TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 178:001, Connecticut School for Boys
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Lizette Pelletier and Melissa Hendrick.
Copyright © 2007 by the Connecticut State Library
Before the Civil War, few institutions, private or public, existed in the United States to house and care for juvenile offenders. In 1818, the Society for the Prevention of Pauperies in New York reported that authorities placed ten to fourteen-year-old children with hardened criminals in Bellevue Prison. In 1823, the Society reorganized as the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents. In 1825, its efforts led to the opening of the House of Refuse in New York City. The first publicly-funded institution, the House of Reformation opened the following year in Boston. New York established a state-funded institution in 1846 and Maine followed in 1850.
Private citizens in Connecticut also demanded that the state take action. In 1850, New Haven citizens petitioned the legislature "to establish in New Haven County a House of Reformation for juvenile offenders . . . under fifteen years of age may be committed ." A legislative committee found that during a one year period about eighty boys younger than sixteen served time for theft in county jails. The state made no special provision for incarcerating juvenile offenders, subjecting most to the same conditions as adults. Occasionally, the committee noted that the state placed a few in orphanages at state expense.
The report concluded that at least two hundred boys deserved classification as juvenile offenders. The total number was probably higher but many prosecutors were reluctant to punish young offenders as adults. The report argued that a state reform school would deter future juvenile delinquency and segregate youths from hardened adult criminals. By caring for and training young offenders, the state could reduce the number of older offenders and, therefore, its judicial expenses. Despite the report's findings and recommendations, the General Assembly did not act but continued its consideration to its next session.
At the start of the 1851 session, Governor Thomas Seymour endorsed the idea of a state reform school in his annual message to the General Assembly. Having received additional petitions favoring a state reform school, the legislature created a new joint select committee that also endorsed its creation. The committee's report estimated that the land, buildings and furnishings would cost about $20,000. This time, the Assembly enacted the appropriate legislation.
The pubic act provided procedures for committing youths to the new state school. Judges could sentence any boy under sixteen years, convicted of any offense punishable by imprisonment (except for life imprisonment), to the new State Reform School. Commitments could not be for less than ninety days or longer than the boy's minority. Those longer than ninety days required the town selectmen's recommendation. The school's trustees, also, could return any boy to the sheriff or court or constable for commitment to jail, state prison, or work house for reasons of expediency or incorrigibility. They could release a boy for any part of his commitment period as an apprentice to any state resident. The law allowed the trustees to discharge any boy who reached the age of twenty-one, whose commitment term expired or who had met the board's test for reformation. A discharge released a boy from the school's jurisdiction.
The authorizing legislation also provided for the boys' support while at the school. The Superintendent was to bill the Superior Court of the county in which the state eventually placed the reform school one dollar a week for board, clothing and fuel. The court collected from the state and reimbursed the Superintendent. Later, in 1901, the Assembly authorized the placement of boys convicted in U.S. courts, only if the federal government agreed to pay all expenses.
The original act established a board of eight trustees appointed by the Senate. The members, one from each county, served overlapping terms. In 1887, the General Assembly increased the number of trustee from 8 to 12 adding four representatives from the school's immediate vicinity. The trustees appointed the Superintendent and other officers and established their duties. They also reported annually to the legislature. In addition, the trustees had responsibility for planning the school's programs, instructing the boys in "piety and morality, and ... knowledge suited to their age and capacity" and in providing some type of mechanical, manufacturing, agricultural or horticultural labor for each boy. The Superintendent had charge and custody of the boys, the institution's property and its finances.
In order to finance construction, the General Assembly accepted the petitioners' offer to raise part of the funds. Also, the Senate appointed many of these men as the first board of trustees in 1851. They were Gideon Wells, Hartford; Philemon Hoadley, New Haven; Elisha S. Abernethy, Bridgeport; Erastus Lester, Plainfield; Albert N. Baldwin, North Milford; Henry D. Smith, Middletown; John H. Brockway, Ellington; and Philo M. Judson, Norwich. By September 1852, the board had raised $10,000 through private individual subscriptions ranging from $1.00 to $500. When private subscribers deposited it in the State Treasury, the Comptroller deposited a matching sum.
