The principal reformatory establishments of New York city are the Penitentiary, on Blackwell's Island, and the House of Refuge, devoted to juvenile criminals, on Randall's Island.

                     THE PENITENTIARY.

The large pile of buildings which forms such a prominent object on Blackwell's Island, known as the Penitentiary, is familiar to most of the residents of New York City, though the every day life of its inmates is practically known only to that class to which they immediately belong.

The Penitentiary, which is under the wardenship of Mr. Fitch, is capable of accommodating about seven hundred and fifty prisoners, but at present their numbers are slightly under five hundred - about three hundred men, and ninety women. The prisoners are divided into classes, the particular dress of each indicating the nature and gravity of their offences, and though amenable to the same laws as to labor and discipline, they work in separate gangs and mess by themselves. They are under the control of twenty-four keepers, each keeper, who is heavily armed, having fifteen men in his charge, whose roll he calls, and for whose absence he is responsible. At six o'clock the prisoners are all paraded to call the roll, at half-past six they have breakfast, consisting of dry bread and a bowl of coffee, and at seven, those who are skilled workmen are told off to the blacksmiths', carpenters', tailors', and weavers' shops, where all necessary repairs to the building and its fittings are done, and the clothing for the prisoners is made; others to labor in the gardens and fields, while the remainder are marched off in two divisions, one to work in the stone quarries at home, the others to be conveyed by the Commissioners' steam vessel Bellevue to the quarries on Ward's Island. The female prisoners are principally occupied in the sewing-room, in the brush-manufactory, in washing clothes, and scrubbing out the cells.

The majority of the prisoners are committed for assault and battery or larceny, for terms varying from one month to four years and a half; those committed for graver offences are confined at Sing Sing; all drunkards, vagrants, and disorderly characters at the workhouse. During the past year two thousand three hundred and fifteen persons were incarcerated for different periods - two thousand one hundred and thirty-nine whites, one hundred and seventy-six blacks. Of these about one third were native Americans, one third Irish, one tenth German, and the remainder of various nationalities. The visitor to the Penitentiary cannot but be struck by the youth of the male prisoners compared with that of the females, the bulk of the males being between fourteen and thirty years of age, the females between twenty-five and fifty. Few young girls find their way here, as in their earlier career they are able to gain enough by a life of prostitution, without committing larceny, and consequently do not resort to it till their charms begin to wear, and the consequent diminution of their means of subsistence from such a source compels them to resort to some other. There is another fact which appears in these statistics of crime, one highly suggestive to the housekeeper. Of the four hundred and eleven female prisoners committed during the past year, no less than three hundred and two were domestic servants, and of these two hundred and forty-one were Irish girls and women.

At twelve o'clock the prison bell rings for dinner. It is a sad sight to stand on the terrace and see the various gangs of men and lads march home from their work, the greater proportion of them fine, sturdy looking young fellows; it is sadder still to see some of them carrying a heavy iron ball and chain slung over the shoulder and attached to a strong iron band locked round the leg immediately above the ankle. These men have tried to escape. Necessary as it may be to adopt such measures to prevent them from repeating the attempt, surely it is unnecessarily cruel to compel these poor creatures to wear their irons at night. Their dinner consists of a can of soup, a plate of meat, and ten ounces of bread. They are allowed one hour, and are then marched back again to their work in the quarries; they have supper, bread and coffee, at five o'clock, and at half-past five they are all locked in their cells, which, though scrupulously clean, are certainly too small (about the size of an ordinary clothes closet), considering that the prisoners have to pass twelve hours out of the twenty-four in them.

On Sunday the sewing-room of the female prisoners is used as a Chapel, the men attending services in the morning, the women in the afternoon; once a month there is service for the Roman Catholic prisoners. The convicts have no privileges; a sharp, intelligent lad may become a hall boy or get employed in the mess room; or a mechanic may be appointed to one of the workshops and so gain some slight relief from the monotony of their lives; but they get no reward, beyond a little tobacco once a week for chewing; smoking is strictly prohibited; once a month they are allowed to be visited by their friends. On entering the building the visitor is forcibly struck by the following inscription over the doorway. 
                'The way of the transgressor is hard.'

'Such is the greeting to the unfortunate criminal as he puts his foot, often for the first time, within the prison walls. If an inscription be necessary, surely the Department of Public Charities and Correction might have chosen one less harsh in character; one that breathes a larger amount of Christian charity to a poor fellow creature, one that may offer him some small portion of that encouragement which is so essential to his reformation. Some such epigram as 'it is never too late to mend' would be altogether more suitable and far more encouraging.

                     THE HOUSE OF REFUGE.

