Boys' reform school unconstitutional
By Adam Kealoha Causey
Self-proclaimed “White House Boy” Marshall Drawdy wasn’t a bit surprised when he heard the news that a federal
probe shows abuse at a now-closed reform school in the Panhandle amounted to violations of the U.S. Constitution.
The Jacksonville resident simply wishes authorities would have decided that earlier to help more people like him.
Drawdy is one of hundreds of grown men who say they were severely beaten with leather straps in a white building
— hence the group name — while being held as inmates at the now-shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in
Marianna as far back as the 1950s.
Click here to read The Times-Union special report on the White House Boys.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday released findings that say, among other things, staff there used
excessive force and confinement as punishment for minor infractions and dismissed suicidal behavior. The report
also raised continuing concerns that Florida does not do enough to protect children in its care.
“These problems may well persist without detection or correction in other juvenile facilities operating under the
same policies and procedures,” the report said.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice disputes the federal government’s claim, saying abuse allegations were
isolated to Dozier and the connected Jackson Juvenile Offender Center, together known as the North Florida Youth
Federal authorities did not indicate whether anyone faces charges. That, too, seemed par for the course to
Drawdy. Many accusations are more than 50 years old, he said, and the staff members to blame are dead.
Now 72, Drawdy said being sent to Dozier at 15 was a defining point in his life. He’d thrown a neighbor’s bicycle in a
ditch, and his father agreed he should go to the juvenile detention center. The beatings — of which there were
eight during his 17-month stay — were bad, Drawdy said. One made him see stars and left him so sore he couldn’t
walk for two days.
But getting to know other inmates there also changed his life, Drawdy said. They taught him to be a criminal: how to
hotwire cars and pick locks.
That education, Drawdy said, eventually led to more trouble with the law in Jacksonville, Indiana and Texas. He’s
sorry for that, but he’s moved on. Dozier, also known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys, is part of the past,
too. He plans to keep it that way.
“Too much water’s run under the bridge now,” Drawdy said Saturday. “I don’t know why, but sometimes it seems
people in authority can’t handle it. They start abusing people. It’s part of human nature.”
The state closed Dozier and the Jackson Juvenile Offender Center in June. That followed a Florida Department of
Law Enforcement investigation that wrapped in March 2010 but led to no prosecutions.
At the time State Attorney Glenn Hess said he couldn’t prove or disprove criminal wrongdoing at the Jackson
County facilities. Hess said by today’s standards allegations would amount to abuse, but decades ago it was
considered corporal punishment to encourage obedience.
Juvenile Justice officials said in June the closures were to reduce $14.3 million in spending and unrelated to abuse
claims. Now the department acknowledges the allegations and has closed 23 sites, including Dozier, because of
“The problems that plagued Dozier do not exist elsewhere in the state,” department spokesman C.J. Drake said.
Many of the men now live in the Jacksonville area. Brunswick author Roger Kiser wrote a book about the group.
In 2010, a Leon County judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit many members filed. The reason? It came long after
the four-year statute of limitations for such claims and had a series of other allegations not supported by case law.
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2011-12-03/story/feds-abuse-floridas-closed-