After viewing several sites, the trustees chose a location in Meriden due to its central location and accessibility on the Hartford and New Haven Railroad line. The site was about a half mile from the town's center on a hill overlooking the valley and the range of hills on either side. The Trustees' purchased 31 1/4 acres for $3,496.50 and gave bond for an addition 130 1/2 acres.
The original building design held three hundred pupils and staff members. Although the trustees had an additional $9,500 from bank bonuses and another appropriation from the legislature, they lacked sufficient funds to construct and furnish the building according to that design. The final design contract for $24,800 provided for only one hundred boys and the staff. In June, 1853, the trustees added a fourth story and a small barn.
In February 1854, the trustee announced that the school would open on March 1, 1854. They appointed Philemon Hoadley as Superintendent as well as an assistant Superintendent and a chaplain. By the end of May 1854, twenty-eight boys resided at the school.
The original building soon proved inadequate, but the General Assembly was reluctant to appropriate funds to complete the building program. Most of the building remained unfurnished and the staff purchased only the essential supplies for incoming pupils. In their first report to the legislature, the trustees requested an appropriation that barely met the needs of it 116 pupils. The General Assembly authorized $7,000 less, subjecting the school from its beginnings to many inconveniences, deteriorating facilities, overcrowded rooms, lodging in common, and deficient discipline, education and employment.
Such shortage of funds occurred repeatedly during the next twenty years. Occasionally, the trustees had to give notice that they could not admit any more boys. Despite the continued overcrowding and increasing number of commitments, the legislature moved slowly to appropriate the necessary money. Each year, the trustees had to take funds from the school's diminishing total income to make essential purchases. This situation forced the school to operate with no classification or division by age or grade, the prevailing method for providing education and moral training.
In 1857, a special General Assembly committee found that although the state had appropriated money toward completing the building and had funded each boy's board at the rate of one dollar a week, the trustees, without authorization, had borrowed money and contracted debts to keep the school open. The committee recommended legislation prohibiting the trustees from borrowing money, thus, halting any further building expansion and requiring them to make the institution as self-supporting as possible. Finally, in 1870, the state completed the school's building as originally planned with a total expenditure of $115,000. The building had accommodations for 300 to 350 boys.
Ironically, by this time, opinions about reform school's mission and function had shifted from favoring central control in one building to dispersal and segregation of the boys among cottages. In 1876, by time Connecticut first considered adopting the cottage system, seven states and the District of Columbia had already adopted it. Advocates stressed that cottages would provide the closest thing to a normal family environment. They argued that most youthful offenders had suffered from a lack of a wholesome home environment that contributed to their delinquent behavior. Reformers contended that the cottage system would segregate older and more vicious boys from the younger and less hardened offenders. Such segregation would provide a conducive atmosphere for moral reformation, leading to a future decrease in juvenile delinquency.
The trustees proposed moving the school to a farm five or six miles out of Meriden and rebuilding it on the cottage plan. They cited the difficulties created by the crowded residential section at the original school. In addition, Meriden had grown to the edge of the school since the Civil War. Residents, trustees noted, objected to the authorities allowing the boys on city streets. The school needed facilities to house more than 350 boys and a farm to keep them busy. The General Assembly authorized the trustees to study the issue but the expenses involved in moving and the depressed real estate values at the time discouraged any changes.
In 1878, George E. Howe became Superintendent and reopened the issue of reorganization under the cottage plan. In 1880, the legislature appropriated funds for the first cottage built north of the main building. The cottage held 50 boys and had many modern amenities. Simultaneously, the school built a new chapel and transformed the former space in the main building into a seven room hospital. Five years later, the legislature appropriated funds for two more cottages. Upon completion, 100 boys moved from the main building, further relieving conditions that resulted in improved classification of boys according to ages and sizes.
