictly reformatory system, advocated by Macononchie, and vitalized by the then new indeterminate sentence, were incorporated in the statues establishing the New York State Reformatory at Elmira; giving a new trend to the whole penological system of the country and resulting in the adoption of this system by twelve different states in the Union.

The advocates of the reformatory system maintain that society has the right to incarcerate criminals for its own protection, and not for their punishment; that under the indefinite sentence, the criminal should be restored to society when he has demonstrated his fitness to gain live in society without being a menace to it, and no sooner; in distinction from the old method that after a period of confinement for punishment he should be released to gain prey upon society, whether he be reformed or not. The advocates of the reformatory system do not believe that all prisoners are susceptible to reformation. They do not believe that crime is a disease; but, a physician, in the treatment of his diseased patient, recognizes that there is in some, congenital disease which, though he may not cure, he can in a degree alleviate; he also knows that there are others, forming the bulk of those coming under his observation, who are afflicted with acute disease which, in skilful hands, may be eradicated; and that there are still others who, through neglect, have fastened upon them, disease in its chronic form.

In like manner we believe that there may be congenital criminals, who continue through life as such. In these the manifestations of criminality develop early, and they may be found at a tender age, in the reform schools; afterwards in the reformatories for adults; passing on, and ending their existence in state prisons. And there are others who, by neglect, or improper treatment, pass on into the realm of the habitual criminal. The great bulk of the criminals, however, who may be classified as criminals of environment, are susceptible, under proper treatment and training, to reformation. If reformatories founded upon these principles, have not accomplished the work expected of them, it is due rather to the un-thoroughness in the administration of methods, and the inability to place the proper laws upon our statute books for the execution of those methods, than to any defect in the principles themselves.

The indeterminate sentence, to achieve its full effectiveness, should be relived of its maximum limit which, in many cases, is now altogether too short to carry with it much reformative influence. It has been may observation that the higher the maximum limit in any particular case, the greater has been the incentive and effort on the part of the prisoner toward reformation.

Under the present penal code of this state it is possible, and largely a practice in many of our courts, for criminals, guilty of serious crime, to be allowed to make a plea to an attempt to commit crime, and receive sentence therefore. Out of the 1,059 inmates sentenced to the New York State reformatory, last year, 361 were sentenced for an attempt to commit the crime with which they were charged.

The greater number of these were for attempts to commit burglary and grand larceny in the degree carrying a maximum of two and one-half years, which is altogether too short a maximum to have much reformative influence.

The advocates of the indeterminate sentence, accepted the present limitation as a compromise; they have demonstrated what they can achieve, hedged about by these limitations. The community ought now to insist upon, and the legislature ought now to allow the indefinite sentence in its entirety. If the contention of those believing in the reformatory system, is right, and the theory of the indeterminate sentence is correct, a person arrested and brought before a magistrate, for crime, should not receive a sentence as punishment for that crime; but the evidence of his having committed crime should be taken as a symptom of the person’s criminality, and the magistrate, by such evidence of his having committed crime, should adjudge him a criminal and commit him to prison in precisely the same way as he adjudges a person to be insane and commits him to a lunatic hospital. There the criminal should remain, like the lunatic, for life if need be, unless his sooner release would be safe to society.

It has been contended by many that the indefinite sentence allows the release of criminals too soon, but it is a fact, that in every state where the indeterminate sentence has been given trial, the average term of imprisonment has increased instead of diminished. It is also contended that the power of the release of prisoners should not be left to the prison authorities, they being a part of the executive branch of the government.

We reply that the authorities having the oversight of a criminal during a long period, are better qualified to judge of the time of his release, than the committing magistrate, who, at the best, observes him for a period of only a few hours. We believe that the people have no more to fear from the unwise discharge of prisoners by the executive officers trained in this line of work, that they have from their judicial officers.

The reformatory methods have now been on trail long enough to invite consideration of their results. If they have attained what could be reasonable expected under the imperfect conditions imposed upon them, may we not plead for further progress in this direction?......

The reformatory system appeals to its advocates as being a reasonable, scientific, practical, and Christian way of dealing with criminals. Its methods should be extended and their application made general. No longer should justice be represented by the figure of a woman with bandaged eyes, holding in her hands scales weighing out justice and punishing the guilty; but the figure should represent universal motherhood, with eyes wide open to the possibilities of humanity and a heart throbbing with compassion and mercy toward her unfortunate children.


The following extracts from reports in the years 1900, 1904, and 1914-1915, respectively, aside from what is shown as to the general organization and administration of the institution, are interesting for comparison methods in vogue at different periods, for dealing with troublesome prisoners, viz:

First. Physical disciplinary treatment (commonly known as corporal punishment) for repression, or stimulation, without segregation.

Second. Segregation, without corporal punishment or special training.

