Florida law at the time did not allow beating or corporal punishment for adults in jail. It did allow whipping or
strapping children. But the children's bureau of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare said in its
guidelines for juvenile lockups: "Corporal punishment should not be tolerated in any form."
A study of 250 boys committed to Marianna showed they had received 691 whippings among them, the Miami
News reported. Eleven-year-old boys had received 38 percent of the beatings, and 17-year-old boys received
just 3 percent.
Gov. Leroy Collins set up a committee to investigate, then cleared the school administration. The superintendent
at the time, Arthur G. Dozier, for whom the school is now named, said paddling was better than the alternative:
solitary confinement. He added that the school was setting up a psychiatric unit, which would cut down
dramatically on the spankings.
Six years later, in 1964, a reporter for the Miami Herald visited Dozier and quickly heard about the White House.
"It is not on the tour," wrote reporter Joy Reese Shaw. "Nobody likes to talk about what goes on inside — and
when they do, the sting of the whip seems to split through the words." Shaw talked to a boy from Miami sent up for
bicycle theft. He had epilepsy and an IQ of 74. He had been whipped seven times in 11 months. "For the last four
sessions of the legislature Marianna has requested a security detention building, and been denied," she wrote. "It
would cost $198,320.00 to end the floggings."
Four years later, in 1968, a state supervisor for the Marianna school witnessed a beating that, all these years
later, still makes his blood pressure rise. Reached recently by phone, Audie E. Langston said he didn't want to
talk. "I just happened to be there when they caught a kid who was a runner. They caught him and took him into
that building and one of the guys said, 'You should see this,' " Langston said in a short interview. "It was not a
good thing. The people who were doing it thought they needed that method of control." Back then, Langston
wrote a letter to his boss, O.J. Keller. He called what he saw "sickening."
"A young boy [was] taken into a stark, bare, dimly lit room where he was compelled to lie on a small cot and
receive licks with a heavy leather strap. At the time the strap was being wielded by a man who was at least 6 feet,
3 inches and weighed well over 200 pounds. . . The child quivers and writhes. . ."
The letter, which Keller made public, spurred a push to ban corporal punishment.
A former house father at the school also sent Keller a letter, published in the Miami News, saying, "The belt falls
between eight and 100 times. After about the tenth stroke, the seams of the sturdiest blue jeans begin to
separate and numerous times the boys' skin is broken to the extent that stitches are required."
A supervisor who trained for a year at Marianna described a boy's buttocks as "bleeding profusely; the skin was
broken, and the color of his buttocks was green, blue, red and purplish . . . It reminded me of the Dark Ages." The
state did outlaw corporal punishment. But a year later, in 1969, the reform school superintendent told state
legislators that bringing back the strap would cut down on the runaways. He was fired.