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New Orleans Public Library

Records of Correctional Institutions
At right is the Parish Prison, opened in 1834 in the square bounded by Orleans, St. Ann, Marais, and Treme Streets. From Gibson's Guide and Directory of the State of Louisiana, and the Cities of New Orleans and Lafayette, 1838
  • House of Refuge.
  • Police Jail.
  • Police Jail of the Third Municipality.
  • Workhouse of the First Municipality.
  • Workhouse of the Third Municipality.
  • Workhouse.


    TT

    New Orleans (La.) House of Refuge.

    Records, 1856-1870
    4 v.

    A House of Refuge for juvenile offenders was established in the Second Municipality of the city by ordinance #1104, dated April 29, 1845. Eight citizens chosen annually by the Council were to serve as its Board of Commissioners along with the Mayor, Recorder, and members of the Council's Committee on the Workhouse and Prison. The Board was to care for and educate the inmates as well as to find suitable work with which to occupy them.

    Following consolidation of the city in 1852, this institution became the House of Refuge for the entire city by ordinance #33, dated May 17, 1852. Ordinance #1015 (July 16, 1853) enlarged the citizen representation on the Board to thirteen individuals to be named annually by the Council. They served along with the Mayor. A separate Girls' House of Refuge, governed by the same Board, dated back at least to February 23, 1854, when ordinance #1340 authorized the purchase of a building for such purposes. Ordinance #104 (May 24, 1870) organized the new Department of Police that had been established by the City Charter of 1870. The two Houses of Refuge were placed under the control of the Administrator of Police. The Girls' House of Refuge was abolished by ordinance #2207 (July 1, 1873) and its inmates were transferred to the House of Good Shepherd.

    A Board of Commissioners of Prisons and Asylums was created by ordinance #7426 (1881) and given supervisory power over all prisons and asylums, including the House of Refuge. Management remained under the control of the Administrator of Police, but the Prisons and Asylums Board succeeded in securing the establishment of the Board of Commissioners of the Boys' House of Refuge. This was accomplished through ordinance #2272 (May 10, 1887). The new Board was to be composed of seven citizens appointed by the Mayor to four year terms of office.

    Following a reorganization and strengthening of the Board of Commissioners of Prisons and Asylums (ordinance #13489, dated July 6, 1897) the name of the institution was changed to the Boys' Reformatory School. In 1902 the Board of Commissioners of the Reformatory resigned, and it was determined that the institution properly belonged under the control of the Department of Police and Public Buildings as provided for in the 1895 city charter.

    In 1903, with passage of ordinance #2173, the city turned over care of its delinquent children to the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. City money was appropriated to assist in paying the expenses of the institution and the Board of Commissioners of Prisons and Asylums continued its supervisory functions. Actual management of the delinquent children, however, passed out of the hands of city government.

    The records are manuscript volumes. Included are two volumes of minutes, dating 1856-1876, with a gap during the 1862-1866 period (internal evidence suggests that the Board did not meet during these years of war and federal occupation). In addition to the proceedings of Board meetings, these volumes also contain copies of various committee reports, financial reports, and narrative reports of the superintendent. These latter reports include the names of those being admitted and discharged, the medical condition of the inmates, the names of individuals to whom inmates were indentured, details of the work performed by the inmates, etc.

    Also included is one volume of records of releases from the Boys' House of Refuge, 1866-1867. This brief, 4 page volume records indentures as well as releases. Individual entries show name of inmate, date of release/indenture, name of party authorizing release, and the name & address of the person to whom the inmate was released or indentured.

    The last volume in this record group is a journal of expenditures of the Board of Commissioners, 1867-1868. Entries are by month, and give date, name of payee, and a description of the item for which payment was made. Expenditures are given for both the Boys' and the Girls' institutions, listed separately.

    The annual reports of the Board of Commissioners of Prisons and Asylums (FC200 1900-1904) include reports on the operation of the Boys' Reformatory School. Descriptions of the care given to delinquent children after 1904 can be found in the annual reports of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 1905-1915.

    The minute books are available on 35mm microfilm roll #906705, and the record of releases is available as part of 35mm microfilm roll #906701 (a second copy of the releases film is filed under call number TH240 1913- 1924).

    Inventory

    TT300
    1856-1870

    New Orleans (La.) House of Refuge.

    Minutes, 1856-1870.

    v. 1 1856-1862
    v. 2 1866-1870

    TT410
    1866-1867

    New Orleans (La.) House of Refuge.

    Record of releases from the Boys' House of Refuge, 1866-1867.

    July 24, 1866 - January 30, 1867

    TT441
    1867-1868

    New Orleans (La.) House of Refuge.

    Journal of expenditures of the Board of Commissioners, 1867- 1868.

    January, 1867 - November, 1868

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    TX

    New Orleans (La.) Police Jail.

    Records, 1820-1851

    11 v.

    By ordinance passed on October 8, 1817, the Conseil de Ville provided for the annual appointment of a jailor for the Police Jail. That officer was to provide all furniture, supplies, and provisions for the upkeep of the jail and the support of the prisoners in return for a salary of $500 per year. He was to keep a correct account of fees for the entry and discharge of inmates and was to present that account to the Mayor for approval prior to remitting those fees to the Treasurer.

    The jailor also was required to keep a register with the names of the slaves admitted to the jail along with the names of their masters. Each day he was to deliver a list of the new admissions to the Mayor, which officer alone had the authority to order the discharge of individual slaves.

    Slaves not claimed by their masters within three days of entry into the jail, as well as all slaves imprisoned for any offense against the police laws, were to be put into chains and employed in the public works of the city (the use of imprisoned slaves for public works laborers dated back at least to a resolution of the Conseil de Ville passed on May 22, 1805). The municipal government would pay the cost of their meals while in the work gang, but masters would still be liable for entry and discharge fees. Masters were allowed to place their slaves in the jail specifically for the purpose of joining the municipal work force; the city paid a daily rate to the masters taking advantage of this opportunity. Masters could also send slaves to be disciplined, but the ordinance specified a limit on the number of lashes to be given and on the frequency of their administration.

    Women slaves were to be kept in separate quarters from the men. They were to be employed in "cleaning the gutters of the footways and the crossing bridges of the street."

    The 1836 city charter provided for the continued use of the prison by the three municipalities provided they each pay their proportional share of the cost of upkeep of the facility. The records indicate, however, that the Third Municipality had its own jail for at least a portion of that period. An ordinance of the Second Municipality Council, passed on June 7, 1842, likewise provided for the removal of that municipality's Police Jail slaves into a section of the newly erected Second Municipality Workhouse.

    The records are manuscript volumes, in French. They are described in the following paragraphs.

    Daily reports, 1820-1839 [TX205, 6 v.]--
    includes names of slaves admitted each day, along with the names of their masters and a statement of how they were brought to the jail (by their masters, by the City Guard, as runaways, etc.). Also included are statistical reports giving the number entering and being discharged each day, along with the total number in jail each morning; the number of males and females employed in the public works; the number sick; and the number being detained without being kept in chains.

    The first two volumes, covering 1820 and part of 1823, actually list daily the slaves at the public works, sick, and without chains, in addition to listing the day's new entries. Some later volumes do list individuals or groups of slaves in addition to the new arrivals, but not on a regular basis.

    Many of the "slaves" brought to the jail apparently claimed to be free persons of color; these individuals are generally referred to as "s.d.L.," signifying "so-called free" in the space in the reports where the master's name is usually recorded. Most of these free persons are listed by both given names and surnames.

    Register of slaves entering the Police Jail, 1835-1842 (TX420) --
    records the date of entry, the names of slaves and masters, the means by which the slaves were placed in the jail (by their masters, by the City Guard, etc.), the day of each slave's discharge, and "observations."

    Registers of chained slaves employed in the public works, 1820- 1851 (TX430, 4 v.) --
    records of the "chain gang," giving the names of slaves and masters, dates of entry and discharge, calculations to determine the number of days at work, total days employed in the public works, and the amount of payment due for that employment.

    The last volume in this series (1840-1851) also includes a list of prisoners detained in the Jail from 1825-1840 who were not assigned to the public works, and a list of chained slaves who were employed in the public works of the First Municipality from 1836-1840.

    Available on four rolls of 35mm microfilm, see the following inventory for roll numbers.

    Inventory

    TX205
    1820-1839

    Daily reports, 1820-1839

    [mf roll #89-322]
    v. 1 January 5 - December 30, 1820
    v. 2 January 1 - June 30, 1823
    v. 3 January 1, 1828 - January 1, 1829

    [mf roll #89-323]
    v. 4 January 1, 1830 - January 1, 1831
    v. 5 January 1, 1831 - January 1, 1832
    v. 6 January 1 - December 31, 1839

    [mf roll #89-324]

    TX420
    1835-1842

    Register of slaves entering the Police Jail, 1835-1842

    November 1, 1835 - April 17, 1842

    TX430
    1820-1851

    Registers of chained slaves employed in the public works, 1820-1851.

    v. 1 1820-1823
    v. 2 1823-1827
    v. 3 1827-1835

    [mf roll #89-325]
    v. 4 1840-1851

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    TX205
    1838-1840
    3rd Mun

    New Orleans (La.) Police Jail of the Third Municipality.

    Daily reports, 1838-1840.

    2 v.

    The origins of the Police Jail of the Third Municipality are somewhat obscure. Internal evidence in the records of the Police Jail for the city of New Orleans suggests that that institution was used by the three municipalities after 1836. The likelihood of this use is supported by the 1836 charter which gave the municipalities the right to continue using the jail, provided they paid their proportional shares in support of the facility.

    The records described below indicate that the Third Municipality had a separate jail by early 1838. Those records are signed by the Captain of the municipality's Guard, suggesting a supervisory relationship between the police agency and the jail establishment. This relationship is further supported by resolutions of the Third Municipality Council during the mid- 1840's referring to an officer as "Second Lieutenant and Jailer." In 1847 new legislation placed the Police Jail of the municipality under the control of the First Lieutenant of the Guard.

    The records are manuscript volumes, in French, consisting of daily reports, 1838-1840 [TX205, 2 v.]--includes names of slaves admitted each day, along with the names of their masters and a statement of how they were brought to the jail (by their masters, by the Guard, as runaways, etc.). Also included are statistical reports giving the number entering and being discharged each day, along with the total number in jail each morning; the number of males and females employed in the public works; the number sick; and the number being detained without being kept in chains.

    Many of the "slaves" brought to the jail apparently claimed to be free persons of color; these individuals are generally referred to as "s.d.L.," signifying "so-called free" in the space in the reports where the master's name is usually recorded. Most of these free persons are listed by both given names and surnames.

    Available as items 2 & 3 of 35mm microfilm roll #89-325; filed under call number TX430 1840-1851.

    Inventory

    TX205
    1838-1840
    3rd Mun

    Daily reports, 1838-1840.

    v. 1 February 1, 1838 - April 30, 1839
    v. 2 April 30, 1839 - March 31, 1840

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    TX420
    1852-1862

    Record of prisoners committed to the Parish Prison, 1852-1862.

    1 v.

    The Parish Prison for Orleans Parish was erected in 1834 on the square of land bounded by Orleans, St. Ann, Marais, and Treme Streets. It remained in operation until the 1890's when the new prison was opened on Tulane Ave. and Saratoga St. The 1856 report of the Orleans Parish Grand Jury includes the following description of the prison:

    "the Parish Prison ... contains 232 prisoners [and] was found in good order; its courts, yards, passages, rooms and cells, clean, and the prisoners, with one single exception, satisfied with their food and treatment. Some complain of long confinement -- of near a year -- waiting trial. Some slight repairs are wanted.
    The Jury recommend that arrangements be made so that
    "prisoners accused of capital crimes shall be separate and distinct from those of minor offenses, and those who are serving out their term of sentence, shall have no access to those waiting trial. From its whole appearance, we are satisfied it is in safe hands, and under the care of efficient officers, with good police arrangements."
    The prison appears to have been under the supervision of the Sheriff of Orleans Parish and was governed by state law rather than by municipal ordinance.

    The manuscript record book (inclusive dates, June 18, 1852 - May 10, 1862) lists by date the name of each prisoner committed to the prison along with the crime for which he was committed, and has columns headed "where committed" and "how committed". Under "where committed" is indicated the institution to which the prison was sent; in addition to the Parish Prison, there are also entries for the Workhouse, the Police Jail, the House of Refuge, and the Insane Asylum. Apparently these other facilities shared quarters or were adjacent to the prison during a portion of the period covered (there are few, if any, listings for the Workhouse or the Police Jail after 1852). The column "how committed" contains various kinds of information for different prisoners and for different time periods. In some cases it refers to the court ordering the commitment, while in others it lists the term of the prisoner's sentence or some reference to other action involving him.

    The officer or agency responsible for maintaining this volume is not clear. There is a handwritten label attached to the book's spine that reads "Dept. of Police, 1842 [sic]." This suggests the possibility that the record was kept by the police as a means of keeping track of the whereabouts of prisoners, rather than as a record of the prison itself or of the Sheriff's Office. Because of its similarities to records of other jail/prison facilities, however, the record has been classified along with those records.

    Available as item 4 of 35mm microfilm roll #89-325; filed under microfilm call number TX430 1840-1851.

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    TXA420
    1842-1852
    1st Mun

    New Orleans (La.) Workhouse of the First Municipality.

    Record of vagrants entering the Workhouse, 1842-1852.

    1 v.

    The Louisiana Legislature in 1840 passed an act to permit the establishment by the three municipalities of workhouses or prisons to house and employ "all persons legally committed by any magistrate authorized to commit vagrants." On March 14, 1842, the Sheriff of the Criminal Court notified the First Municipality Council that he would no longer accept vagrants or others sent to the Parish Prison for violations of municipal ordinances. The Police Committee of the Council proposed, and the body accepted, an ordinance establishing a workhouse, house of refuge, and prison for the First Municipality. This new facility was to be established in "that part of the police jail adjoining the parish prison."

    The workhouse, etc. was governed by a board of inspectors made up of the Mayor, Recorder, and members of the Police Committee. The keeper of the police jail served as warden of the institution. He was instructed to keep the inmates in secure custody; to superintend their labor; to keep a list of all tools and other property used by the inmates; and to keep a bound register of the names of the prisoners committed to the workhouse (along with their places of birth, times of commitment, and dates of discharge).

    The record is a bound volume in French [TXA420], giving the date of commitment, name, place of birth, length of sentence, date of discharge, and "observations" for each inmate.

    Available as item 1 of 35mm microfilm roll #89-370; filed under the call number noted above.

    Inventory

    TXA420
    1842-1852
    1st Mun

    Record of vagrants entering the Workhouse, 1842-1852.

    April 2, 1842 - May 31, 1852

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    TXA
    3rd Mun

    New Orleans (La.) Workhouse of the Third Municipality.

    Records, 1844-1851

    2 v.

    The Louisiana Legislature in 1840 passed an act to permit the establishment by the three municipalities of workhouses or prisons to house and employ "all persons legally committed by any magistrate authorized to commit vagrants." On June 13, 1844, the Third Municipality Council ordained the establishment of a facility to serve as a reformatory, asylum, and jail on the site of the Washington Market. The institution was placed under the charge of an Inspection Bureau, headed by the Recorder, which was to "purchase and make contracts for all necessary material, for the various prisoners works; [and] order the kind and amount of work the prisoners shall do ..." The Council also elected a principal keeper for the workhouse.

    The records are manuscript volumes, in English, described as follows.

    Statement of provisions on hand, purchased, and consumed in the Third Municipality Workhouse, 1844-1850 [TXA160] --
    daily inventory, with monthly recapitulations, of the kinds of food, etc. on hand. Also includes records of the individuals or firms from which those stores were purchased.

    Register of persons committed to the Third Municipality Workhouse, 1844-1851 [TXA420] --
    records for each individual prisoner his number; name; age; height; complexion; color of hairs and eyes; marks; place of birth; whether or not naturalized, educated, or married; habits; and occupation. Also gives the date of commitment, term of sentence, date to be discharged, and remarks (usually a reference to the actual discharge). Also included in the volume are records of the provisions consumed in the workhouse hospital during 1847; statements of the sick persons admitted to the hospital in 1847; and a record, by name, of the persons dying in the hospital during the same year.

    Available as items 2 & 3 of 35mm microfilm roll #89-370; filed under call number TXA420 1842-1852 1st Mun.

    Inventory

    TXA160
    1844-1850

    Statement of provisions on hand, purchased, and consumed in the Third Municipality Workhouse, 1844-1850.