There remained, however, incorrigible boys who did not require commitment to a prison. Unfortunately, Connecticut still lacked an intermediary institution to care for them. In 1886, the trustees requested more cottages to house the remaining boys in order to turn the main building into an Intermediate Department for the incorrigibles. The legislature rejected this plan. It did, however, appropriate the funds to complete two more cottage for 50 boys each. Later, in 1909, it created a reformatory in Cheshire for boys between 16 and 21 years.
In 1893, the General Assembly renamed the Meriden institution, the "Connecticut School for Boys." The school now provided vocational training as well as moral and academic instruction. For instance, in 1853, the trustees' by-laws stipulated six hours of labor, four hours of schooling, at least nine hours of sleep, and five hours for "devotional exercise, miscellaneous duties, and recreation." By 1895, the trustees had shifted the program's focus to vocational instruction that benefited the school's physical plant as well. Masonry and brick-laying students built a new blacksmith shop toward which the carpentry class contributed their framing skills. Income from the chair building shop paid for many projects including wiring buildings for electricity.
By 1930, the school grounds contained the main building, several officers' apartments, officers' dining room and kitchen, work shops, school rooms, and the administrative offices, nine cottages, the building containing a boys' kitchen, laundry, bakery, and power house, the dairy barn, the gymnasium and the chapel. Two additional cottages and a greenhouse were completed later.
Problems with its physical plant were not the only difficulties facing the institution. Before 1873, Connecticut lacked a central authority to supervise state humanitarian services. The Committee on Humane Institutions of the General Assembly provided oversight by visiting the school and reporting to the legislature on conditions. After 1873, state lawmakers created the State Board of Charities. The law provided for one male and one female inspector to visit monthly and report annually any legislative recommendations to the governor. In 1913, the law changed the visits to one inspector quarterly.
In 1921, the State Department of Public Welfare replaced the State Board of Charities. The Bureau of Adult Welfare assumed inspection function for reporting on the School for Boys. The Department included these usually brief and insubstantial annual reports in its reports to the General Assembly.
That same year, the state passed the Juvenile Court Act that created a separate juvenile court system. The new courts had jurisdiction over all criminal matters concerning to juveniles. The act also provided a legal definition of "delinquent child."
The typical government job at state schools and hospitals during this era paid low wages and required long hours in a monotonous routine. As a result, there was a high turnover of the staff. While most staff were dedicated and caring, problems did arise.
In February 1930, an employee complained to the State Department of Public Welfare about conditions at the institution. After the press became aware of the allegations, Governor John H. Trumbull appointed a three person commission to investigate the school. It held six hearings with testimony from 95 persons including 61 current and former boys. Its report to the Governor on March 25, 1930 made 12 recommendations that included reducing the size of the Board of Trustees from 12 to 5 and replacing Superintendent Edward S. Boyd.
The trustees also carried out an investigation. Although they found examples of abuse, employee misbehavior, unsanitary condition, and poor food, they exonerated the Superintendent, blaming over-zealous employees. When the governor insisted on Boyd's resignation, most of the board offered to resign as well, but the Governor refused.
Roy L. McLaughlin arrived as the new Superintendent in August 1930. Previously, he had served as Superintendent of the Sockanosset School for Boys in Rhode Island. Many viewed him as a leader in the field of correctional education. Under McLaughlin, the school modernized its facilities, removed fences and window bars, abolished bread and water and solitary confinement as methods of discipline and upgraded its health care facilities. The State Department of Education studied the academic program and made extensive recommendations to solve problems with the school's elementary education program and to address the needs of older boys not receiving satisfactory educational opportunities. McLaughlin remained at the school for three decades. Under his tenure, the institution received accolades as one of the most progressive programs in the nation.
Norman R. Morgan succeeded McLaughlin in 1960. Shortly after his arrival, concerns about the constitutionality of moving boys to the Cheshire Reformatory halted transfers of hard-core troublemakers. As a result, discipline and morale deteriorated. Despite legislative attempts to simplify transfers, the problem continued to escalate. As the situation worsened, the new administration reversed many of Superintendent McLaughlin's reforms. In 1966, the state assigned troopers to patrol the grounds in an effort to reduce runaways and protect the staff and hired five guards for the school's staff. Superintendent Morgan urged the legislature to build a separate security facility to segregate problem boys since it was apparent that the legal issue over transfers to Cheshire remained unresolved.