Third. Segregation without corporal punishment, but with special training.

hand book

extract from annual report of 1900

by z. r. brockway

General superintendent

The total of benefits desirable and possible by punishing or imprisoning offenders is included in the purpose of the public protection.

Of convicted culprits, the only complete protection is their reformation. To perpetually imprison them or destroy them is either costly or demoralizing to the community.

Reformations serviceable to the state are of habitudes, tastes and capabilities from the anti-social predatory to orderly, legitimately productive inhabitants.

The vital principle of such reformation is training by doing.

The essential characteristic attainments are self-regulating power, true perceiving with wise choosing for personal welfare, and good skill and ability to learn.

The field of reformation with each prisoner is, subjectively, the human organism, the mind and the feelings, or moral impulse; objectively considered, it is his economic relations, his personal habits and associations, and his worth to any community.

The truest test and evidence of reformation is had in actual performance observed and recorded while under training in seclusion, and again when released conditionally, but living at large.

The pre-requisities and facilities for such reformations are:

  1. Indeterminate sentence committal of prisoners, with its conditional release clause, substantially as at Elmira, but without the maximum limitation feature of the reformatory law.
  2. A marking system and accounting with each prisoner, which should include wage-earning necessity, with expenditure opportunity.
  3. Trades school so comprehensive and complete that each prisoner pupil shall learn and practice the occupation best for him to follow on his release.
  4. School of letters, covering instruction from the kindergarten grade to and including the academic, together with a supplemental lecture course.
  5. Military organization, training and drill, embracing every inmate not disqualified.
  6. Physical culture and well appointed gymnasium with bath and massage appliances for scientific use to renovate the physical man, compensate asymmetries and augment vital energies.
  7. Manual training proper, with tool work, etc., for use to aid recovery from discovered specific physical defects.
  8. For more direct appeal to the moral and spiritual consciousness, there should be provided a library of carefully selected and wisely distributed books, with class study of literature and authors; art education by use of the stereopticon, with lectures, and, when practicable, occasional art exhibitions carefully selected and explained; music, both vocal and instrumental, always high class, given and practiced to quicken sensibilities and for refinement; oratory directed to inspire heroism and patriotism; these together with religious services and ministrations.
The principles of good reformatory administration should include:
  1. Custody so secure that prisoners do not occupy their minds with thoughts or plans for escape.
  2. Control and management (within the law) by the constituted institutional authority, without interference or "influence" of outside persons. When the state undertakes the reclamation of criminals, benevolent societies and individuals rendering voluntary assistant, should serve under advice; the state is competent and responsible.
  3. There must be a resident executive officer in full command, vested with good authority and wide discretionary power.
  4. Subordinate officers and employees should be appointed and dismissed by such executive at his pleasure. They should be completely and exclusively under his control, and their functions should be limited to his direction.
  5. The entire life of the prisoner should be directed, not left to the prisoner himself; all his waking hours and activities, bodily and mental habits, also, to the utmost possible extent his emotional exercises. So thorough and rigorous should this be that unconscious cerebration, waking or sleeping, will go on under momentum of mental habits. There should be no time nor opportunity for the prisoner to revert to vicious characteristics.
To such reformatory training the reasonable cooperation of, say, eighty per cent of the prisoners can be secured by moral means alone; but for the remainder something more is required, and it is most important that the intractable remainder be recovered. They constitute the dangerous twentieth of the prison population, whose release unreformed is of itself wrong, indeed a crime. Moreover, these intractable prisoners do, by their misconduct and their opposition or indifference to the means provided for their reformation, hurt others and hinder the usefulness to the state of the reformatory itself. For this comparatively small contingent, of a prison population, when moral considerations fail to influence them, another appeal must be made through some form of coercive discipline. Deprivation of or indulgence in the common physical comforts of living will assist to resolve some; others will respond to short periods of seclusion, with or without extreme deprivations and restricted diet the while; yet others, always some, cannot adjust their conduct without severe and sharp treatment; but the total of very refractory prisoners in a reformatory depends much upon the kind of use made of moral means and mild coercives.

The most intractable of them may be treated in any one of three ways; They may be removed to another prison; they may be secluded and abandoned to themselves within the prison where they are confined; or physical treatment may be used to recover them. There is no fourth alternative, for to lower the standard of performance for all to the level of the worst of the prisoners, but turns a reformatory into a common jail prison.

Removal of troublesome prisoners to another prison is not only no remedy, but an evil. Their apparent triumph confirms them in misconduct and incites others remaining to similar misbehavior. This plan might be more satisfactory if all the prisons were under centralized control; each, one of a graduated series of prisons, and if the full indeterminate sentence, in place of the present half-way measure, could be the uniform condition of imprisonment.

Equally unsatisfactory is the second plan named and for quite the same considerations, together with the additional very serious difficulty of the disturbance and evil influence of their disorderly behavior, and the injury to health of body and mind sure to result from continued cellular confinement under the most favorable conditions consonant with any tolerable state of affairs throughout the prison establishment.