The Commissioners of Public Charities and Correction, in their last report, made the startling announcement that there are no less than thirty-nine thousand children in the City of New York, growing up in ignorance and idleness. These children, influenced from their cradles by the most terrible surroundings, have no alternative but to become beggars and thieves almost as soon as they can run alone. Thousands of them are orphans, or perhaps worse, for they are often the children of parents who, ignoring the laws of nature, use them for the purpose of furthering their own vicious ends. They live principally in a neighborhood which abounds in lodging-houses for sailors, the lowest class of liquor stores, dancing and concert rooms, and various other low places of amusement; a neighborhood swarming with brothels, whose wretched inmates are permitted to flaunt their sin and finery, and ply their hateful trade openly, by day and night; where at midnight the quarrels, fights, and disturbances, are so noisy and so frequent that none can hope for a night's rest until they are inured by habit; where, night after night, they witness the most desperate encounters between drunken men and women, kicking, biting, and tearing one another's hair out, as they roll together in the gutter, or, as is too often the case, using deadly weapons, and where the crowd, instead of interfering to stop these awful scenes, stand by in a brutal enjoyment of them, abetting and encouraging the principal actors therein. And their homes, what are they? Their fathers, often out of work, are unable to support their families; their clothes, their bedding, their furniture, all gone to the pawn-shop; father, mother, and children, are often compelled to sleep on the bare boards, huddling close together for warmth in one ill-built, ill-ventilated room. Amid their misery, this neglect of the common decencies of life, this unblushing effrontery of reckless vice and crime, what chance have these poor unhappy little children of becoming decent members of society. They are sickly from the want of proper nourishment, vicious from example, ignorant because they do not care to learn, and their parents take no trouble to compel them to do so, and must inevitably grow up only to swell the already fearful sum total of our criminal population. At ten the boys are thieves, at fifteen the girls are all prostitutes.

A system of State reformatories and State apprenticeships on an extensive scale is the only way of grappling with this terrible state of things. Such institutions as the House of Refuge on Randall's Island have done and are doing much, but a dozen such institutions might be established with advantage in the State of New York alone. On Randall's Island the young criminal has the opportunity of acquiring regular habits and learning a useful trade. They are subject to a humane, though strict discipline, and a very large per centage, especially of the boys, do undoubtedly become reformed. This reformatory, a wise combination of school and prison, can accommodate one thousand inmates. There are at present about eight hundred boys, and one hundred and fifty girls on the register. The boys' building is divided into two compartments, the first division, in the one, is thus entirely separated from the second division, in the other compartment. The second division is composed of those whose characters are decidedly bad, or whose offence was great. A boy may, by good conduct, however, get promoted from the second into the first division. As a rule the second division are much older than the first. Each division is divided into four grades. Every boy on entering the Reformatory is placed in the third grade; if he behaves well he is placed in the second in a week, and a month after to the first grade; if he continues in a satisfactory course for three months, he is placed in the grade of honor, and wears a badge on his breast. Every boy in the first division must remain six months, in the second division twelve months in the first grade, before he can be indentured to any trade. These two divisions are under the charge of twenty-five teachers and twenty-five guards. At half-past six o'clock the cells are all unlocked, every one reports himself to the overseer, and then goes to the lavatories; at seven, after parading, they are marched to the school rooms to join in religious exercises for half an hour; at half-past seven they have breakfast, and at eight are told off to the work-shops, where they remain till twelve, when they again parade, previous to going to dinner. For dinner they have a large plate of excellent soup, a small portion of meat, a small loaf of bread, and a mug of water. At one o'clock they return to their work. When they have completed their allotted task they are allowed to play till four, when they have supper. At half-past four they go to school, where they remain till eight o'clock, the time for going to bed. Each boy has a separate cell, which is locked and barred at night. The cells are in long, lofty, well ventilated corridors, each corridor containing one hundred cells. The doors of the cells are all grated, in order that the boys may have light and air, and also be under the direct supervision of the officers, who, though very strict, apparently know well how to temper strictness with kindness. Before going to bed, half an hour is again devoted to religious exercises, singing hymns, reading the Bible, etc. There is a large chapel, where the services are conducted on Sunday, the girls having the gallery to themselves. There is, however, no Catholic service. This, surely, is not right. At the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island they have service once a month for the Catholics. Of the six hundred and eighty-two children committed from the Courts during the year 1867, no less than four hundred and fourteen were Irish, and in all probability a large proportion of these are Roman Catholics. Institutions of this character should certainly be made as unsectarian as possible.