In 1967, the legislature considered a proposal to split the school into three separate facilities to remove the younger boys from the influence of the older boys. Improvements in local social services meant that only the most incorrigible cases arrived at Meriden, thus profoundly changing the client population. While earlier commitments primarily were truants and boys from broken homes, the current population usually had a long history of criminal activity. Local and state lawmakers began lobbying to move the school out of Meriden into a more rural setting and turn the existing facilities into a community college.
In 1969, Governor John Dempsey initiated a study committee to investigate conditions at the school. The result was the school's placement under the control of the newly created Department of Children and Youth Services in 1970. The 11 member Council on Children and Youth Services replaced the boards of trustees for both the Connecticut School for Boys and the Long Lane School for Girls. Norman Morgan resigned as Superintendent to take a position with the new department. Charles W. Dean, who had extensive experience in the State Corrections Department, replaced Morgan, reinforcing the image of the School for Boys as a penal institution.
Despite these changes, problems continued. A new scandal over brutality erupted in early 1970. The school disciplined ten staff members, dismissing one, suspending three and reprimanding six. The public employees union and the employees' family members picketed the school until the Governor agreed to expedited hearings. The state eventually rescinded the disciplinary actions.
The school requested funds to construct two maximum security cottages, but local officials objected to any further expansion and reaffirmed their wish that the school leave. Their worst fears became reality in April 1970. Two boys charged with murder obtained an automatic rifle and ammunition and began firing at passing motorists on Route 66 injuring one person.
With restrictions on staff actions and no disincentive against disruptive behavior, conditions deteriorated to the point that Commissioner Wayne Mucci requested a federal investigation of conditions at the school. The U.S. House Select Committee on Crime head by Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL) issued an 85 page report in early 1971. It stated that Connecticut's taxpayers were not getting a good return on the $13,000 annually spent on each boy at the facility, almost three times the national average. The report primarily criticized the infighting among the staff. For example, the professional clinical staff accused the cottage life staff of brutality and the cottage staff accused the clinical staff with "mollycoddling" and "permissiveness." The report also criticized the poor facilities, the high rate of recidivism, and the lack of administrative leadership. The report contrasted the boys' school with the girl's institution, Long Lane, in Middletown. It concluded that Long Lane had a sensitive superintendent and used "some of the best standard correction approaches" with half the recidivism rate.
In an attempt to resolve the on-going discipline problem, Attorney General Robert Killian authorized the transfer of twenty hard-core boys to Cheshire. The Department of Corrections agreed to provide twenty units to DCYS. The boys housed at Cheshire continued under the school's jurisdiction and its staff. They participated in school programs, although segregated from the rest of the boys. Eight months later, the DCYS Council ruled against this arrangement again citing legal issues and a continuing wish to treat children differently from adults. The Council argued that the state needed to focus on funding social programs, half-way houses and other programs designed to prevent boys from reaching the School for Boys. In response, area legislators introduced a bill allowing transfers to Cheshire. The members urged Governor Thomas Meskill to authorize funds for renovating space to house boys with disciplinary problems. In May 1971, a law finally passed authorizing transfers to the Cheshire reformatory. Although problems decreased, public concerns about conditions and treatment of the boys remained high. Therefore, the legislature began exploring other options including relocating the school.
During this same time, economics proved a more powerful incentive. Governor Meskill had convened the Etherington Commission to find ways to improve state government efficiency and reduce costs. The commission recommended merging the boys school with Long Lane, the girls school, which had been receiving positive press coverage as a progressive and successful program.
The legislature held hearings during the 1972 session and passed a bill in April allowing the Department of Children and Youth Services to merge the two institutions. Governor Meskill signed the bill in June. A citizen's group from Middletown attempted to block the merger arguing that local zoning and the legislative authorization for Long Lane permitted only girls at the institution. The court dismissed the petition in July 1972.