The necessary repression in treatment is had without injury only when it is derived from invigorating measures. To proceed to repress the evil alone, without supplying at the same time a tonic for good, is destructive. The bracing disciplinary measures supply both; repression being incidental, stimulation the main reliance for recovery. Physical treatment for correction by invigoration finds its last resort in the shock of some brief physical pain. The ingenuity of man devising so-called punishments for recalcitrants everywhere has apparently been expended mainly for repressive pains rather than those that stimulate and strengthen. Of the latter, there are three common forms, namely; shocks by douche, by electricity, and by spanking. The douche is difficult to regulate. Electricity is dangerous. The only harmless, stimulating physical treatment is, for such as much suffer it, the safest and surest, that which has always been used, rarely abused, the too much contemned measure, spanking. Conferred authority to use this means, shown by occasional applications of it, greatly reduces the number of occasions when the physical treatment is needed.

The actual usefulness to the state, of a reformatory, greatly depends, always, on the man who is the executive head, on his appreciation and devotion, his ability and tact, together with the exclusiveness of industry with which he applies himself to administrative duties. To hamper and belittle his position is unwise.

Administrative details cannot be well conducted by any remote non-resident authority or agency, and it is impossible to maintain with efficiency the numerous departments and the delicate adjustment of them in a well organized reformatory if there is divided executive control.

extract from board of managers’ report

for 1904


Many people when they speak of the "discipline" of an institution mean nothing more than the preservation of order and decorum. A certain type of old fashioned prison where the inmates were marched from place to place with the lock step and not allowed to speak to each other or to raise their eyes above the ground when not at work would, to them, afford an example of discipline at its perfection.

We mean something more. To us, discipline is a system of imparting knowledge and regulating practice for the purpose of making honest men out of criminals, and whether its standard is high or low must be measured by its effect on character.

One prisoner may walk a straight line in the prison yard and maintain silence for an indefinite period without becoming a better man, and, vice versa, another may be very troublesome from an institutional standpoint and meanwhile be developing into a useful citizen.

A certain degree of order and decorum, however, is essential to the working of any system and the method of obtaining it in the reformatory has been a matter of evolution.

We have about 1,400 young men, each of whom has been convicted of a felony. Before coming here most of them had never been conspicuously quiet and well behaved; quite the contrary. They have been sifted out by the courts from the general community and sent to us because they were deemed so lawless, unruly and dangerous to society that they could not safely be left at large.

They differ in degree, but, obviously, if we sift out from the 1,400 bad ones, the forty worst ones, we have in the latter a crowd, depraved and turbulent, vicious and rebellious with little or no desire to be otherwise.

No system yet devised can reform or sensibly improve all. Last year we discharged 127 men simply because the law did not allow us to retain them any longer, having reason to believe that many of them would speedily return to crime.

The most difficult problem in reformatory management has always been to determine what to do with this latter class of men to prevent them from demoralizing the others, especially in an institution like this, where the proper carrying out of the system of training requires that the large population should be outside their cells all day with considerable freedom of movement and communication.

The most kind hearted and philanthropic of citizens, if brought into close personal relations with a young man of this kind, would be very apt to say: "What that boy needs is a good licking!" At first thought, nothing short of that seems at all adequate.

Formerly in this institution there was corporal punishment. It is a mistake to suppose that it was of general application. It was confined probably to less than 10 per cent of the population and if it was to exist at all, few with knowledge of the facts would disapprove of the specific instances.

The objection to it was not so much that harm was done to the individual who suffered it but that the rest of the population, never in a state of very stable mental equilibrium, were stirred up by it and kept in a state of unrest rendering the development of relations of confidence and regard between them and the officers of the institution, difficult or impossible.

Five years ago it was entirely abolished. The class of men, however, for whom it was designed still remained. Some substitute had to be found.

Reduction in grade was impossible, for these men were already at the bottom.

A reduction of food allowance was tried. The results were unsatisfactory. The full ration is none too large for the preservation of health. It is an old saying that you can always reach a man through his stomach. A well fed, well nourished person must necessarily be in a more normal mental condition, and therefore more easily susceptible to moral treatment than one who is hungry. Conversely, it is natural for a man to behave worse in proportion as his brain cries out for the life giving elements which are absent from his blood through lack of nutrition.

Close confinement in individual cells partially remedied the evil by secluding the offenders from the rest of the population. That is to say it was of advantage to the others but oftener a disadvantage to the ones confined. Solitary confinement without employment, if long continued, breeds insanity.

The line of demarcation between insanity and viciousness is in any case a hard one to draw.

Men on their admission, and subsequently, are carefully examined and watched for symptoms of insanity. When detected, a transfer is promptly made to the state hospital for the criminal insane at Dannemora. This in itself has an important influence in the preservation of good order.

