Evidence of crimes at Dozier demands scrutiny: Editorial
Prison scandals have flared up across Florida. With at least 320 inmate deaths last year, the situation has attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice.
There are credible allegations of excessive force by prison guards and appallingly inadequate health care.
Presented with such serious scandals, it might seem the state could reasonably take a pass on addressing similar scandals from the past. But that emphatically is not
the case considering new revelations about the now-infamous state-run Arthur G. Dozier "School" for Boys in Marianna, once the nation's largest juvenile reform school.
Researchers from the University of South Florida prodded the state into an examination of the abuse — indeed, torture and murder — of young inmates sent to the now-
closed school. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated and reported its findings in 2010.
But the USF team released more findings last month with additional dark details about Dozier. The researchers, sifting through remains scattered across graves at the
school, concluded that more boys died in custody than reported by Dozier officials. While 31 crosses had been erected at the site, the team believes it identified 55
As part of its investigation, the team interviewed survivors. Among the most explosive allegations was that the school housed "a rape dungeon," which was reported "by
several men who reported to us that they were raped or molested while incarcerated at the school. Some of the men were under the age of 12 at the time of their abuse,
others name specific perpetrators."
The researchers pointed out that there is evidence, including sworn statements, to back up allegations of sexual abuse at the school. They noted that investigating
sexual abuse is beyond their scope and recommended that the state launch a further investigation.
Clearly that should be done, as should further investigation to try to determine whether any perpetrators of violence, murder or sexual abuse are living and could be
prosecuted. Some more recent documents are not public records and have been unavailable to the USF team. Even if prosecutions are not possible, it is imperative to
reveal the truth to the fullest extent possible.
There reportedly has been a general reluctance by FDLE and Jackson County officials to investigate further. But they do not have the last word. The USF team's report
is addressed to Florida's Cabinet: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott.
Putnam, to his credit, called this week on the FDLE to review the new findings from the USF team. His fellow Cabinet members could strengthen his call by echoing it.
The Cabinet members can signal they will not stand for prison abuses, past or present, by authorizing — no, demanding — a full account of what the state of Florida let
happen at Dozier.