Dozier to close
Employees to be laid off
Cars enter the front gate of the North Florida Youth Development Center Thursday morning. Officials met with the
staff Thursday to announce the state’s decision to shutter the Department of Juvenile Justice facility. After 111 years
in existence, the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys is being closed June 30.- Mark Skinner/Floridan
By Morgan Carlson
The 185 employees at the North Florida Youth Development Center in Marianna learned Thursday the facility will
close June 30.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice officials held three meetings on the facility’s campus Thursday morning.
Members of the facility’s advisory board met after two groups of employees were notified.
According to Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson C.J. Drake, the decision is based on a reduction in budget
– and more specifically, a $41 million reduction in the department’s residential services budget.
According to a statement issued to Department of Juvenile Justice employees Thursday, the department’s overall
budget for next fiscal year was reduced $67 million – an 11 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. The
budget reflects a reduction and realignment of resources coupled with juvenile justice reform, according to the
“The budget for the department reflects Gov. Rick Scott’s vision of increasing resources in front-end services
(prevention, community based services, improved assessment and electronic monitoring) and reducing the emphasis
on residential and detention services, all within a more streamlined and effective organization structure,” the
A total of 1,229 positions, about 500 of which are vacant, will be cut from the department come June 30. Juvenile
justice facilities in DeSoto County, Tampa, Kissimmee and Sanford are also being reduced under the new budget.
According to C.J. Drake, Dozier currently costs the state $14.3 million to operate each year, with $12.2 million of the
operating costs being payroll for the 185 employees at the facility.
The 63 boys currently at the facility will be transferred to other facilities in the state. The 10 dogs in the facility’s
FETCH program will go home with the boys who have been caring for them. Those 10 boys are being discharged,
according to C.J. Drake.
The FETCH program started at the facility in 1998. Through the program, boys at the facility rescue, train and
rehabilitate dogs to be adopted out into the community.
Members of the facility’s advisory board and other officials were on hand Thursday when the announcement of the
facility’s closure was made in private meetings.
Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, said she was notified Wednesday of the meetings, when an employee at Dozier told
her. Coley started making phone calls to find out what was going on and she soon learned about the closure. She
was told the plan had been to notify employees before anyone else.
“My heart goes out to the employees. I know this is a very scary time. We have fought every year to keep this facility
open,” Coley said. “The employees over the last couple of years have worked very hard in overcoming challenges
that were really not of their making and were doing a good job.”
Coley said this move is “unfortunately the result of a bad economy,” and “budget reductions that we had to make for
Colley added, “I’m sorry that I was not able to prevent this.”
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said he is distressed and disappointed about the decision to close Dozier.
Montford said he voted against the state budget because of the “terrible negative implications and impact it will have
on North Florida.”
“These people at Dozer have worked exceptional hard, they’ve done a great job and now they are being laid off,”
Montford said. “We are supposed to be creating jobs in North Florida and it seems like we are going in the opposite
Members of the community and elected and appointed officials have worked for years to keep the 111-year-old
facility open. The aging facility has been rumored to be slated for closure for several years. Dozier was once the
largest reform school in the country, housing nearly 700 boys. Now, there scores of empty beds in buildings that cost
the state a lot of money to operate.
Last year, a new superintendent was hired to reform the school after it failed an annual evaluation in December
2009. The facility quickly got a facelift, including a new name – the North Florida Youth Development Center – and an
advisory board comprised of members of the community. The goal of the board was to create a connection between
the community and the facility.
The facility passed an evaluation less than four months after the failed evaluation, and scored “acceptable” and even
“exceptional” in the areas where it once failed.