55 Children Exhumed at Reformatory
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, was built in the year 1900 as a place of instruction where young offenders were sent for corrective training. Allegations of child abuse and brutality made the school the subject of repeated state and federal investigations during the the 100 plus years of strict precept over their inmates. Even in the early 1900’s the school was well known for using harsh methods of correction such as placing irons on the legs of the offenders and there was hearsay of metal plated belts being used during punishments.
During a more recent investigation claims of abuse and murder lead the researchers to seeking answers for families whom lost relatives whom were once incarcerated at the school. They were granted permission to exhume the graves to inspect them and they have now uncovered the remains of 55 or more bodies of children, which are 24 more bodies than officials records indicate should be there. While many of the expected bodies were found in the corner of the yard, an out of the way and almost forgotten grave site on the property, unexpectedly, many more were found around the grounds. Children have been buried under the road, in various parts of the yard and some have been found in the forest near the school as well. Records had shown that 96 boys died during their time at Dozier, but only 26 were supposed to be in the graves, while many of them were taken by the families for proper burials.
A team of 50 researchers from nine different agencies have been brought in to identify the remains and investigate the cause of death for each child found using bone and tooth samples. They hope to collect DNA samples from families who may have had a relative pass away at the school to match the names on the records with the corpses, which will also help them focus on the unknown persons found in random burials.
In 2009 a group of former inmates who call themselves. “The White House Boys Survivors” brought the allegations into the eyes of the public. They chose the name The White House Boys Survivors because they were often taken to a small white building for routine beatings. Now, more than 300 men whom were once incarcerated at the school during the 1950’s and 1960’s have come forward to talk about their time there and are giving descriptive information about the abusive staff. Many of them have said they were sure that fellow inmates had died due to the brutal treatment they received at times, some obviously were beaten harsher than others, and some were never seen again.
Over the years, Dozier became known as the school in which young offenders would go to but would never come back from. Some of the relatives of children who passed away at the school spoke about the way the school handled the deaths. Some stated that the body of their son or brother was buried before they were able to see them and that the school always seemed to have a not so believable cover story as to how the incident took place. It’s a shame that after a century of abuse that included claims of rape, brutal beatings and suspected murder, that the staff whom may have committed the crimes were never arrested for their actions. It wasn’t until 2011 that the school finally shut down. Sadly, instead of being closed due to many investigations of abuse, it was state budget cuts that finally closed their doors. The state of Florida could no longer afford the century old reformatory.
K9 teams are still searching the forest and the grounds of Dozier, looking to see if there are more unmarked burials that may have been hidden. Dozier will forever be known as the reformatory that should have been a place for corrective training, but became a death sentence to young offenders.
~William C. Raustler