The system at present prevailing for which the new superintendent is responsible is working much better than anything before attempted.

All inmates according to their character and attainments are divided into three grades. The lowest or third grade, the dregs of our population, seldom numbers more than fifty.

A wing, containing fifty-six large, airy, well lighted cells has been cut off from the rest of the institution. When a man drops to the third grade he immediately enters this wing and is never again heard of by the general population till he reforms sufficiently to be restored to the second grade, and visitors to the reformatory see no more the red suit men that heretofore have been so picturesque objects at the military exercises and other turnouts.

Their bad influence on the others is thus thoroughly eliminated.

This third grade wing is a reformatory within a reformatory, bearing about the same relation to the rest of the institution that the latter bears to free life. The food is the same as that outside and there are no special physical discomforts or restraints. Work is provided which a many may perform with others in the broad corridors, if he is quiet, and must perform in his cell if he misbehaves. Officers, carefully selected for their dignity, firmness and patience are placed in charge.

Thirty days of perfect demeanor entitle a third grade man to promotion which means restoration to the general life and activity of the institution. Failing of this he remains secluded indefinitely from all except those of his own class. As a matter of fact few remain over a month, and none beyond two or three.

The psychology of it is not easy to explain but, as a matter of fact even the most hardened and troublesome men soon become exceedingly anxious to get out of this comfortable but humdrum sort of a place and put forth efforts to that end as surprising as they are pleasing.

Any day the edifying spectacle can be seen of men who heretofore prided themselves on their criminal records and general toughness and who would regard corporal punishment or physical restraint, like handcuffing, as a tribute to their greatness and who would seek conflict with authority as a means of becoming heroes in the eyes of milder men, of such hard citizens scrubbing the floor or darning socks all day and treading lightly and speaking softly in the hope thereby of getting a chance once more to enjoy life by taking part in the military and trades school work.

It shows how the appreciation of anything depends entirely on the point of view.



Superintendent of Reformatories.

the special training class

In former reports to your board, in commenting upon the work of the school of letters, we stated that we had in mind the formation of a special training class composed of mentally defective pupils of the school of letters classes. Such a group has been assembled and, after a twelve-month test, we are pleased to record our opinion that its establishment and continuance have militated to the advantage, both of the class, and the remainder of the population; and, when conditions have appeared to render desirable and advisable the recruiting of the ranks of the former from the large majority of the latter, mutual benefit has resulted; the class members receiving the advantages which we will endeavor to briefly outline later on, while the general population has been relived of certain inmates who, by reason of their unregenerate condition of mind and body, constituted an obstacle to the accomplishment of the best results, with the large remaining portion of the prisoners. Somewhat in the nature of the fly-trap, the training class takes from the general population those who, like the fly, are prone to infect, with their hereditary or acquired uncleanness of body. But they also accomplish more injury than does the fly, in that they spread among the comparatively untainted of the population, there own peculiar mental and moral disorders, as: impatience, under wholesome discipline; a propensity for malicious mischief, and insubordination; and the moral uncleanness too often associated with the degenerate type.

The disciplinary officer, in his annual report to the superintendent, makes this statement:

"….The number of major offense reports for the past year is 442, less than for the previous year, and the minor offense reports are 8,417 less than last year…..No one has been placed in solitary confinement, and I find the general population quiet and orderly."

While it has always been our aim to maintain a high standard of discipline at the reformatory, and while we trust and believe that we have neglected no measure, and spared no effort, to attain, and maintain such a standard, it is evident from the above statement that there has been during the past year a marked improvement in demeanor and general institutional record, on the part of the prisoners, as shown by the much reduced number of major and minor offenses; and it is our belief that this excellent disciplinary condition, even as compared with that shown by other annual reports of the reformatory, is very appreciably due to the quieting and salutary effect produced by the absence from the population of trouble makers who have been from time to time assigned to the special training class; and while from this number, certain pupils have been periodically returned to the reformatory routine, such change of assignment has not been made until we have had good evidence, based on our personal observation and upon recommendations submitted to us by the officer in charge, that such pupils will be able to satisfactorily hold their places in the routine, without serious disadvantage to themselves or their fellows.

But in the course of the last year’s experiment with the training class, more than one instance has come to our attention where the boys, before their assignment to the class, have not only been a detriment to the remainder of the population, but on the other hand, the strenuous, albeit salutary reformatory routine has actually produced in such cases, a condition worse, temporarily at least, than would normally prevail with these characters. Such conditions are likely to obtain where the boy in question is of a nervously high-tempered disposition which in the past or present he has made very little attempt to control. It would therefore appear that in instances of this character both the boy and the routine are not improved by mutual contact, until such time as the former shall perchance experience a change of mental attitude, incident to a more or less prolonged sojourn in the special training class.

In view of the foregoing, we consider that both the population and the training class eligible, are benefited by the latter’s transfer from the population to the class, and that in some instances at least, his continuance in the population would prove derogatory to the former as well the latter; thus defeating the purpose of the institution, whose aim it is to become a corrective and reformatory agency in the lives of the inmates committed to its care.

The value of an offered incentive to good work, which is one of the reformatory principles, has been justified anew by our experience in handling the training class. In the beginning, we adopted the plan of retaining the pupils in the class until evidence should be forthcoming of their fitness to again mingle with their fellows in the prison population; then returning them to the routine with the prospect of earning their paroles in the usual way; but making no accounting of the months passed in the special training class, as either assisting or retarding such parole. But we found later on, that much better results could be obtained by allowing their training class record to count toward parole, as would be the case if they had been in the regular routine. Thus, a pupil, upon being returned to the routine, begins his regular duties, armed with whatever number of perfect months he may have acquired, while in the class, as an asset toward the attainment of his eventual parole.

At the present writing, there are three pupils in the highest class, four in the intermediate, and five in the lowest class. The kindergarten class as it might be termed, are for the most part unable to read and write when assigned; those now in the class are commencing to do so, but very imperfectly, after several months of study. These pupils are also studying the elementary processes of number work. The intermediate grade is somewhat more advanced upon assignment, and the highest class have progressed as far as fractions, in arithmetic, and can read and write with average facility in most instances. As has already been stated, the very small number of pupils in each of the groups makes possible much of individual instruction, and processes can be emphasized and repeated for the benefit of the slow-minded, so that there is at least a fair chance of attaining the result sought. Our inmate instructor is selected with care, and is very kind, patient and thorough in his work.

Probably about one out of a hundred of our inmates finds his way to the special training-class, and his sojourn there for a while has certainly, in the judgment of the writer, proven exceedingly beneficial, both to the general population and the prisoner in question; the former loses a disturber, the latter gains special and personal attention from instructor and management, to a far greater degree than would be possible should he continue in the regular routine where he would be one of many others, subject to general rules and regulations.

We have made a few comparisons and deductions in reference to the school and demeanor records of the class which may be of interest:

Last January the class numbered eighteen pupils. For the three months immediately previous to enrollment their average school of letters standing was fifty-seven percent. During the last three months of their stay in the class, their average standing was sixty-eight per cent. For the first three months succeeding their stay in the class, their average standing was sixty-four per cent. Their higher standing while members of the special training-class, I conceive is due largely to individual attention on the part of instructors, and longer time-allowance on examinations. The lower standing after leaving the class I consider due to the lessening of these privileges, and also to the fact that they are graded higher after leaving the class. But the higher standing after leaving the class, as compared with the standing previous to enrollment, we consider especially significant as it furnished a legitimate reason for the existence of the class.

Then again, an inspection of the individual markings during the three months after re-assignment to routine shows a general tendency to improve in standing from month to month, and this also is good evidence of benefit derived.

One instance is especially worth of note: Consecutive Number 24,247 stood zero for the previous three months; during the last three months in the class his average standing was seventy-eight; and while his standing for the three months after re-assignment to routine was but seventy, not averaging up to the pass-mark, yet it is quite remarkable in view of his zeros before entering the class. So much for the school records of these boys; now for their demeanor reports.

For the three previous months, above mentioned, six pupils lost every month, while eleven failed for two out of three months. During their last three months’ stay in the class fifteen lost no months; two lost one out of three months and one lost two out of three. For the three months succeeding, fifteen lost no month, while three lost two out of three months.

From the foregoing it appears that there exists a manifest advantage both to the institution and the training-class pupils, in the establishment and maintenance of this branch of the reformatory work.





In force January 1st, 1916.

By henry melville

  1. SENTENCE OF MALES BETWEEN SIXTEEN AND THIRTY YEARS OF AGE. A male, between the ages of sixteen and thirty, convicted of a felony, who has not theretofore been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, may, in the discretion of the trial court, be sentenced to imprisonment in the New York State Reformatory at Elmira, to be there confined under the provisions of law relating to that reformatory. (Penal Law § 2185). No direct commitments are made to the Eastern New York Reformatory at Napanoch. The population of this institution is made up of those transferred from Elmira by the state board of managers of reformatories.
  2. IMPRISONMENT WHEN SENTENCED TO A REFORMATORY. When a person shall be sentenced to imprisonment in a reformatory as prescribed in section three hundred and seven of the prison law, the court imposing such sentence shall not fix or limit the duration thereof (Penal Law §2195).
  3. DURATION OF IMPRISONMENT. Any person who shall be convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment in either of said reformatories, and who, upon such conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment therein, shall be imprisoned according to this article, and not otherwise. The term of such imprisonment of any person so convicted and sentenced shall be terminated by the state board of managers, as authorized by this article; but such imprisonment shall not exceed the maximum term provided by law for the crime for which the prisoner was convicted and sentenced. (Prison Law §307).
  4. BOARD OF MANAGERS OF STATE REFORMATORIES. There shall be a state board of managers of reformatories consisting of seven members, who shall be appointed by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the senate. The full term of office of each manager hereafter appointed shall be seven years…Such managers shall receive no compensation for their services, but shall receive their reasonable traveling and other official expenses. (Prison Law §281). The said board of managers is given control of the two reformatories at Elmira and Napanoch.
  5. GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES OF STATE BOARD OF MANAGERS. The state board of managers of reformatories shall:
      1. Have the general superintendence, management and control of said reformatories, of the grounds and buildings, officers and employees thereof, of the prisoners therein, and of all matters relating to the government, discipline, contracts and fiscal concerns thereof.
      2. Make rules, not inconsistent with the law, for the proper government of said reformatories, and of the officers and employees thereof, and for the employment, discipline, education, transfer, parole and discharge of prisoners sentenced thereto.
      3. Investigate the affairs of said reformatories, inquire into any improper conduct alleged to have been committed by any officer or employee, and require reports from the superintendent of reformatories and other officers thereof in relation to the discipline, labor and government of said reformatories, and have power to take proof under oath in any such investigation or inquiry.
      4. Meet at least once in each month for the purpose of performing the several duties prescribed in this article.
      5. Examine, monthly or quarterly, all the accounts, expenditures and vouchers relating to the business of said reformatories, and certify their approval or disapproval thereof to the comptroller.
      6. Report to the legislature, annually, on or before the tenth day of January, for the preceding fiscal year, the condition of said reformatories, the amount of money received and expended by them during such year, with a detailed statement thereof; their proceedings in regard to the prisoners therein, and such other matters as they may deem proper, or as the legislature may require.
      7. Make sure other reports from time to time as the legislature may require. (Prison Law §284).
  6. TRANSFER OF PRISONERS FROM EITHER REFORMATORY TO THE OTHER. The said state board of managers may transfer prisoners committed to their custody from either one of said institutions to the other, in their discretion, and may provide rules and regulations governing such transfers. (Prison Law §285).
  7. SUPERINTENDENT OF REFORMATORIES AND ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT; APPOINTMENT, POWERS AND DUTIES. Said state board of managers shall appoint a superintendent of reformatories, and may remove him for cause after an opportunity to be heard. Said superintendent shall have general oversight of both institutions, and subject to the approval of said board of managers shall appoint all other officers and employees of said institutions, and be possessed with all the powers and perform all the duties in both institutions prescribed in this article. There shall be an assistant superintendent for each one of said institutions, who shall be authorized to exercise in the institution to which he was appointed, the powers and duties of the superintendent in case of his absence or inability to perform such duties, and to exercise such ow3eers and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by said board of managers or by the superintendent. (Prison Law §286).
  8. GENERAL DUTIES OF SUPERINTENDENT OF REFORMATORIES. The superintendent of reformatories, subject to the direction and control of the state board of managers shall;
      1. Have the general supervision and control of said reformatories, of the grounds and buildings, subordinate officers and employees thereof, the prisoners therein, and of all matters relating to the government and discipline thereof.
      2. Make such rules and orders, not inconsistent with law, or with the rules and directions of the said board of managers, as he may deem proper or necessary for the government of said reformatories and of the officers and employees thereof; and for the employment, discipline and education of the prisoners sentenced thereto.
      3. Annual report to the said board of managers on or before the first day of December, all such matters as are required by the said board of managers.
      4. Exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as the said board of managers may lawfully prescribe. (Prison Law §287).
  9. BOARD OF MANAGERS MAY TRANSFER OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES FROM ONE REFORMATORY TO THE OTHER. Said state board of managers may also transfer officers and employees from either one of said institutions to the other for temporary or permanent service. (Prison Law §290).
  10. TRANSFER OF PRISONERS TO STATE PRISONS. If it shall appear to the state board of managers that said reformatories are overcrowded, or that any prisoner confined in either of said reformatories,
