In the state reformatory at Elmira (which, like that at Napanoch, is for men between sixteen and thirty years of age who have been convicted of a state prison offence for the first time only), the plan of committing adult felons on an indeterminate sentence to be determined by their behaviour was first tested in America in 1877, and it has proved so satisfactory that it has been in part adopted for the state prisons.
There were in 1908 two penitentiaries, one at Joliet and one at Chester, and, in addition to the two reformatory institutions for young offenders under the supervision of the Board of Charities, there is a State Reformatory for boys at Pontiac. The indeterminate sentence and parole systems are important features of the treatment of criminals.
In 1907 the General Assembly passed a law under which the indeterminate sentence was established in the state, and the governor appoints a Board of Parole of three members, of whom one must be an attorney and not more than two are to belong to the same political party.
The first is a new method for educating and reforming young offenders, already on the frontiers of habitual crime, no longer children, but at an age still susceptible of permanent improvement; the second is the legal acceptance of the principle of indefinite detention, the willingness to inflict an indeterminate sentence on those who have already forfeited the right to be at large.
Side by side with the new processes introduced, the idea of the indeterminate sentence was started and put in practice, by which release was made to depend upon reasonable hope of amendment and sentences were prolonged until it was more or less certain that the treatment had resulted in cure.