Last of Dozier residents moved
Population, staff both declining

By Deborah Buckhalter
Published: March 30, 2011
The residents at Dozier School for Boys, seen
here, have all been transferred to the newer,
renamed facility next door. Officials say both the
resident population and the staff numbers are
declining. –Morgan Carlson/Floridan
The last resident in the old Dozier School for Boys moved off the original campus last Thursday and into the newer
Jackson Juvenile Correctional facility next door, commonly referred to as J-JOC.

As well as being re-named the North Florida Youth Development Center, it now houses maximum and high-risk
juveniles. All the Dozier residents were high-risk, and were moved gradually over a period of about two weeks.

The move has led to widespread speculation that the entire facility might eventually shut down. Department of
Juvenile Justice Regional Director Mary Mills said Tuesday she can’t rule out that possibility. She said she will not
know what the plan for J-JOC or any other juvenile facility will be until legislators pass a budget and the department
assesses where it stands.

At its peak in the early to mid-1900s, Dozier housed several hundred boys, but its population declined over time.
Before its current residents were moved to J-JOC, the Dozier population had dropped to below 100. Fewer and fewer
new residents were assigned, as the older residents aged out or completed their programs and were released. Mills
said Dozier wasn’t the only one seeing fewer juveniles assigned; there’s a declining need for beds statewide, she

In addition to a declining need for residential juvenile programs, the Department of Juvenile Justice had also moved a
developmentally disabled population off the Marianna campus to a different facility in another part of the Panhandle,
accounting for 13 residents in the population decline.

Last year, the department closed the sex-offender component of the juvenile facility, absorbing all but one of the 46
workers into other jobs at different facilities, or finding them jobs with other agencies. One worker elected to leave
the state’s employ.

Now, even with the populations combined from Dozier and J-JOC, there aren’t enough bodies to fill the available
beds at the development center.

“Commitment rates are going significantly down in Florida,” Mills said. “Today, of the 96 beds at the center, there are
81 residents.”

The boys at the development center still use some of the Dozier buildings, such as the gymnasium, infirmary,
classrooms and vocational shops. The boys were moved in part, she said, because of the costs associated with
heating and cooling the cottages where they once lived. Some of the buildings date to the early to mid-1900s, are
not energy efficient and are showing their age. Maintenance and utilities were big expenses that drove the move.

The declining population of residents allowed the transition to the newer J-JOC facility, but has left the development
center overstaffed. The total employee count today is 201, with 234 positions authorized. More than 50 percent are
direct care staff, and others include maintenance, security and other workers.

Mills said that the ideal staff-to-resident ratio in direct care is one to eight. She has enough workers to provide four
staff to eight residents, with no one losing their jobs because of the transition. Mills said that while this has some
advantages, it isn’t the best situation to be in as far as the budget is concerned.

At the same time, the facility conversely faces daily staffing problems. Mills said that, on average, two to five workers
turn in their resignations on a given week. That trend began about two months ago, she said, and continues.

Additionally, many more people are calling in to state they won’t be in that day, particularly on or near the weekends.
She speculates some of this has to do with uncertainty about the future. Since no one can say whether the facility will
survive the budget cuts, or whether staff reductions may be necessary if it does stay open, workers are reacting to
that uncertainty, Mills said.

Realizing that some workers were calling in so that they could interview for other jobs, the agency finally decided
about two weeks ago to acknowledge it. They told workers recently that they would support their efforts, by allowing
employees to take time off if they needed to go for interviews. All the agency asked, she said, was that the workers
be honest about it so that adequate staffing could be arranged while they were away.

Mills said that, on average, two to three people might call in to state they wouldn’t be in on a given day. Now, the
average is more like eight a day, particularly Friday through Sunday.

As for the future of the old Dozier campus, Mills said she didn’t know of any set plans for the property. Planning that
could have an impact on the remaining J-JOC facility is also on hold.

“We’re waiting to see how the budget falls out,” Mills said. “We don’t have long range plans right now (for the Dozier
campus), we can’t say if the other center will stay open or if it will close. About four years ago, we had 7,200
residential beds across the state; now we have about 4,300, and at any given time 300 to 400 of those beds are
empty. The need has simply gone down.

“What we have done, at the same time, is increase the services we can offer the declining population. There might
be some way to use (the Dozier property), it’s a beautiful campus, but given the budget environment we’re in, I don’t
know. There are challenges out there that are so difficult. One of the biggest is the light bill. Old buildings are very
costly, so there are some concerns about that.”

As for the future of the development center next door, Mills did not speculate.

“It is just one of many facilities around the state being impacted by under-utilization and the budget,” she said. “Right
now, the budget changes on a daily basis and I can’t say right now with any certainty what will happen once we have
the final version. We routinely assess our resources, the cost of maintaining them, then try to do the best we can with
what we’ve got. Moving the residents over there from the Dozier side helped maximize our staffing and other
resources, and we look for other ways to save and survive.”