From the opening of the first State prison in 1797 until the present day, New York's correctional system has had a wide influence on the direction of criminology and penology in the United States. Among the important early institutions established in New York were Newgate Prison (1797), Auburn Prison (1818), New York House of Refuge (1824), Sing Sing Prison (1828), Clinton Prison (1845), Western House of Refuge (1849), Elmira Reformatory (1876), Western House of Refuge for Women (1893), and Bedford Hills Reformatory for Women (1901). Newgate, Auburn, Sing Sing, and Clinton were instrumental in the development of the nineteenth century penitentiary movement throughout the country. In particular, the "Auburn System" of discipline -- congregate work by day, solitary separation in cells at night, enforced silence, lockstep formations, and severe corporal punishment -- served as a model for similar institutions elsewhere. Elmira Reformatory was the first adult reformatory in the country and precipitated a national reformatory movement. Elmira's innovative, highly publicized program included indefinite sentences based on conduct and performance, individualized treatment of inmates, and the extensive use of parole. In the development of reformatories for women, Bedford Hills was extremely important and its programs were emulated at many other institutions. Most influential were Bedford's programs for the scientific study of "feeblemindedness" and "defective-delinquency" as causes of crime.
Until 1846, the State's corrections system was administered by a board of inspectors that in turn appointed wardens for each prison. The 1846 State Constitution established a single Board of Prisons to oversee all State prisons; in 1876 this board was replaced by the Office of Superintendent of State Prisons. The reorganization of State government in 1925-1926 abolished the Office of Superintendent of State Prisons and created a Department of Correction headed by a commissioner appointed by the governor (Laws of 1926, Chapter 606). In addition to continuing the work of the Superintendent of State Prisons, the Department of Correction also assumed the functions of the State Board of Charities relating to correctional institutions. Since 1867, the State Board of Charities and its predecessor, the Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities, had been responsible for supervising correctional institutions (except prisons) and reformatories in the State. The new Department was comprised of four divisions: a Division of Administration responsible for custody of inmates and maintenance of institutions; a Division of Prison Industries supervising prison and reformatory production shops and farm work; a Division of Parole; and a Division of Probation. In 1930 (Chapter 824), the Division of Parole was transferred from the Department of Correction to the Executive Department.
In 1970 (Chapter 475), the present Department of Correctional Services was created. It consolidated the previous Department of Correction, the State Commission of Correction (established in 1926), and the Division of Parole. A 1970 companion law (Chapter 479) removed the Division of Probation from the new department and transferred it to the Executive Department. In 1972 (Chapter 399), the Department's Division of Criminal Investigation was transferred to the newly formed Division of Criminal Justice Services in the Executive Department. In 1973 (Chapter 398), the Commission of Correction was also separated from the Department and made an independent agency within the Executive Department. In 1977, administration of hospitals for mentally ill inmates was transferred to the Department of Mental Hygiene (Chapter 978) and the Division of Parole was again removed from the Department and made an independent Executive Department agency (Chapter 904).