New York House of Refuge

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A wood engraving representing the NY House of Refuge in 1855

The New York House of Refuge was the first youth detention center in the United States.[1] The reformatory was opened in 1824 on the Bowery in Manhattan, New York City,[2] destroyed by a fire in 1839, and relocated first to Twenty-Third Street and then, in 1854, to Randalls Island.[3]


The concept of a youth detention center came from Cadwallader Colden, John Griscom, Thomas Eddy, and Stephen Allen with the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism. In 1820 the society surveyed United States prisons and issued a report in 1824. The report called for the creation of a reformatory for juveniles to segregate them from adult prisoners.[1]

One of the center's inmates was Austin Reed, whose posthumously published memoir The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict recounted, in part, his tenure in the institution.[4]


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Coordinates: 40°47′42″N 73°55′23″W / 40.795°N 73.923°W / 40.795; -73.923