One of the most interesting, and at the same time, one of the most important features of the Refuge, is the workshop. On entering the shop, the visitor is amused by finding a lot of little urchins occupied in making ladies' hoopskirts of the latest fashionable design; nearly 100 are engaged in the crinoline department. In the same long room, about 50 are weaving wire for sifting cotton, making wire sieves, rat traps, gridirons, flower baskets, cattle noses, etc. The principal work, however, is carried on in the boot and shoe department. The labor of the boys is let out to contractors, who supply their own foremen to teach the boys and superintend the work, but the society have their own men to keep order and correct the boys when necessary, the contractors' men not being allowed to interfere with them in any way whatever. There are 590 boys in this department. They manage on an average to turn out about 2,500 pairs of boots and shoes daily, which are mostly shipped to the Southern States. Each one has a certain amount of work allotted to him in the morning, which he is bound to complete before four o'clock in the afternoon. Some are quicker and more industrious than others, and will get their work done by two o'clock; this gives two hours' play to those in the first division, the second division have to go to school when they have finished till three o'clock, they only being allowed one hour for recreation. The authorities are very anxious to make arrangements to have a Government vessel stationed off the island, to be used as a training-ship for the most adventurous spirits. If this design is carried out it will be a very valuable adjunct to the working of the institution, and will enable the Directors to take in many more boys, without incurring the expense of extending the present buildings. The girls are also employed in making hoop skirts, in making clothes for themselves and the boys, in all sorts of repairing, in washing linen, and in general housework. The girls are generally less tractable than the boys; perhaps this is accounted for by their being older, some of them being as much as five or six and twenty. The boys average about 13 or 14, the girls 17 or 18 years of age. Nearly two thirds of the boys have been boot-blacks, the remainder mostly what are technically known as 'wharf rats.' Some of them are now in the house for the third time; one, a lad only 15 years of age, has passed one year in a juvenile asylum, four years in a reformatory, and is now at Randall's Island. Another has been three times convicted of horse stealing; he would, late at night, ask permission to sleep in a stable; he is a complete cripple, and by attracting sympathy his request was often granted; when every one had left the place he would quietly open the door and lead out the horses. On each occasion that he was convicted he managed to get off with three horses. Another little fellow, only six years old, with a chum, broke into a pipe store, and stole 150 meerschaum pipes; he was however detected while trying to dispose of them. There is a colored lad, about eighteen, who is very amusing; he is a great orator, and addresses the others on all subjects, both general and political. On one occasion, when the Principal ventured to ask him whom he had adopted as his model for speaking, he grandly replied, 'I will have you to know, sir, that I am no servile imitator.' Some of the boys cannot overcome their thieving propensities, but will, even in the Refuge, purloin things that can be of no earthly use to them, if they get the chance. They are very quick and expert. Only a few days ago one of the boys fell down in a fit in the schoolroom; some of the others assisted the teacher to carry him into the open air. The poor fellow had a collection of nick-nacks in one pocket, and about 20 penny pieces in the other, but during the moment that passed in carrying him out both pockets were emptied. The Directors of the house of Refuge, while having a due regard for the well-being of its inmates, very properly take care that they are not so comfortable or so well fed as to lead them to remain longer in the reformatory than necessary. As soon as the boys appear to be really reformed they are indentured out to farmers and different trades. In the year 1867 no less than 633 boys and 146 girls were started in life in this way. Any person wishing to have a child indentured to him, has to make a formal application to the Committee to that effect, at the same time giving references as to character, etc. Inquiries are made, and if satisfactorily answered, the child is handed over to his custody, the applicant engaging to feed, clothe, and educate his young apprentice. The boy's new master has to forward a written report to the officer, as to his health and general behavior from time to time. If the boy does not do well, he is sent back to the Refuge, and remains there till he is 21 years of age. Most of the children, however, get on, and many of them have made for themselves respectable positions in society. The annals of the Society in this respect are very gratifying and interesting. Many young men never lose sight of a Refuge which rescued them in time from a criminal life, and to which they owe almost their very existence. Instead of alternating between the purlieus of Water street and Sing Sing, they are many of them in a fair way to make a fortune. One young man who was brought up there, and is now thriving, lately called at the office to make arrangements for placing his two younger brothers in the House, they having got into bad company since their father's death. A very remarkable occurrence took place at the institution not long ago. A gentleman and his wife, apparently occupying a good position in society, called at the Refuge and asked to be allowed to go over it. Having inspected the various departments, just before leaving, the gentleman said to his wife, 'Now I will tell you a great secret. I was brought up in this place.' The lady seemed much surprised, and astounded all by quietly observing 'And so was I.' So strange are the coincidences of human life.

"The last financial report issued by the Managers is certainly encouraging, and might be studied with advantage by the Directors of other public institutions. The total expenditures for the year 1867, for an average of nine hundred and ninety inmates, was $115,036; but the earnings of the work-shops amounted to $55,090, making the net expenditures $59,946. In 1864, the net cost of each child was $83; in 1865, $80; in 1866, $74, and in 1867, $61. In 1864, the net earnings of each child were $39; in 1865, $42; in 1866, $49, and in 1867, $56, showing every successive year a better result. At the Red Hill Reformatory in England, the net cost of each child for the year 1867, was $135, and the net earnings of each child $30. The total expenditure of the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island for last year was $93,966 for an average of five hundred and thirty three-inmates; deducting $15,175, the value of convict labor, the net expenditure was $77,791, making the net annual cost of each convict $146. After making all allowances for difference of age, etc., there is a very wide margin between $146 and $61. The Principal of the Refuge, Mr. Israel C. Jones, has been occupied for seventeen years in Reformatory work, and no doubt the successful results attending the operations of this society are mainly due to his great experience. Mr. Jones takes great pleasure in receiving visitors who are desirous of seeing the practical workings of his system."