During 1972 and 1973, the move occurred one cottage at a time. "High risk" boys remained at the Meriden facility until the completion of a security unit at Long Lane in late 1975. The State Police obtained the property in the fall of 1973 for an integrated headquarters facility. By mid-1974 five departments including the newly created Statewide Organized Criminal Investigative Task Force had moved into the new facilities. The State Police continues to operate administrative offices on the site.
Source: The majority of the information in this historical note comes from Eliza C. Griffin, "History and Development of the Connecticut School For Boys." Masters Thesis School of Social Service Administration (Chicago: 1936), and newspaper clippings from 1936 to 1976.
See also the Connecticut School for Boys Agency History.
Accession 1995-028 consists primarily of daily registers and operational records such as trustees minutes, by-laws, and annual reports; financial records; operations manual; architectural records and maps; legal documents; and student publications. According to an institutional history written in 1936, the daily register and history books were the only records kept of the boys until 1911. At that time, the school began keeping a folder of whatever miscellaneous information that happened to reach it. There was no social history or record of progress in the institution. No record exists of what happened to these folders. Of special interest are the records surrounding a 1930 Board of Public Welfare investigation of alleged staff abuse against the inmates. The investigation resulted in the resignation of the current Superintendent and major policy changes. Accession 2003-045 consists of school registers, 1925-1964.
Series 1. Operation Manuals, circa 1970, contains manuals on policies and procedures at the school.
Series 2. Old Burial Ground, 1885-1995, includes ledger from 1899-1905 (poor condition) 1 vol.; death certificates, 1871-1906 (photocopies); news clippings, 1973-1987; correspondence, 1985-1906; Meriden Death Register, 1955; 1905 (photocopy).
Series 3. Canine Therapy, circa 1935, includes b/w photographs and staff newsletter
Series 4. Newspaper Clippings, 1950-1966, includes, articles about programs available at the school and laws affecting juvenile delinquents. Copies of photographs from clippings are placed with photographs in Box 7.
Series 5. Santori v. Maguder lawsuit, 1970, contains news clippings about a lawsuit between two policemen.
Series 6. Board of Public Welfare Investigation, 1930, includes testimony before Board of Trustees, Feb. 27, Mar 6 and 18; inmate files; misc. items; Julius Hadley report to Ernest Fuller; Trustees' rebuttal of Hadley Report.
Series 7. Sale of Land to City of Meriden, 1966-1967, includes property reports, appraisals; trustee meeting minutes; correspondence; legal documents; land easement excess area maps; other maps; aerial photos maps [J.F. Mulready Co.]
Series 8. New Highway Construction, 1966, contains maps and plans.
Series 9. Sale of Land to G.Fox Co., 1967, includes correspondence, trustee meeting minutes, correspondence and legal documents.
Series 10. Christiano Petition, 1922 , contains a legal document petitioning the release of a boy from the school
Series 11. Superintendent, 1924-1966 , includes quarterly reports, 1924 and Waterbury Republican correspondence, 1966.
Series 12. Written histories, 1856-1975 , includes Griffin, Eliza C. "History and Development of the Connecticut School for Boys." Masters Thesis, School of Social Service Administration, Chicago, 1936; Portions of the State Auditors' report, 1974-1975; History Journal of the State Reform School, 1856-1874 compiled by various directors detailing events at the school.
Series 13. Student Publications 1897-1968, includes monthly newspaper: The Dawn, 1897; 1913; 1931; The Hilltop Hubbub, 1931-1968 ; Columbia Press Association 14th annual contest judging form, 1939; Graduation "programs" , 1934-1952; Graduation program, 1960.
Series 14. Department of Education Survey, 1931, includes detailed analysis of educational programs at that time to identify strengths and weaknesses with recommendations for solutions to problems with the elementary education program and recommendations for a program to address needs of older boys not currently receiving satisfactory educational opportunities.
Series 15. Account Ledgers, 1929-1947, includes accounts receivable, 1929-1944 and petty cash, 1942-1946.
