Were juvenile inmates used as guinea pigs?
Florida School for Boys residents claim ‘doctor’ used them for medical
By Eric Kopp
Not only were boys incarcerated at the Florida School for Boys (FSB) beaten and sexually assaulted, some were
used as guinea pigs for doctors, according to claims made by former FSB students.
According to men who were in the reform school at Marianna, a resident psychiatrist there, Dr. Luis Souza, would
give the boys a concoction to drink in order to modify their behavior.
In another instance, boys in Madison Cottage were given “cookies and milk” on Friday nights if they had behaved
themselves during the week. The milk, recalls one man, had a strange taste and consistency.
Over 300 men have come forward to talk about the abuse they endured at Marianna in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s;
and, at the Okeechobee reform school in the 1960s.
To this day no one knows what was in the drink referred to as “Souza’s Soup” by the boys. But one man is now
suffering physical ailments that doctors not only can’t identify, they can’t tell him what’s causing them.
“I’m having skin problems, I have spots that bleed and I have sores in my nose,” said Jimmy Turner, who was sent to
the reform school in 1964 when he was 14 years old. “I was given the soup every other week I was in there.”
Mr. Turner, who spent 10 months in the Marianna school, can’t count the number of doctors he’s seen about his
ailments, but none have been able to help him.
“I’m on 12 different medicines a day,” said the Vietnam veteran.
One doctor, he continued, believed the skin problems were the result of his exposure to Agent Orange while serving
with the U.S. Navy on the Cambodia River. However, tests done at a nearby Veteran’s Administration Hospital
determined that Agent Orange was not the cause.
Dr. Souza reportedly believed that behavioral disorders developed when the blood did not carry a sufficient amount
of oxygen to blood cells. His ‘soup’ was a mixture of concentrated protein made from red bone marrow, stated an
article by Joy Reese Shaw in the St. Petersburg Times.
“He (Souza) believed the potion would cure juvenile delinquency in boys. A lot were given this when sent to isolation
after beatings—when they were healing,” said Robert Straley, who was in the Marianna school in 1963 and worked
as a hospital boy. “The boys who were given soup said they couldn’t remember what happened—like they were in a
When asked, Mr. Turner said he also didn’t know what happened to him after he drank the bitter tasting potion. He
does recall going into a small room with Dr. Souza, who would have him drink about 6- to 8-ounces of the liquid and
would then attach electrodes to his head.
And, as indicated by Mr. Straley, Mr. Turner was first sent to see Dr. Souza when he was healing from a beating
given him when he was “sent down” to The White House.
“I had a place on the back of my head that was draining—that was from a beating by (Troy) Tidwell,” recalled Mr.
Turner, who is now on disability.
Mr. Tidwell, a one-armed man who worked at the school, has been blamed for administering agonizing beatings by
several men who were “sent down” while at the school. In 2010 a circuit court judge in Tallahassee dismissed a
class action lawsuit filed against Mr. Tidwell by some 300 men who were in the Marianna and Okeechobee schools
because the statute of limitations had expired.
While Mr. Straley had no first-hand knowledge of Souza’s Soup, he said it didn’t take him long to learn who Mr.
“I got a beating my first night there (in Marianna),” said Mr. Straley, who was 13 at the time and weighed just 100
pounds. “Tidwell woke me up in the middle of the night and accused me of smoking. In other words, they just
needed some late night entertainment.”
Mr. Turner, who still lives in Marianna, said he was sent to the school for truancy and for fighting.
“He (Souza) would have me lie down on a bed and I believe the soup made me go to sleep,” he said, in a recent
telephone interview. “I don’t remember if it made me feel different. It was supposed to help me—to keep from being
so mean and getting into trouble and stuff. But, it didn’t help me.”
As for Bryant Middleton, he still wonders where an alleged doctor got the cookies and milk that he gave to boys in
Madison Cottage. During his incarceration at Marianna, the retired U.S. Army captain was in Madison Cottage and
remembers being given the suspicious treat.
Capt. Middleton said he and the other boys in his cottage were given the Friday night ‘treats’ by Dr. