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On the Consolidation
of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools

c. October 5-10, 1865 — National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Sheffield, England


When first Reformatory Schools’ Act passed through the legislature, in August, 1854, a principle was established which had not previously been directly acknowledged by our Government, viz., that it is for the welfare of society, as well as of the individual, that juvenile offenders should be reformed ; and that such reformation should be entrusted to voluntary benevolent effort, while the Government, acting in loco parentis, should provide the requisite authority and funds.

The first Act was to a great extent permissive and experimental. It was assumed in its preamble, that efforts to reform juvenile offenders had previously been made, which, even under great diffiiculties, had been so successful as to prove the possibility and the advantage of the undertaking. This was actually the case.

The reformation effected at Mattrai in France, at the Ranhe Home in Germany, at Stretton on Dunsmore, and Red Hill in England; beside the experience of numerous institutions in the United States had sufficiently proved the principles on which such schools should be established, to persons who devoted their attention to this subject. But the adaptation of these to the legislative machinery of our own country was a work of no small perplexity.

Hence, in successive years, alterations were found necessary to accomplish the efficient working of the Act. There has been no contradiction in the different amendments  all have tended only to develop more perfectly the original intention, and little has been added which was not foreshadowed in the first Act.

But it is evident that a reference to four different Acts of Parliament is perplexing and inconvenient ; and we learn that a consolidation of these is contemplated during the next session. This is then a fit time for the managers of Reformatories to consider if there are any additions or improvements which it would be desirable to embody in  the new Act.

The experience of eleven years has proved that, on the whole, the law of Reformatories is admirably adapted to the end intended.

Voluntary effort is by no means shackled, while it is duly controlled and sustained. Every aid has been given by the law to those who have undertaken the arduous task of the reformation and suit able education of young persons, who had been previously without proper guidance. And, at the same time, such arrangements have been made by the Secretary of State, as to enable his Inspector, without interference with the liberty of the managers, to obtain from them such distinct statements of the results of their work, both during the detention of the young persons under their care, and even during three years after they have left as to afford security  to the Government and to the public, that the money and authority which have been given have not been misplaced, and that the confidence which has been reposed has not been abused. A few alterations and additions may, however, be suggested.

The minimum period during which there must be previous imprisonment, should be shortened from fourteen to seven days — that period always to be passed in solitary confinement; this, if strictly enforced, in most cases, amply sufficient for child. There should also be provision that the maximum shall not exceed a month, so as to prevent the long and worse than useless imprisonments now sometimes inflicted on young children. In one case sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and hard labour; and, at present, a sentence of three months is by no means uncommon; this, in connection with detention in a Reformatory, is not only useless, it is very injurious.

Some important provisions were made in the last of the four Acts, that of 1857. One was to enable a part of the expense of maintenance to fall on the district whence the young offender sent to the Reformatory. This always appeared an important principle to those who first organised the Reformatory movement–they held that every district should do at least something towards the cost of its own crime. It now provided that county magistrates in Quarter Sessions, or the council of a borough, may set apart some portion of the rates to aid in the expense of the maintenance of juvenile offenders and may contract with the managers of Reformatories for their reception, on such terms as may be mutually agreed on. The number of counties and boroughs which have availed themselves of this power to contract with Reformatories most satisfactory, as showing recognition of the principle, a confidence in the Institutions, and an interest in the young persons who had begun to be an annoyance to society. These contributions, as they became universal, would materially lighten the general burden of the country.

The allowance to Reformatories has already been diminished from 7s. to 6s. a week, and to be hoped that 5:. per week from the Government, with due economy, and supplemented by an allowance from county rates, and voluntary contributions, will soon be found amply sufficient. My own personal experience confirms this. In the Institution which under my management, the Red Lodge Girls’ Reformatory School, subscriptions and donations have been declined during the last six years; the annual expenditure at present more than covered by the Government allowance and the money received from county rates, without considering that derived from the profits of industrial work, and the interest of money vested.

The other provision alluded to as introduced into the Act of 1857, requires a slight alteration to complete its efficiency. It respects the putting out young persons on license or trial, before their final discharge.

This license is limited in the Act to one month. It is found practicably desirable that a much longer period of trial should be passed while still under the authority of the school, before the young person is considered fit for discharge. Managers usually effect this by a renewal of the license every month ; this proceeding, however, involves complications which could be removed by a. slight alteration in the Act.

Two serious difficulties only are still felt which may be remedied by legislation.

The first regards the final provision for our children after they leave us. The parents of a large proportion of them have proved themselves totally unworthy, by their conduct, to have the control of their children. The young boys and girls themselves would gladly, in many cases, be protected from the parents who had led them into evil. This might be effected most satisfactorily by giving the power of apprenticing the inmates to trades, into the hands of the managers of Reformatories, who are now their legal guardians, instead of limiting it to parents, who have shown themselves care less of the welfare of the child.

For want of such a power the expense bestowed for many years by the Government, and the care and labours of the school managers, have been in many eases comparatively wasted, through the young persons being thrown, on discharge, into the hands of dissolute parents. The anxiety of the manager for the welfare of his young protegé does not cease when the legal time of detention expires, but his efforts are often rendered nugutory through want of this simple provision.

The other alteration is the following. The Secretary of State has power at present to order the remission of part of the sentence of young persons under detention in Reformatories, and he does so continually, on the representation of the managers that satisfactory proofs of reformation have been given.

He should have also power to lengthen the sentence, if it is satisfactorily proved that the young person’s conduct has not been such as to warrant the hope of safe restoration to society. The granting of such a power may, at first sight, appear a great innovation, and inconsistent with ordinary principles of penal discipline. But it must be remembered that the fundamental principle of the Reformatory Schools’ Act, is that they are not for the punishment, but for the better care and reformation of youthful offenders.

Punishment forms no part of the Act; that has been administered by the common law before the Reformatory Schools’ Act is brought into operation, and previous imprisonment is referred to in the Act only to limit the class of persons who are eligible for the Reformatories. The sentence of detention in a Reformatorytherefore, not punishment, but a benefit conferred by the Stale for the welfare of society, and of its erring children. Now the term of detention, according to law, varies from two years to five years. It is of course impossible that, in awarding the sentence, any one can tell how long a period may be necessary for the reformation of the child, but of the first importance that from the commencement he should understand that the period which must elapse before going out into the world must depend on his own conduct. The inmate will then have strong stimulus to apply himself to profit by the means of improvement held out to him, since he knows that he will not be released until he has proved himself fit for liberty; but as the law now stands, the offender has a sentence of only two or of three years, he regards as penal sentence, and counts the days, or even the hours, when he shall be free, without earnestly setting himself to improve. This we know fur from being rare occurrence, and thus the expense and trouble bestowed are fruitless, because the inmate has never applied himself to reform.

The evil so well known by those who understand the Reformatory principle, that many managers will not, by their rules, receive inmates who have less than four or five years’ detention. Two years may, in many cases, prove sufficient training, and then dis charge will be applied for by the managers but will seldom be so unless the young person has been fully aware from the commencement that his detention will be indefinitely prolonged he docs not strive to improve. Even five years may not, in some instances, be sufficient. Where child has been brought up from infancy in an atmosphere of vice, and where wicked parent watching for the expiration of the sentence to make her again the sharer of her vicious course, and the girl, fully aware of hardens herself against correction, can we wonder within a year of her discharge, she sentenced to convict prison‘? It‘ the Secretary of State had had the power of lengthening her term of detention in such cases, that poor girl might have been rescued from a life of crime. A little child of eight years old has just been sentenced to five years in Reformatory. This diminutive girl was actually convicted second time of stripping an infant of two-and-a-half years, and stealing its clothes. Such conduct indicates a precocity in  vice which it is frightful to contemplate. “Will she be prepared, at the end of her sentence, when still a child of thirteen, to gain her living honestly Can she safely be returned to the impure atmosphere which had before corrupted her Should there not be power to detain longer in such cases?

We urge, then, that to place detention in Reformatory on its true footing, viz., the reformation of the offenders–and to promote that reformation, the power of lengthening the term of detention shall be vested in the Secretary of State, whenever shall appear to him necessary for the welfare of the offender.

The consolidation of the Industrial Schools’ Acts, and the changes required in them are new to be considered.

The first of these Acts was passed three years after that of the Reformatory Schools, in 1857; it is founded on the principle, “That it is better to arrest incipient crime than to punish; that it is better to rescue from bad influences and proclivity to evil, boys who are without due parental controul (sic], before they have received the prison brand upon them.”

In this preventive character they differ from Reformatories, a sentence to which necessarily includes also a sentence to prison. The intention of this Act was to check habitual vagrancy, and to save young boys from the contamination of a prison on the com mission of petty offences.

As the object of the schools is not eleemosynary, and is not intended for such children as would properly be provided for in the workhouse, as also it was distinctly intended to preserve young children from incurring the stigma of the prison, these schools were at first treated as educational establishments, and placed under the management of the Committee of Council on Education.

But as the Parliamentary Educational Grant is not intended to be a maintenance fund, this was seen to be an error, and a short Act was passed in 1860, transferring these schools, like the reformatories, to the Home Office, since they also are intended to cheek juvenile delinquency. In 1861, an Act was passed for the consolidation of the previous Acts, remedying various inconveniences which had been experienced in the working of a new system. The children contemplated for these schools, are thus enumerated in the following clauses of the last Industrial Schools’ Act:—

I. “Any child apparently under the age of fourteen years found begging or receiving alms, or being in any street or public place for the purpose of begging or receiving alms.”

II. “Any child apparently under the age of fourteen years that is found wandering, and not having any home or settled place of abode, or any visible means of subsistence, or frequents the company of reputed thieves.”

III. “Any child apparently under the age of twelve years who, having committed an offence punishable by imprisonment or some less punishment, ought, nevertheless, in the opinion of the justices, regard being had to his age and to the circumstances of the case, to be sent to an Industrial School.”

