In 1884 the Ohio state legislature approved the creation of a prison to serve as an intermediate step between the Boys' Industrial School in Lancaster and the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. The city of Mansfield was selected and land was purchased. Designed by architect Levi T. Scofield, the Ohio State Reformatory opened its doors in 1896 as a facility to rehabilitate young male offenders through hard work and education. A self-sufficient institution with its own power plant and working farm, the Reformatory produced goods in its workshops for other state institutions and provided opportunities for inmates to learn trades. It became a maximum-security facility in 1946, housing all types of offenders. Considered substandard by the 1970s, the Ohio State Reformatory closed in 1990.
We hold the following Ohio State Reformatory admission records and photographs of inmates:
Historical conduct record (admissions) 1896-1968 [State Archives Series 1706]
There are gaps in the collection and inmates for which we hold no admission records. In those cases, you can learn basic information (name, serial #, date committed, age, color, offense, court in which convicted, maximum sentence, and possibly, date of release) from the index entry.
Each record contains serial number, name, date received, county of conviction, crime, minimum and maximum sentences, birthplace, birth date, and age, names of next-of-kin, family history,criminal history, physical description, parole information.
Bertillon cards with photographs 1901-1921 [State Archives Series 1416 AV]
There are gaps in the collection and there is not a card with photograph of every inmate.
Each card has two photographs of the prisoner: a profile picture and a face-on picture. Each card also gives the prisoner's name, any aliases used, race, county of conviction, crime, date of arrival at the Reformatory, occupation, nationality, any previous criminal record, age, year of birth, birthplace, and physical description.
The Bertillon system of identification of criminals was based on the measurement of certain bony lengths of the body and was used before fingerprints. It was invented by French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon, and was adopted by the Ohio Penitentiary in 1887.
The photograph of the inmate from the back of the card
Bertillon photograph books 1913-1982 [State Archives Series 4526 AV]
There are gaps in the collection and there is not a photograph of every inmate.
Multiple photographs are on each page of the books with only one photograph of each inmate. The inmates are identified by their serial number which is attached to their clothing.
We hold the following indexes to the Ohio State Reformatory Admission Records:
Historical conduct record (admissions) 1896- 1968 [State Archives Series 1706]
Rolls GR6833 - GR6836 contain the indexes in this collection.
Record of inmates 1918-1954 [State Archives Series 1721]
Rolls GR3606 - GR3607
Other primary source materials:
To learn what other archival materials we hold that were created by or on the subject of the Ohio State Reformatory, enter the term 'Ohio State Reformatory' in the search field of the Archives Database.
Additional materials such as books and pamphlets:
To search for all materials we hold related to the Ohio State Reformatory, please search our Online Collections Catalog below.
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To access the full state archives, manuscripts and audio-visual collections, please click here.
The online catalog for our archaeology, history and natural history museum objects is currently is under construction. We will be launching a new site to search these collections soon.