Department of Juvenile Justice announces closing of several facilities
Brent Henzi,

Several Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, including the infamous Marianna School for Boys, are slated to close
due to budget constraints this summer. The move will result in the loss of 1,229 positions, 729 of which are currently

An email from DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters delivered to employees Thursday morning shows most closures,
including the Marianna school, will take place by June 30. She notes that the department will begin implementing a
transition plan in June, and will help laid-off employees find other work.

"Change is often difficult, but we can make it easier to deal with by remaining focused on the present," Walters wrote
to DJJ employees. "We can't remake the past or control the future, but we can try to do our best with the time and
opportunities we have right now. Such an attitude can help us cope with this period of change and transition."

The following facilities will close by June 30: the North Florida Youth Development Center (also known as the
Marianna School for Boys and Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys), the Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Center (East) in
Tampa, the Osceola Juvenile Detention Center in Kissimmee, and the Seminole Juvenile Detention Center in Sanford.

All of DJJ's facilities in DeSoto County will also close sometime during the summer, but not by June 30. Those facilities
include the DeSoto Dual Diagnosed Correctional Facility, the DeSoto Juvenile Correctional Facility, and the Peace
River Youth Academy.

The infamous Marianna School for Boys will finally shut its doors after more than a hundred years of reported abuse

The St. Petersburg Times first reported that the school will close. Outside pressure to close the school in response to
reported abuse has been mounting since the school was founded in 1900.

C.J. Drake, DJJ communications director, said recent budget reductions to residential spending by $41 million dollars
initiated the closure, as well as the department's change in philosophy to funding so-called "front end" projects, such
as prevention and intervention programs.

"The more we can invest on the front end and keep [juveniles] out of the system, the better off they and the
community will be," said Drake.

One of the most notable reports of abuse from the school came in 2008, when five former students claimed they had
been brutally beaten inside a school building called the White House. The five men reported being beaten during the
1950's and 60's in the building, which led to numerous additional similar reports to surface.

"Wow, it's great to see that show of horrors shut down," Robert Straley, one of the five original students who first
reported the beatings, told the newspaper. "It started out wrong from the beginning. It was the worst thing the state of
Florida ever did, and to think that they let this go on so long is just unbelievable."

Walters noted in her email to employees that the department is currently working with other state agencies to find a
new purpose for the building. The closure of the facility will result in the loss of 185 jobs. Drake said the department
will help them find new employment opportunities between now and closing day.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, noted his frustration with the closure of the facility, as well as the reduction of
employees at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. He said he will open a satellite office in Marianna to assist
in helping laid-off workers.

"At a time when the state is trying to create jobs and stimulate the economy, I cannot understand why the decision
was made to cut these jobs, devastate these families and their communities," Montford said in a statement.

The news of the reductions in DJJ comes on the same day that Gov. Rick Scott announced even more cuts in the
state budget. Walters notes that DJJ's funding has been reduced by $67 million, an 11 percent reduction, but that
reforming residential priorities "should lead to improved long-term outcomes for the youth we serve."

"Doing more with less is a common challenge faced by all employers in this difficult economy," Walters wrote. "Please
know that I am committed to implementing these changes -- especially their effect on staff -- with efficiency, sensitivity
and without compromising our mission. Employees are DJJ's most important resource."