The families of the more than 50 deceased children discovered from the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys will receive $7,500 for reimbursement of burial and grave marker expenses after Governor Rick Scott signed legislation on Wednesday.
The bill also establishes a Dozier Task Force headed by the secretary of the Department of State to recommend creation of a memorial and permanent site for the re-interment of unidentified or unclaimed remains.
The reform school, Florida’s first juvenile detention center for boys, was originally built in Tallahassee in 1900 and then later moved to Marianna. It became known for decades for its harsh conditions and brutal treatment, yet only closed down in 2011.
An investigation conducted by examiners with USF and released earlier this year found that between 1903 and 1913, some of the school’s children were shackled in chains, denied food and clothing, hired out to other people to work, and beaten. The abuse continued for decades, but was never stopped.
The drive to finally close down the school came after a group of former students who attended the school during the late 50’s and 60’s and called themselves the “White House Boys” (after a blood-covered building where beatings were administered) led to an FDLE investigation in 2008 that was published in 2010. The public was made aware of the Dozier school through an investigate series of reports by the Tampa Bay Times’ Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann More that were published in 2009.
“Here we have achieved a measure of justice, a meaningful gesture to right the wrongs of the past,” said Tampa Democrat Ed Narain, who sponsored the legislation in the state House. “These boys and these families should not be forgotten, nor should they be further victimized. This bill, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, represents the right thing to do and will also serve as an ongoing reminder that such injustice should never happen again.”