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Houses of Refuge were large fortress-like congregate style institution located in urban areas for youth designated as abandoned, delinquent or incorrigible. The average number of youth in a house of refuge was 200, but some, like the New York House of Refuge, housed over 1,000 youth.
Unlike prisons, the houses of refuge are not places of punishment‹although the internal workings can be remarkably similar, with military exercises, severe discipline, and long hours of labor. The wards include juvenile offenders, the poor, vagrants, and disobedient children turned over by parents. Separate institutions, laws, and strategies will transform the response to juveniles and youth crime throughout the rest of the century, culminating in 1899 when the first juvenile court is established.
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Through this movement the reform school, also called training and industrial schools, became an indelible part of America’s juvenile justice system. Today, reform schools are typically called youth correctional institutions and continue to follow a classic congregate institutional model - concentrating large number of youth in highly regimented, penitentiary-like institutions.
Throughout retrenchment cycles, isolated pockets of reform have happened throughout the country that provide lessons for successful change initiatives. In Massachusetts, DYS' emergence in the early 1990s as a leader and model system led to replication of its reform system replacing large, congregate care training schools with small 15-bed secure treatment programs throughout the state.
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1. According to Anthony Platt, author of The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency, the Progressives were not helping children, but denying them what?
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