    TXA420
    1844-1851
    3rd Mun

    Register of persons committed to the Third Municipality Workhouse, 1844-1851.

    October, 1844 - May, 1851

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    TXA

    New Orleans (La.) Workhouse.

    Records, 1851-1857.

    5 v.

    By ordinance #351, approved on November 5, 1852, the Common Council provided for the annual election of a principal warden and a deputy warden for the city workhouse and prison. The principal warden was instructed to keep the inmates in secure custody; to superintend their labor; to keep a list of all tools and other property used by the inmates; and to keep a bound register of the names of the prisoners committed to the workhouse. He was also required to make regular reports of the expenses, sales, and other financial aspects of the workhouse operation. The ordinance also provided for the acceptance by the New Orleans workhouse of vagrants from Jefferson Parish, at a charge of twenty-five cents per day. Rules and regulations for the officers of the workhouse, and rules "as to the time which shall be devoted to labor by the prisoners" were to be furnished by the committees on prisons and courthouses of the Common Council.

    In 1854 ordinance #1608 added new reporting requirements for the warden, calling for regular accounting for provisions, supplies, etc., used by the workhouse. Other ordinances subsequently changed the make-up of the facilities work force.

    The report of the Orleans Parish Grand Jury, dated July 7, 1856, includes the following description of the Workhouse:

    "In the City Work House are one hundred and forty prisoners, most of whom were engaged in various kinds of work, and though by no means working hard; yet, from their movements, it appeared hard for them to work, and the Jury could only come to the conclusion, that when they are out of the work house, they are citizens of leisure. The yards, shops, rooms, &c., clean; no complaints as to food, and the general appearance of the place creditable to the Wardens."
    Ordinance #2824 (July 7, 1855) put the operation of the Workhouse out to lease beginning on August 1, 1856. The municipal authorities did, however, retain supervisory rights over the activities and business of the lessee. The original lessee abandoned his lease to the city early in 1857 and operation of the workhouse returned to the municipal authorities until a new lease went into effect on September 1 of that year.

    The records are manuscript volumes as described below.

    Inventories of stock on hand, 1851-1856 [TXA160] --
    records of inventories of provisions, clothing, bedding, cooking utensils, office furniture and books, yard utensils, medicine, and tools for stone cutting, painting, carpentry, and cooperage. Each is signed by the warden. Also included, at the end of the volume are various accounts and related financial records of the Workhouse. The book was originally used by the warden of the Second Municipality's Workhouse and was continued in use after consolidation in 1852.

    Record of medical care administered to the inmates of the Workhouse, 1854-1856 [TXA205m] --
    records of treatment administered to inmates in both the male and female departments of the institution. The names of the prisoners and the remedy prescribed are noted, and in some cases the illness being treated is also indicated. The records are very brief and written in pencil. Also included within this volume are records of the stone-cutting operations of the Workhouse for the period May 2, 1853 - January, 1855.

    Record of work performed by the Workhouse, 1852-1856 [TXA440, 2 v.] --
    the first volume (1852-1856) is arranged by the municipal agency for which the work was done (e.g., streets and landings, schools, city hall, etc.) Also included are records of the coffins made and delivered. Volume two (1854-1855) is arranged by the internal departments of the Workhouse (i.e., carpenters, stone cutters, the oakum department, blacksmiths, and tailors). The records include details of the work performed, and references to the agency for which the work was done.

    Account book, 1852-1857 [TXA446] --
    warden's account book with the city. Accounts are listed separately, with dates and descriptions of activities indicated. Also included in the volume are a number of loose statements dealing with various activities of the Workhouse.

    Available as items 4-8 of 35mm microfilm roll #89-370; filed under call number TXA420 1842-1852 1st Mun.

    Inventory

    TXA160
    1851-1856

    Inventories of stock on hand, 1851-1856.

    December 31, 1851 - April 30, 1856

    TXA205m
    1854-1856

    Record of medical care administered to the inmates of the Workhouse, 1854-1856.

    TXA440
    1852-1856

    Record of work performed by the Workhouse, 1852-1856.

    v. 1 1852-1856
    v. 2 1854-1855

    TXA446
    1852-1857

    Account book, 1852-1857.

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