IV. “Any child under the age of fourteen years whose parent represents that he is unable to control him, and that he desires such child to be sent to an Industrial School, in pursuance of this Act ; and who at the same time gives such undertaking or other security as may be approved of by the justices before whom he is brought, in pursuance of this Act, to pay all expenses incurred for the maintenance of such child at school.”

The first three of these clauses may be regarded as embracing generally all the children intended by the Act, if worked in the spirit evidently contemplated; they have already had the effect of rescuing numbers of young persons who would certainly otherwise have perished through neglect, or soon received the prison brand. These clauses do not appear to require any alteration. The fourth clause involves a principle somewhat new in our country, though it has long been established in the United States, especially in New England. It does not usually affect the lowest class of the population, because such children when not under parental control are almost certain to commit some offence which would bring them under the action of the first three clauses. But it has proved of very great value in many cases, not less important, where a young person in a somewhat higher class of society has required stronger and more steady control than could be given in the Home, and is therefore on the brink of moral destruction, though his position saves him from committing acts which would subject him to the grasp of the law. Such cases cannot be dealt with by mere voluntary agency; the magisterial sentence is needed to preserve due control, and with this many youths have been restored to a respectable way of life. This clause has not, however, been much used, in consequence of two points in which alteration is required.

First: after the word “parent,” should be inserted, “or guardian.” Young persons who are orphans, and left under the care of relatives or friends, especially require this control, but they are excluded from it by the wording of the clause.

Secondly: The portion of the clause respecting payment should be omitted, and the order of payment from parents made to the Government, as in the other clauses ;or, if it is thought necessary as a check on an abuse of the clause, that some definite payment from the parent should be stipulated; this should be paid, as in other cases of ordinary parental payment, to the treasury. The present system of leaving the managers to collect the payments for children sent under this clause, is very injurious, and introduces an unpleasant feeling between the manager and the parent, highly detrimental to the oral influence which it is desirable to establish. This difficulty has prevented the proper use of a very important portion of the Act, and it [is] hoped will be removed.

In other respects this Act appears to work well. It requires the insertion of a licensing clause similar to that in the Reformatory Act. This is an important addition, and will we trust be supplied shortly. It would be desirable also to give the same permission for aid from county and borough rates as in the Reformatory Schools.

This Act had, at first, to struggle with great difficulties, not only in consequence of the defects in which experience has now enabled the Legislature to remedy, but because the limited period fixed for the operation of this Act, gave feeling of uncertainty as to its permanency, which prevented many from incurring cost for what might prove only a temporary undertaking. But the value of  the principle has now been acknowledged, both by magistrates and by the public, in districts where these Schools have been well worked. It only remains, then, for the Government to give the same permanency to this as to the Reformatory Act, and a sufficient number of schools will doubtless be established to supply the requirements of the country.

That the system of Reformatory and Industrial Schools has produced a great effect on the juvenile crime of the country is no longer a matter of doubt or speculation. The same degree of juvenile crime does not now exist as was common in England before their establishment, when many boys and girls were sent repeatedly to prison. It is unnecessary here to demonstrate this. But it is very satisfactory to learn from the “Report of Convict Prisons,” just issued, what has been their effect in lessening, and indeed almost eradicating the more serious crimes of young persons which were formerly punished in Government prisons. The directors say, Under the influence of the Reformatory Act, the number of juvenile convicts has greatly decreased. There were on the 31st of December last, only 68 in the hands of Government, whilst at the corresponding period in 1854, there were no less than 536. Only 15 juvenile convicts fit for the juvenile class were received last year, and it seems probable that as those now under sentence are released, their places will not be filled, and that youths of a. tender age will not for the future be  sent to Government prisons. The success of the Reformatory system,” Colonel Henderson continues, “has been such, that it will be a mater of congratulation when such children are not sent to a penal servitude prison, for, whatever pains we may take, it is to be feared that familiarity at that early age, with the final resource of punishment, must have a lasting and an evil effect.” 

We rejoice to learn from this important quarter that it is recognised and understood that familiarity with the final resource of punishment is most injurious to children of tender age.

Now that the Industrial Schools’ Act provides that for any punish able offence children under twelve may be sent to the school, why are any still sent to prison, and thus familiarised with the ultimate resource of punishment? Why are they not handed over to parental correction, if such be possible, and if it be not, why are they not placed under such controul [sic] as to prevent them from continuing to annoy the public?

Past experience shows that without an Act to prevent the imprisonment of children under twelve or fourteen years of age, except as a preliminary to a Reformatory, the benefit to be derived from these two important Acts will be only partial and irregular, and the anticipated benefit to the rising generation greatly neutralised.

The importance of rescuing the young from the prison brand cannot be too highly estimated, and is fully understood by those especially who are concerned with the administration of justice.

The Government having now made a sufficient provision for the proper training of juvenile offenders, let them complete their work by providing, either by a short separate Act, or by an addition to the present Acts, that no child under twelve, or, still better, four teen years of age shall be sent to gaol, and that henceforth our prisons shall not be made receptacles for children of tender years, destined by the Creator for very different training and education! 



Source: Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Sheffield Meeting, ed. George W. Hastings (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1866), pp. 217- 224.