Federal investigation confirms abuse at Dozier, suggests kids in danger at other
By Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Dec 02, 2011 06:24 PM

The U.S. Department of Justice completed an investigation into the conditions of confinement and treatment at the
now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, Florida's first and oldest state-run reform school, and concluded that
there was "reasonable cause to believe that the State of Florida was engaged in a pattern or practice of failing to
have proper measures of accountability that led to serious deficiencies."

The Department of Justice found:

• That staff used excessive force on youth, including choking and mechanical restraints.

• That youth were often disciplined for minor infractions through inappropriate uses of isolation.

• Staff were not appropriately trained.

• The safety of youth was compromised as a result of their relocation to Jackson Juvenile Offender Center (a more
restrictive and punitive facility on the Dozier campus).

• The state failed to provide necessary and appropriate rehabilitative services to address addiction, mental health
or behavioral needs, which serve as a barrier to the youth's ability to return to the community and not reoffend.

The Department of Justice found that the state hired abusive staff at Dozier, failed to provide training, failed to
ensure that the requisite supervision was in place to prevent and detect abuses, and failed to have an effective
accountability process.

It said it believes that the harm suffered by juveniles confined at Dozier is not limited to those facilities.

"Although Dozier and JJOC are now shuttered, these problems persist due to the weaknesses in the state's
oversight system and from a correspondent lack of training and supervision," according to the report by Justice
Department's Civil Rights Division.

The Justice Department demands that "the state conduct an accountability review of its remaining facilities with the
assistance of consultants in the field of juvenile protection..."

The school has been the subject of an ongoing investigative series in the St. Petersburg Times called "For Their
Own Good." The 111-year-old facility has been exposed a number of times over the years for abusing and
neglecting the youth in its care. The Department of Justice's investigation, launched in April 2010, confirms much of
what the Times has reported.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman C.J. Drake said the department received a copy of the report
late Thursday.

"Since 2008, we have closed or substantially reduced 23 residential programs statewide — including Dozier — due
to performance issues," he said. "That's because we proactively identify problems in our residential programs and
take swift corrective action. Residential programs that cannot implement and sustain corrective actions are closed."

Read more in tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times.

[Last modified: Dec 02, 2011 06:53 PM]