Series 16. Hospital Infirmary, 1960-1969, contains log book, 9/68-5/69 chronological by date
Series 17. Committee on Parole and Discharge, 1899-1922, contains correspondence, 1922 and minutes, 1899-1922.
Series 18. Executive Committee, 1894-1918, contains secretary's minutes.
Series 19. Board of Trustees, 1851-1969, includes by-laws, 1916; Annual reports to the General Assembly, 1854-1912 (sporadic copies); Minutes, 1854-1969
Series 20. Equipment Facilities, undated, contains Specifications for new building (poor condition) and Watkins Bros. presentation set of b/w photographs and pen and ink drawings of office equipment and furniture. Architectural drawings by E.C. Gardner of Springfield of Cottage A, n.d. (sent to conservation).
Series 21. Photographs, circa 1930-1968, includes b/w and color prints of various sizes sorted by topics including African-American inmates, Athletic events, Class days (graduation), Facilities buildings, Group portraits, Marching Bands, Miscellaneous unidentified, Negatives, Pageants parades; Recreational activities, Staff, Theatrical events, Vocational training, Winter (18 folders); Framed panoramic views of original building (2 items unboxed).
Series 22. Sound Recordings, 1959-1962 , includes reel-to-reel magnetic tape of student productions and events including school chorus, 1959; Mikado, Act 2, 1960; Mikado, 1961; graduation, 1961; Oklahoma, 1962 (rehearsals and performance); 1 unboxed unidentified tape. 6 reels. NOTE: The State Library does not have a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Researchers must provide their own equipment.
Series 23. Scrapbooks, 1928-1970 , contains primarily local newsclippings concerning events at the school including the 1930 investigation into abuse as well as later similar cases and labor-management issues
Series 24. Student Records, 1925-1973, includes roll books, population statistics, orientation and intake staffing notebook, runaways lists, and cash and withdrawal slips, and school registers.
Series 25. Memorandums, 1968-1973 , includes information about staff policies and changes.
Series 26. Correspondence, 1954, contains a letter from juvenile courts.
Series 27. Miscellaneous, 1970-1971, includes Pamphlet on mental health talks and recreation center canteen cards.
Series 28. Case Files, circa 1900-1956 includes individual files on boys which include correspondence, intelligence test scores and parole placement information.
Series 29. Case History Books, 1854-1967, includes, individual inmate histories including personal statistics, admissions information, and discharge information compiled from case files. Location of original files unknown. Many records include admission officer's impressions and, in later records, the boy's own statement on his history and family background. The State Library did not receive vols. 26 and 31. Cumulative Index available for vols. 1-27.
Series 30. Daily Registers, 1921-1973, includes admissions and discharges by month with other statistical information.
Series 31. Cottage Staff Book, 1972, includes daily reports and assignments with incident reports.
Restrictions on Access
Items in Series 1: Operations Manuals, Series 2: Old Burial Ground, Series 6: Board of Public Welfare Investigation, Series 10: Christiano Petition, Series 11: Superintendent, Series 14: Department of Education Survey, Series 15: Account Ledgers, Series 16: Hospital Infirmary, Series 17: Committee on Parole and Discharge, Series 18: Executive Committee, Series 19: Board of Trustees, Series 21: Photographs, Series 22: Sound Recordings, Series 24: Student Records, Series 28: Case Files, Series 29: Daily Registers and History Books, Series 30: Daily Registers and Series 31: Cottage Staff are restricted
Some items in Series 12: Written Histories and Series 13: Student Publications are restricted
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
Researchers should also consult the Records of the Governor, RG 5 and Records of the Judicial Department, RG 3.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Connecticut School for Boys (Meriden, Conn.)
State Reform School
Connecticut School for Boys (Meriden, Conn.) -- records and correspondence
Juvenile corrections -- Connecticut
Juvenile delinquents -- Rehabilitation -- Connecticut
Male juvenile delinquents -- Rehabilitation -- Connecticut
Reformatories -- Connecticut
All Series are Accession 1995-028 except for Series 13, Student Publications, which has Accessions 1995-028 and 2008-042; and Series 24, Student Records, which has Accessions 1995-028 and 2003-045.