Jefferson County Online
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The State of Iowa
The Reform School

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 202-203, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.


Eldora, Hardin County.

By "An act to establish and organize a State Reform School for Juvenile Offenders," approved March 31, 1868, the General Assembly established a State Reform School at Salem, Lee (Henry) County; provided for a Board of Trustees, to consist of one person from each Congressional District. For the purpose of immediately opening the school, the Trustees wre directed to accept the proposition of the Trustees of White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute, at Salem, and lease, for not more than ten years, the lands, buildings, etc., of the Institute, and at once proceed to prepare for and open a reform school as a temporary establishment.

The contract for fitting up the buildings was let to Clark & Haddock, September 21, 1868, and on the 11th of October following, the first inmate was received from Jasper County. The law provided for the admission of children of both sexes under 18 years of age. In 1876, this was amended, so that they are now received at ages over 7 and under 16 years.

April 19, 1872, the Trustees were directed to make a permanent location for the school, and $45,000 was appropriated for the erection of the necessary buildings. The Trustees were further directed, as soon as practicable, to organize a school for girls in the buildings where the boys were then kept.

The Trustees located the school at Eldora, Hardin County, and in the Code of 1873, it is permanently located there by law.

The institution is managed by five Trustees, who are paid mileage, but no compensation for their services.

The object is the reformation of the children of both sexes, under the age of 16 years and over 7 years of age, and the law requires that the Trustees shall require the boys and girls under their charge to be instructed in piety and morality, and in such branches of useful knowledge as are adapted to their age and capacity, and in some regular course of labor, either mechanical, manufacturing or agricultural, as best suited to their age, strength, dispisition and capacity, and as may seem best adapted to secure the reformation and future benefit of the boys and girls.

A boy or girl committed to the State Reform School is there kept, disciplined, instructed, employed and governed, under the direction of the Trustees, until he or she arrives at the age of majority, or is bound out, reformed or legally discharged. The binding out or discharge of a boy or girl as reformed, or having arrived at the age of majority, is a complete release from all penalties incurred by conviction of the offense for which he or she was committed.

This is one step in the right direction. In the future, however, still further advances will be made, and the right of every individual to the fruits of their labor, even while restrained for the public good, will be recognized.

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