      1. Was, at the time of his conviction, more than thirty years of age; or
      2. Has been previously convicted of a felony; or
      3. While in the reformatory, is incorrigible and that his presence therein is seriously detrimental to the welfare of the institution; an application may be made to a justice of the supreme court of the judicial district in which such reformatory is located, for an order transferring the prisoner named therein to a state prison. Such application shall be, by written petition signed by the president or secretary of the board and shall state the causes for seeking such transfer and due notice of such application with a copy of the petition shall be served personally or by mail at least eight days before the hearing on the superintendent of state prisons, who shall specify the institution to which such prisoner shall be transferred in case the order shall be made. Such justice shall grant such order of transfer, on such hearing as he may prescribe, if it appears to his satisfaction that the facts alleged are true and that such transfer should be made. A prisoner so transferred shall be confined in such institution as under an indeterminate sentence, commencing with his imprisonment in the reformatory with a minimum of one year and a maximum fixed by law for the crime of which the prisoner was convicted and sentenced; and may be released on parole or absolutely discharged as are other prisoners confined under an indeterminate sentence. Such prisoner may be returned any time to the reformatory in the discretion of the superintendent of state prisons, and with the consent of the said board of managers. (Prison Law§296).
  11. CONTROL AND DISCIPLINE OF PRISONERS AT REFORMATORIES. The state board of managers shall maintain such control over all prisoners committed to their custody as shall prevent them from committing crime, best secure their self-support and accomplish their reformation. The discipline to be observed shall be reformative, and the board of managers may use such means of reformation consistent with the security and improvement of the prisoners, as they may deem expedient. The prisoners may be employed in agricultural or mechanical labor as a means of securing their support and reformation (Prison Law §298).
  12. RULES OF REFORMATORIES. The state board of managers shall make rules, not inconsistent with the law:
      1. Prescribing the conditions under which prisoners may be paroled or conditionally released.
      2. Regulating the retaking and re-imprisonment of such prisoners.
      3. Providing for the employment, discipline, instruction and education of the prisoners. Such rules shall be adopted by the resolution of the board of managers, passed at a meeting thereof, at which a majority of its members shall be present. All rules adopted and in force shall be printed and a copy thereof distributed to each officer, employee and prisoner in each of said reformatories. (Prison Law §302).
  13. MARKS FOR GOOD CONDUCT AT REFORMATORIES; RECORDS FILED WITH SECRETARY OF STATE. The state board of managers shall adopt a uniform system of marks by means of which shall be determined the number of marks or credits to be earned by each prisoner sentenced to either said reformatories, as the condition of increased privileges, or of release from their control, which system shall be subject to revision from time to time. Each prisoner shall be credited for good personal demeanor, diligence in labor and study, and for results accomplished, and be charged for dereliction, negligence and offenses. Each prisoner’s account of marks or credits shall be made known to him as often as once in each month. The said board of managers shall make rules by which each prisoner shall be permitted to see and converse with some members of the board of managers at stated periods. An abstract of the record in the case of each prisoner confined in each of said reformatories shall be made semi-annually, showing the date of admission, the age, the crime, place of conviction, court or judge by whom sentenced, the situation at the time of making such abstract, whether in a reformatory, or state prison, the hospital for insane criminals or elsewhere, whether any and how much progress or improvement has been made, and the reason for release or continued custody or transfer as the case may be, the names of those deceased during said period, with cause of death. Such abstract shall be considered by the said board of managers at a regular meeting and filed with the secretary of state. (Prison Law §303).
  14. PAROLE OF PRISONERS AT REFORMATORIES. The state board of managers may allow any prisoner confined in either of said reformatories to go upon parole outside of the reformatory buildings and enclosures, pursuant to the rules of the board of managers. A person so paroled shall remain in the legal custody and under the control of the board until his absolute discharge, as provided by law. No personal appearances before the board shall be permitted in behalf of the parole or discharge of any prisoner. (Prison Law §300).
  15. SUPERVISION OF PRISONERS PAROLED FROM REFORMATORIES. The state board of managers may appoint and at pleasure remove suitable persons in any part of the state, who shall supervise paroled prisoners and perform such other lawful duties as may be required of them by such board. Such persons shall be subject to the direction of the board. They may be paid a reasonable compensation for their services and expenses, which shall be a charge upon and paid from the funds of said reformatories. (Prison Law §306).
  16. RETAKING OF PAROLED PRISONERS OF REFORMATORIES. If the state board of managers has reasonable cause to believe that a paroled prisoner has violated the conditions of his parole, the board may issue its warrant certified by its secretary, for the retaking of such prisoner at any time prior to his absolute discharge. The time within which the prisoner must be retaken shall be specified in the warrant. Such warrant may be issued to an officer of the reformatory or to any peace officer of the state, who shall execute the same by taking such prisoner into custody within the time specified in the warrant. Thereupon he may be retained for the remainder of the maximum term provided by law. (Prison Law §301).
  17. ABSOLUE RELEASE FROM IMPRISONMENT FROM REFORMATORIES: DISCHARGE. When it appears to the state board of managers that there is strong or reasonable probability that any prisoner will remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society, they shall issue to such prisoner an absolute release or discharge from imprisonment. Nothing here contained shall be construed to impair the power of the governor to grant a pardon or commutation in any case. (Prison Law §304).

