Massachusetts created the nation's first juvenile correctional system in 1846 when it opened the Massachusetts State Reform School in Westborough for 400 boys. This was followed by the opening of the Lyman School for Boys in Westborough during the 1860's. The philosophy behind these institutions was that juveniles were more likely to be rehabilitated than adults were and therefore, should not be treated within adult institutions.

The Lyman School was almost completely self-sufficient. Youth raised livestock, grew vegetables, sewed their own clothes and built many of the facilities located on the school grounds. One administrator called Lyman "in, but not of, the community."

By 1908, five such juvenile institutions of various sizes existed; each administered by separate boards of trustees. In 1948, to solidify operations, the state elected a three-person panel Youth Service Board, which was succeeded by the Division of Youth Services, an independent unit within the Department of Education.

However, by 1960, problems of mismanagement, high recidivism rates and reports of child abuse within the training schools persisted, and the Division was the subject of severe public criticism. In 1969, the Division of Youth Services was abolished and the Department of Youth Services was established as a separate agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

This information is provided by the Department of Youth Services.