Texas House of Correction and Reformatory:
An Inventory of Reports at the Texas State Archives, 1890-1892
The Texas House of Correction and Reformatory was established by legislation in 1887 (House Bill 21, 20th Legislature, Regular Session) to serve as a penal institution for boys under the age of 16 in the state prison system at that time and boys convicted of crimes in the future. This bill authorized the Governor to appoint three commissioners to select a site for the house, purchase it, and oversee construction of the house and the operation of the facility. The site selected was in Gatesville, Texas. The trustees were to be appointed by the Governor for two year terms. They were also to create rules and regulations for the facility, having in view the reformation, education, and discipline as well as the profitable employment of the inmates. The inmates were to be taught habits of industry and sobriety, some useful trade, and to read and write. The trustees were also to establish some mechanical industries so the inmates could be placed at such work at the discretion of the superintendent. White and colored inmates were to be kept, worked, and educated separately.
Direct management of the house was to be by a superintendent appointed by the Governor, who was to report to the trustees. The superintendent's duties were to enforce rules and regulations made by the trustees and manage and control the inmates. He was also to serve as a financial agent, being responsible for purchasing materials and supplies, disbursing moneys appropriated, and selling products raised and manufactured at the institution.
The House of Correction and Reformatory was to house all convicts under the age of 16 who were in the state penitentiary that had an unexpired term of five years or less and future boys under 16 convicted of terms of five years or less. After successfully fulfilling their term, the inmates could get all legal rights restored to them by the Governor.
The House of Correction and Reformatory opened in 1889 as a division of the Texas penal system. Legislation that same year (Senate Bill 51, 21st Legislature, Regular Session) called for the three trustees now to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, still for terms of two years. They were to hold quarterly meetings (more if needed), make quarterly and annual reports to the governor, and elect their own chair. The superintendent was still appointed by the governor. The superintendent was required to keep a register to record the reception, previous moral character, habits, and education of the inmates; and the discharge, death, escape, commutation of time, and any punishments inflicted. He was to make quarterly and annual reports to the trustees and the governor. According to the biennial report in 1892, there were several boys governor-granted on parole who were required to write to the Superintendent every two weeks regarding their status. The biennial report in 1892 also reported at least 50 boys over the age limit, being between the ages of 18-23. There were also 10-15 boys with sentences longer than five years listed in the report.
In 1909, the name of the institution was changed to the State Institution for the Training of Juveniles (Senate Bill 201, 31st Legislature, Regular Session). This legislation also increased the Board of Trustees to five members - three men and two women - still appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate for two year terms. The Board was now charged with appointing the superintendent, with the approval of the governor, for a two year term. The superintendent was to make semi-annual reports to the Board and the governor. Inmates were to receive instruction and training - to include elementary common school - as well as industrial, manual or agricultural training. Each inmate was to receive instruction, training in some useful occupation, and moral training and discipline. White inmates were to be kept, worked, and educated entirely separate from inmates of other races. No inmates were to be kept at the school after the age of 21, or for a period of less than two years or more than five years.
The 1909 legislation also allowed for paroling of inmates by the superintendent (previously paroles were granted by the governor). The superintendent, with the approval of the board chairman, could grant inmates a conditional "Leave of Probation." The inmate and his employer were required to send a report at the end of each month and thereafter for a period of six months to the superintendent as to the habits and demeanor to the parolee. If the reports were favorable a full release could be granted. If not, the parolee could be sent back to the institution, forfeiting his parole.
In 1913, the name of the institution was changed to the State Juvenile Training School (House Bill 27, 33rd Legislature, First Called Session). The size of the Board of Trustees was increased to six, with staggered terms. Also in 1913, House Bill 99 (33rd Legislature, Regular Session) changed the age of the boys received. The institution was now directed to receive boys under the age of 17 (previously under the age of 16), for no more than five years and they were not to be kept past the age of 21.
In 1919 the 36th Legislature created the Texas State Board of Control (Senate Bill 147, Regular Session). The legislation directed the Board of Control to take over management of the state juvenile training school, abolishing the Board of Trustees. The school was renamed the Gatesville State School for Boys in 1939. In 1949, the State Youth Development Council (later named the Texas Youth Council) took over management of the school (House Bill 705, 51st Legislature, Regular Session).
In 1971 a class-action lawsuit was bought against the Texas Youth Council on behalf of juvenile defenders (Morales vs. Turman). This led to sweeping changes in the Texas juvenile justice system. The presiding federal judge, Judge William Wayne Justice, ordered the closing of the state schools at Gatesville (boys) and Gainesville (girls). The Gatesville State School for Boys closed in 1979. The Texas Youth Commission (Texas Youth Council was renamed the Texas Youth Commission in 1983) today manages several facilities throughout the state for juvenile offenders.
These records consist of monthly, annual, and biennial reports of the Texas House of Correction and Reformatory to the Governor, dating 1890-1892. The reports were prepared by the superintendent and dealt with the condition of the reformatory and provided a list of the boys housed in the institution. There is a monthly report from January 1891, an annual report for fiscal year 1891 (1890-1891), and a biennial report covering November 1890 - November 1892.
The monthly report describes the condition of the institution, including a brief review of the financial status, education offered, boys received and discharged, and illnesses. It also contains lists of provisions and stock on hand for the month. There is also a time roll for the boys, listing illnesses in the Remarks section of the time roll.
The annual and biennial reports both have a lengthly narrative report to the governor discussing the general condition of the institution, agricultural production, education, health of the boys, financial condition, and improvements made and those needed. There are tables listing the number of inmates on hand broken down by race; tables listing the number of inmates pardoned, apprenticed, escaped, out on ticketed leave, and the number of inmates whose sentence expired also broken down by race; and a table listing the inmate population by county. Both the annual and biennial reports also provide abstracts listing cash expenditures and cash received during the period covered by the report. Both reports have a large table listing the boys in the institution, county received from, offense, term of sentence, race, probable age when received; and, in the Remarks column, a note on the date and way the boy left the system (discharged, apprenticed, escaped, paroled, pardoned, or otherwise released). The biennial report has three additional tables: offenses of the inmates, nativity of the inmates, and length of sentences of the inmates.
The biennial report is printed, the monthly and annual reports are hand-written.
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(Identify the item), Reports, Texas House of Correction and Reformatory. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 1998/257
Most of the reports were removed from Governors' records during processing and were assigned an accession number for control purposes on August 12, 1998. There is no accession data for the governors' records.
Laura K. Saegert, May 2001
Detailed Description of the Records