In addition it wanted to sell land on the property. A family member of a student who died at the school in , and who wanted to reinter his remains, filed suit and gained an injunction against the state's moving ahead with the sale before remains could be exhumed and identified. The state responded to the court injunction and authorized more work by a multi-disciplinary team from the University of South Florida, including exhumations.
They will continue to work on identification. After passage of resolutions by both houses of the legislature, on April 26, , the state held a formal ceremony to apologize personally to two dozen survivors of the school and to families of other victims. In , bills were being considered to provide some compensation to victims and their descendants, possibly as scholarships for children. In , during preliminary survey work for a pollution clean-up, a further 27 suspected graves were identified by ground penetrating radar.
Many people, including former detainees, believe that over bodies were buried on the school's grounds, and that further investigating should be done until all the remains have been identified and cared for. From its opening in , the Marianna site was an open campus of about acres without any perimeter fencing. The site was originally divided into two sub-campuses, South Side or "Number 1", for white students, and North Side, or "Number 2", for " colored " students.
The sections were segregated until Most of the graves were unmarked, and records of many of the documented students who died at the facility were lacking. A report from an extensive forensic investigation, carried out by University of South Florida beginning in , said the buried remains of 55 students were found, including numerous remains found outside the cemetery boundaries, in the woods or brush areas.
In , an room concrete block detention building, also containing two cells one for white, and one for black students , was constructed to house incorrigible or violent students, the site at the time not being fenced. Students called it "The White House". In the s and s, it was the site of most beatings of students.
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After corporal punishment at the school was abolished in , the building was used for storage. In , in response to allegations of the extreme beatings and torture that took place there, state officials sealed the building in a public ceremony, leaving a memorial plaque. It has remained empty since. At the time of the US Justice Department investigation in —11, shortly before the facility was closed, Dozier was a fenced, acre "high-risk" residential facility for boys aged 13 to 21 who had been committed there by a court; their average length of stay at Dozier was nine to twelve months.
They lived in several cottages, with each boy having an unlocked room. On an adjacent site was the Jackson Juvenile Offender Center, a "maximum-risk" facility for chronic offenders guilty of felonies or violent crimes. It housed residents in single, locked cells like a prison.
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According to the abuse investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement , the school was first organized under an act of the legislature and began operations on the Marianna campus on January 1, , as the Florida State Reform School. It was overseen by five commissioners appointed by the governor William Dunnington Bloxham, who were to operate the school and make biennial reports to the legislature. At some time thereafter, the commissioners were replaced by the governor and cabinet of Florida, acting as the Board of Commissioners of State Institutions.
In , the Okeechobee campus opened. In , the name of the Marianna campus was changed to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, in honor of a former superintendent of the school. In , an inspection reported that children at the school were commonly kept in leg irons. A fire in a dormitory at the school in killed six students and two staff members. A year-old boy sent to the school in for "trespassing" died 38 days after arriving there. In , Florida Governor Claude Kirk said, after a visit to the school where he found overcrowding and poor conditions, that "somebody should have blown the whistle a long time ago.
In , as part of a governmental reorganization, the school came under the management of the Division of Youth Services of the newly created Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services HRS. According to a report following investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement FDLE , there were 81 school-related deaths of students from to Thirty-one of these boys were said to be buried on the school grounds, with other bodies "shipped home to families or buried in unknown locations.
In , an inspection revealed that boys at the school were " hogtied and kept in isolation for weeks at a time". The ACLU filed a lawsuit over this and similar mistreatment at a total of three juvenile facilities in Florida. By this time, the Dozier School was housing boys aged thirteen to twenty-one. In , the media reported that young ex-students of the school, sentenced to jail terms for crimes committed at Dozier, had subsequently been the victims of torture by guards at the Jackson County jail. In , the school was placed under the management of the newly created Florida Department of Juvenile Justice , which operated the school until its closure in Many of the boys sent there had been convicted of rape or of committing "lewd acts on other children".
A lawsuit was filed against the institution and the plaintiff was awarded an undisclosed amount in In April , the acting superintendent of the school and one other employee were fired following allegations of abuse of inmates. In October , several of them attended a ceremony to install a historic plaque at the White House that acknowledged that past.
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The news was carried nationwide. In late , the school failed its annual inspection.
Among other problems, the inspection found that the school failed to deal properly with the numerous complaints by the boys held there, including allegations of continued mistreatment by the guards. State Representative Darryl Rouson said the system was struggling to move on from a longstanding "culture of violence and abuse".
The U. According to its report, DOJ said these percentages meant the home was deemed to have neither "high" nor "low" rates of sexual victimization compared with the other institutions assessed in the survey. However, the following year, claiming "budgetary limitations," the state decided to close both facilities on June 30, Remaining students were sent to other juvenile justice facilities around the state.
In the late 20th century, former students who had been held at the school in the s and s began to share accounts of abuses that they had suffered or observed against students. They organized as a group who became known as "The White House Boys". By the early 21st century, there were about members, survivors of this school from the s and s. Since the early s, members of the group began to speak publicly about their experiences to the media, and to challenge the state to investigate practices and personnel at the school. More than men have publicly recounted abuse and torture at the school.
Petersburg Times. The facility was fully segregated until The whippings were carried out by guards using a 3-foot-long belt made of leather and metal and were so severe that the victim's underwear could become embedded in his skin. One former student said the punishments were severe but justified; another said that he had seen a boy trapped in a running laundry dryer at the school and suspected the boy was killed. One former student stated he was punished in the White House eleven times, receiving a total of more than lashes.
Others alleged they were whipped until they lost consciousness and that the punishments were made harsher for boys who cried. In February , the White House Boys filed a class action suit for damages against the state government, but it was dismissed by a judge in Leon County, Florida , because the statute of limitations had run out for such a suit. After the land was 'gifted' to Marianna, a study became mandatory from the EPA, which quickly found over two dozen more graves. The FDLE conducted more than one hundred interviews of former students, family members of former students, and former staff members of the school during the month investigation, but no concrete evidence was found linking any of the student deaths to the actions of school staff, or that there had been attempts by staff to conceal deaths.
A forensic examination of the "White House" was conducted. No trace evidence of blood on the walls was found.
The statement was included in an affidavit supporting a warrant to search a mini van belonging to one of the eight people arrested in the complex case. Authorities say the home was invaded by masked men dressed as ninjas. Their images were captured on a home security system. The couple was killed in the bedroom of their sprawling home, while nine of their children were in other parts of the home.
All the children have various special needs and need nursing and other care. The Billings had 17 children total. Thornton also said that after the home break-in, the seven men gathered at an antique mall in Gulf Breeze, Fla.