Isometrical view of the Western House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents. A view of the reformatory in an area later known as Edgerton Park. [1872].
Historian McKelvey's article did not include illustrations. The above image is a reduced and cropped version of a larger one among the library's on-line Rochester Images accessible via its home page at

Blake F. McKelvey's 1972
A History of Penal and Correctional Institutions in the Rochester Area

Page 4 of 7

A Penology of Reform [I]
[McKelvey pages 9 through 12]

Rochester's penal institutions responded in varying ways to the impact of the Civil War. The county jail, considerably relieved by the diversion of children and misdemeanants to other institutions in the fifties, found itself neglected and permitted its standards to deteriorate during the war. In sharp contrast, the county penitentiary under the management of Levi S. Fulton, who after a brief interlude succeeded Brockway, maintained his work program and, with the aid of Samuel Luckey, the chaplain in Brockway's final years, introduced new educational programs.

H. E. Hamil & A. H. Baker
Monroe County Sheriff's Office experienced one of the most violent days in its history when Deputy Simon J. Bermingham was killed and three other deputies were wounded attempting to arrest a suspect who had killed his own father earlier that day. Sheriff Harley E. Hamil narrowly escaped death himself while trying to remove the body of Deputy Bermingham. The suspect, William Twiman, was electrocuted March 31, 1913 at Auburn Prison 15 months after the murders of his father and Deputy Bermingham.

Albert H. Baker, elected in 1925, brought many innovations to the office including the appointment of the first Chief Deputy, initiation of day and night patrols, and the fingerprinting and photographing of all inmates.

Historian McKelvey's article did not include illustrations. The above images amid information are from the excellent history page of Monroe County Sheriff's Office at

As the demand of the army increased, the number of men in the penitentiary declined, and in December 1863 it applied to the federal government for and received a detachment of federal prisoners to occupy its cells and and staff its industries. Since Churchill & Company, which now operated its shoe shop, had large orders from the army to fill, the arrangement proved advantageous to all concerned.

Some of the increasing number of women committed to the penitentiary worked in the tailor and chair caning shops or at other productive tasks. The management had difficulty in housing upwards of a hundred of them in the 72 cells now available in the women's block, but the end of the war brought a decline in such commitments.

The Civil War had a different impact on the House of Refuge. Some of its inmates were the restless sons of men recruited into the army and who sorely missed parental discipline. An increasing number of commitments forced the House of Refuge to rush the completion of a third cell wing.

But the opportunity to discharge some of its older boys into the armed services provided a new outlet, which prompted 91 enlistments in 1862 and 24 in the following year despite the sharp drop in the number of older boys.

Monroe County Jail on Exchange St., Rochester's third jail, opened on Oct. 4, 1885.
Historian McKelvey's article did not include illustrations. The above image is a reduced and cropped version of a larger one among the library's on-line Rochester Images accessible via its home page at

Rising prices stimulated increased production in the contract shops and gave the institution a thriving quality that permeated all aspects of its regime.

The war's aftermath presented graver problems to Rochester's penal institutions than had the great conflict itself. Deprived of the opportunity to release some of their more restless inmates into the armed services, both the Penitentiary and the House of Refuge saw the number of troublemakers increase and experienced new disciplinary problems.

Disruptions in their work programs increased as the contractors, deprived of army orders, reduced their schedules or endeavored to introduce new manufacturing techniques.

Enoch Cobb Wines

For the initial part of his career, Enoch Cobb Wines (born in 1806) taught at and/or ran schools in Vermont, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and his native New Jersey. Then in 1848 he became a Congregational minister, serving churches in Vermont and NY. About a decade later he resumed the educator role by becoming president of the City University of St. Louis. He resigned to become secretary of the New York Prison Association in 1862.

For the next 17 years Wines was a -- if not the -- leading figure in American corrections. He co-wrote the Report on the Prisons and Reformatories of the United States and Canada (1867), a major factor in the institutional reform movement. He was a prime mover behind the formation of the National Prison Association, led its important Cincinnati meeting in 1870, and continued as its secretary until his death in 1879. In 1954, the national group changed its name to the American Correctional Association.

Wines served as the U.S. representative to the International Penitentiary Congress, attended by the delegates from 26 nations in 1872. Congress appointed him to chair a permanent international corrections commission.

He wrote that of all the reformatory influences, religion is the most important because it is the most powerful in its action on the human heart and life. Wines advocated indeterminate sentences, treatment, parole and that moral forces replace physical force.

[Image selection & caption by NYCHS webmaster]

A destructive fire, apparently of accidental origin, gutted the shops and part of the engine house at the penitentiary in 11865, suspended all production for a time there, and apparently prompted several lads at the House of Refuge to start a fire in its work shop a few months later.

That fire was quickly extinguished with the aid of a water system installed in the previous year, and the rebuilding of the penitentiary facilitated the introduction of several improvements including the provision of running water in its cell blocks and shops too.

But slack employment coupled with increased commitments at the House of Refuge seriously disrupted its discipline. Several outbreaks of violence prompted an investigation that brought many sorry details to light.

Although the investigators cleared Superintendent Wood of the more flagrant charges, they took a grave view of the breakdown in discipline, placing part of the blame on the brutal character of some of the production foremen hired by the contractors.

Final responsibility, however, rested with the superintendent who tendered his resignation at the end of the year.

Unfortunately the institution's deficiencies were not easily corrected, and his successor, after a succession of frustrating disturbances, also resigned.

Finally George J. Whitney, the new president of the board, persuaded Levi S. Fulton, whose management of the penitentiary had proved exemplary, to resign that post in 1870 and assume charge at the House of Refuge.

To restore order at the House of Refuge Superintendent Fulton terminated a contract which had mixed a number of outside workmen with the inmates to boost production but with deleterious effects on the boys involved.

He also introduced a program of military drills and a system of merit badges patterned after a scheme devised at the Chicago House of Correction and described at the first National Prison Convention which he had attended at Cincinnati the year before.

He endorsed a recommendation by Enoch Cobb Wines of the New York Prison Association that all contract labor be abolished in juvenile institutions, and in testimony before a New York State Commission on Prison Labor, he advocated that all productive activity should be entrusted to the management of the superintendent and his staff.

But since most state officials feared a breakdown in discipline if any interruption in the work schedule occurred, action on the proposal was deferred.

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