ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
PETITION FOR THE RELEASE OF JOHN TOWER FROM REFORM SCHOOL
August 11, 1856
In 1855, the council requested the state legislature to establish a reform school to house youthful offenders. The state legislature refused and the city consequently established the Chicago Asylum and Reform School. It housed juveniles under the age of sixteen who were without proper parental care or who had been convicted by a Chicago justice of the peace or police magistrate. The school provided moral instruction and taught an employable trade. If inmates were found to be incorrigible, they could be sent to the bridewell. In 1867, parents or guardians were allowed to place their children in the school if they bore the accompanying expense. It was not until 1872 that the state provided a facility for juvenile offenders at Pontiac.
Points to Consider
Why was John Tower placed in reform school?
Why did Tower's mother leave him in reform school for eight months?
What was life like in reform school?
Where had offending juveniles been placed before there was a reform school?