NAACP: State may close Dozier

—Mark Skinner/Floridan

Floridan Staff Writer

Published: December 1, 2009
Updated: December 1, 2009

State officials of the NAACP claimed at a Monday night meeting that more than 175 jobs in Marianna may be lost.
The officials say the state is developing plans for the potential closure of Dozier School for Boys.
However, an official with the Department of Juvenile Justice states he has not heard of any proposal to close Dozier,
or any other information regarding the issue.

NAACP Jackson County President Richard Patterson initiated efforts to alert the community and call the meeting. He
called upon other NAACP leaders to help rally the community, and prepare for a lobbying session in order to save
the school from closing.

Among those in attendance Monday at the Jackson County Commission office were NAACP State President Adora
Obi Nweze, as well as Tallahassee branch President Dale Landry.

According to Landry, the concern about Dozier’s closure was initiated with a reform recommendation report put out
by the Blueprint Commission and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

The report included recommendations for possible downsizing at some of the state’s larger institutions.
The Blueprint Commission was created by the Department of Juvenile Justice in response to several concerns, such
as repeat juvenile offenders and the over-representation of minority youths in state facilities.

According to an implementation report on DJJ’s Web site, the department plans to scale down larger institutions. The
main targets are those facilities with a total of 100 beds or more; Dozier has 135 beds.

Landry also stated that the report wasn’t the only indication of the state’s plans. Through his legislative ties, Landry
said he heard talk in Tallahassee about closing Dozier.

According to Landry, Florida legislators as well as other “enemies” of the Department of Juvenile Justice will likely
stress the state’s dire finances and related budget issues in order to justify Dozier’s possible closure.
“The groundwork is being set as we speak,” Landry said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The NAACP’s standpoint is
to take a proactive role, not a reactive one.”

Although NAACP state officials worry about a possible closure, DJJ Communications Director Frank Penela says he
has heard nothing regarding this issue.

“If anything, Dozier is a great example of what we are trying to move towards with our reform implementation,” Penela
said Tuesday.

“The facility has wonderful programs for rehabilitation and should serve as one of our model schools. So I am
surprised to hear rumors (of its potential closure), because I would have heard something if this was a serious
concern,” Penela said.

The Monday meeting did manage to stir up concerns among attendees, some of them Dozier employees.
“If Dozier really is going to close, the issue at hand is the stigma and negativity surrounding the facility,” said a Dozier
employee reluctant to state her name.

“There was so much negative press about the school over the past year; we may struggle to get the community to
back this facility,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

“This is not about Dozier’s reputation,” Nweze said. “This is about the impact of this facility’s closing on this
community. This is about 175 jobs being lost and a hit to the local economy. This is about Marianna, Florida.“
Other topics discussed at Monday’s meeting were the integration of new programs, and a change of operations within
Dozier in order to create a more effective facility.

Landry stressed at Monday’s meeting that efforts to make changes at Dozier should target rehabilitation instead of
just incarceration, something Penela says already exists.

“We have to get past these stigmas and retool Dozier. I’m ready to fight the fight, but I can’t do it alone,” Landry said.
The meeting adjourned with Nweze urging community members in attendance to encourage other residents of
Jackson County to join the NAACP Monday, Dec. 14 in Tallahassee with their lobbying efforts.

For more information on the Dec. 14 meeting, contact Richard Patterson at (850) 569-1294.