The White House Boys: An American Tragedy

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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 64 ha "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. 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 inmates 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".

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The White House Boys An American Tragedy - 9780757314216

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 about treatment by the boys held there, including allegations of continued mistreatment by the guards. State Representative Darryl Rouson said that the system was struggling to move on from a longstanding "culture of violence and abuse".

The U. According to its report, DOJ said that 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".

The White House Boys: An American Tragedy

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 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 their skin.

One former student said that 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 claimed that he was punished in the White House house eleven times, receiving a total of more than lashes. Others alleged that 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.

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. Some former Dozier students told investigators that they felt they had "needed the discipline.

He said staff used the leather strap because they were concerned that spankings with wooden paddles, as had previously taken place, might injure the boys. In January , the Department of Law Enforcement released its findings: [1]. This investigation included over one hundred interviews of former students, family of former students, and former staff members of the school.

The interviews confirmed that in addition to the implementation of the Individual Rating System, school administrators used corporal punishment as a tool to encourage obedience. The interviews revealed little disagreement about the way in which corporal punishment was administered. The former students were consistent in that punishment was administered by school administrators and adult staff witnesses in the building referred to as the White House. The former students were consistent in stating that a wooden paddle or leather strap was the implement used for administering punishment.

The area of disagreement among former students was the number of spankings administered and their severity. Although some former students stated that they were "beaten" to the point that the skin of their buttocks blistered and bled profusely, there was little to no evidence of visible residual scarring. Some former students stated that their spankings caused them no psychological harm and that they learned from their mistakes, while others stated that, mentally, they suffered greatly as a result and still do so to this day.

The White House Boys " An American Tragedy" 12/18 by antoinette harrell | Current Events

Some reports by former students stated that in addition to corporal punishment, they were also subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of former staff members or other students. With the passage of over fifty years, no tangible physical evidence was found to either support or refute the allegations of physical or sexual abuse. On March 11, , State Attorney Glenn Hess announced that no criminal charges would be filed in the case. After interviewing investigators and attorneys representing both the White House Boys and an administrator, and after reviewing the Department of Law Enforcement's report, Hess concluded that he would be unable to prove or disprove criminal wrongdoing in the case in a court of law.

In its December report of its investigation at the Dozier School, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice made the following findings about staff at the school, who were cited for use of excessive force, inappropriate isolation, and extension of confinement: [4]. The youth confined at Dozier and at JJOC were subjected to conditions that placed them at serious risk of avoidable harm in violation of their rights protected by the Constitution of the United States.


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  • Chicken Soup for the Soul Books contributing author, Roger Dean Kiser now tells the personal stories of horror, pain and abuse. The content of this book is graphic and the language is coarse. A story that needs to be told in the manner as it was experienced. The blood stains walls and floors are now locked away forever. However, the horrors the boys experienced will remain in their hearts and minds until their deaths.

    The decaying bodies of young children still lay in unmarked graves on the property. Thrown away as if they were nothing more than garbage. General Imprint: Lulu.

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    A Baffling Murder Case. An Unimaginable Tragedy.

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      Dozier School Marianna Florida Bodies

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