Former Dozier school sees new management, again
By Morgan Carlson
Published: January 15, 2011

It’s been slightly more than a year since the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, now the North Florida Youth
Development Center, failed its annual evaluation.

The facility came close to closing. But after a major overhaul under new management, the facility got a rapid

Michael Cantrell was hired as the new superintendent by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to fix the long
list of problems at the facility. After just 90 days on the job, Cantrell lead the center to pass its next evaluation.

Now, just more than a year after Cantrell saved the facility from closing, he is stepping down to take another job,
according to Art Kimbrough, a member of the advisory board for the facility, and president of the Jackson County
Chamber of Commerce.

Kimbrough said Cantrell did an “extraordinary job” with the difficult task he was given just more than a year ago.

In December 2009, the center was failed in two categories – health care services, and safety and security. Due to
the failing scores, the center was given six months to fix the problems before another review by the Bureau of
Quality Assurance.

Cantrell promised immediate reform upon accepting the position as superintendent of the facility following the failed

“Honestly, the department gave us six months to turn some things around, but I felt like that was too long for the
staff to be constantly under pressure,” Cantrell said in April. “So we worked hard to put things in place so that we
could see a turnaround right off the bat.”

In April 2010, about 90 days after Cantrell took over, the facility was reviewed again and passed.

“One of the reviewers even used the word ‘amazing’… They were amazed that we were able to accomplish what we
did in 90 days,” Cantrell said after the review.

With the hiring of a full time, on-site physician, and the implementation of new protocols for security, the program
was able to make a difference in its scores, Cantrell said in April.

But the transformation at the center didn’t stop there, or even within the gates of the facility. One of Cantrell’s goals
from the beginning was to re-engage the community with the center, Kimbrough said.

Cantrell enlisted residents and community leaders to form a group called the North Florida Youth Development
Center Advisory Board. The goal was to use the group to create a connection between the community and the

Through the advisory board, and with the help of volunteers, the center was able to start a color guard program
and offer chapel services, Cantrell said in August.

The facility went from being known around the state for having problems, to being one recognized for its level of
improvement and change of strategy, Kimbrough said.

Even though the person who was responsible for most of the transformation at the center is leaving, Kimbrough
said he is confident the center will stay the course and continue to improve.

Gavin Tucker, a Jackson County native and employee at the center for 12 years, has been named the acting
operations and program manager. “Hopefully the Department (of Juvenile Justice) is wise enough to make it
permanent,” Cantrell said in a letter to the advisory board announcing his departure.

The changes within the center in the last year, and support from the community and Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna,
helped save the facility from a “hostile Senate committee that was determined to see Dozier closed,” Kimbrough

The center is no longer on the chopping block because of its performance, but no one can predict the future in a
year of budget cuts across the state, Kimbrough said.

North Florida Youth Development Center’s biggest weakness now is the aged facilities and cost of operating them.
No state cuts have been aimed specifically at NFYDC, but uncertainty remains at all correctional institutions in
Florida, Kimbrough said.

But one thing is certain, he said.

“The chamber and other organizations will continue to stand in front of Dozier as an advocate not just for what it
means for the community, but for what it is doing to retrain at-risk youth for becoming productive citizens,” he said.

Reader Reactions
Voice your opinion by posting a comment.

posted by redneck2011 on Jan. 16, 2011 - 11:35 a.m.
I work there. I know the horror stories. espcially unit 2 with the cash cow there

+0-0CLEARPosted by dixieland on Jan. 16, 2011 - 9:47 a.m.
I am with you on that redneck! And the staff that does make an effort and does do thier job, takes on extra to make
up for the ones STILL getting away with being lazy, to make it nice for the clients, gets one write up after another
for doing it, the targeting of staff is worse than ever was under Dr. Clemmons, and the dangerous female is still
beating butts in Unit 2, no one has done anything about her, I don't know how much longer the good staff like you
and I and others I know can hang on, getting treated like we do by the higher ups there. I could tell you some horror
stories about what they are doing to good 2nd shift staff.

+0-0CLEARPosted by redneck2011 on Jan. 16, 2011 - 7:08 a.m.
I work out there. I know what happens. All third shift does is sleep all night espcially sense MR. Stevens left. Second
shift staff are too busy hooking up with each other for sex, first shif is to busy talking on there cell phones and
conducting other personal business.
Wish the new person in charge here would go on the houses and the centeral office at night time some times and
see what is happing.

+0-0CLEARPosted by redneck2011 on Jan. 16, 2011 - 7:01 a.m.
Shut them both down, get rid of all the lard bricks

+0-0CLEARPosted by seminole15 on Jan. 16, 2011 - 6:13 a.m.
The man in charge of Sunland does not even live in the county. He can't possibly be effective if he lives 60 miles
away. Everyone needs to contact their legislature and let them know what is going on. He should be made to live in
the house provided for him by the state that is on campus.

+0-0CLEARPosted by Marianna_Man on Jan. 16, 2011 - 12:22 a.m.
I had no clue that the facility had changed names.

+1-0CLEARPosted by dixieland on Jan. 15, 2011 - 6:42 p.m.
Could someone in charge PLEASE send Mr. Cantrell to the circus at Sunland and have him fix that mess before the
new Governor finds out about the place and closes it, putting good people out of work?. why can't this newspaper
look into Sunland, they didn't have a problem putting Dozier all over the front page. Staff at Sunland will have to
speak secretly, or they will be fired or lets say, "helped" out the gate with bogus write ups. It sure is lousy since Dr.
Clemmons left.