General Measurements

Entire grounds, 300 acres; farm, 280 acres; main building and yard walls, 720 x 1,056; area, 17 acres; total area covered by main building, 112,000 sq. ft.; area 2 ½ acres.

Dimensions of Main Building

Front portion, exclusive of extensions and wings, 54 x 608; north extension, 54 x 372; south extension 54 x 432; north wing, 54 x 164; central portion, main building, 54 x 78.

Cell Blocks

North cell block, 21 x 135; four floors, 34 cells on a floor, total 136 cells, each; 7 x 9 x 9. N.C.B. Extension, 176 cells.

South cell block, 21 x 135; four floors, 44 cels on a floor; total 176 cells, 5 x 8.

North extension cell block, 21 x 388; four floors, 126 cells on a floor; total, 504 cells, 5 x 8.

South extension cell block, 21 x 234; four floors, 72 cells on a floor; total, 288 cells, 5 x 8.

North wing cell block, 21 x 77; four floors, 14 cells on a floor; total, 56 cells, 8 x 10.

South wing cell block, 21 x 234; four floors, 26 cells on a floor, total, 104 cells, 5 x 8. Total cell capacity of institution 1,440.

General Portion of Main Building

Includes guard room, 54 x 78, 2nd floor; auditorium, 78 x 102, 3rd floor.

Trades School Buildings

Trades school building, 60 x 254, lst floor, machinist class room, 57 x 135; brass smith, 30 x 57, machine-wood-worker and cabinet maker, 57 x 81; 2nd floor, printer and book binder class room, 57 x 123; upholsterer, 57 x 61; trades school office, 21 x 43.

Trades school building, 76 x 254; one floor; bricklayer class room, 76 x 100; stone-cutter, 30 x 30; stone-mason, 30 x 50; plasterer, 76 x 100.

Trades school building, 50 x 248; 1st floor, plumber class room, 47 x 59, steam fitter, 47 x 48; tinsmith, 47 x 48. Fire engine room, 16 x 26; hose tower, 13 x 13 x 71; 2nd floor, drawing class room 47 x 215.

School of letters class rooms; 26 school rooms, ranging in size from 23 x 27 to 40 x 40.

NOTE: Three of our trades school buildings were some time since destroyed by fire and have not as yet been re-built; but preparations are being made for their re-c0onstruction. An appropriation sufficient to commence the construction of Shop Building No. 4 has already been authorized by the legislature. The dimensions of these proposed new buildings are as follows.

Trades School Building No. 2, 59 x 253; 1st floor, blacksmith classroom, 59 x 126; plumber and steamfitter classroom 59 x 126; 2nd floor, unassigned, 59 x 105.

Trades School Building No. 3, 59 x 253; 1st floor, foundry, moulder classroom, 59 x 168; carpenter repair shop, 59 x 84; 2nd floor, band-room, 59 x 63; foundry storage room, 59 x 42.

Trades School Building No. 4, 59 x 253; 1st floor, cabinetmaker classroom, 59 x 126; carpenter classroom, 59 x 126; 2nd floor, painter classroom, 59 x 253.


Domestic building, 65 x 245; basement under entire building, with 9 ft. ceiling; first floor, officers’ kitchen, 25 x 63; 1st grade inmates’ kitchen, 25 x 51; general inmates’ kitchen, 51 x 74; bakery including fuel room and bread room, 52 x 46; two store rooms, 38 x 63; refrigerator, 20 x 40; refrigerating machinery, 20 x 24. Second floor, general inmates dining room; 63 x 192; credit dining room, 53 x 63. Third floor, Officers’ dining room, including serving room, 42 x 63; eight offices averaging in size, 23 x 33; library 31 x 83. Fourth floor, offices quarters, 23 rooms, ranging in size for 12 x 14 to 17 x 20.

Gymnasium, 90 x 120; 1st floor, main room, 83 x 94; open to roof; running track on gallery extending around sides of room, 4 ft wide, 330 ft. long, 16 laps to the mile; dressing room, 16 x 21; steam room, 16 x 21; swimming tank room, 16 x 31; swimming tank, 8 x 27; 2nd floor; drill room, 32 x 83.

Armory, 215 x 300.

Hospital; observation ward, 33 x 54; medical ward, 31 x 54; surgical ward, 25 x 32; consumptives’ ward, 54 x 65; dispensary, 14 x 23.

Power house, 90 x 150; boiler room, 82 x 86; dynamo room, 32 x 60; coal storage room, 30 x 86; capacity, 1,500 tons; smokestack 51 ft. diameter, 125 ft. high.

Greenhouse, 38 x 122; horse-cow and hay barn; main building, 40 x 149; horse and cow-bar, each, 36 x 95; upper farm barn 35 x 60; reservoir, 900 x 500; 10 ft. in depth, capacity, 18,000,000 gallons , water pressure at institution, about 90 lbs; ice-house 25 x 35 x 25; capacity, 600 tons.


Superintendent’s residence, 88 x 110; basement, 9 rooms; 1st floor, 9 rooms, 2nd floor, 8 rooms.

Cottages outside the general enclosure. Cottage A., 36 x 39, 12 rooms; Cottabe B., 37 x 38, 12 rooms; Cottage C., 22 x 31, 8 rooms.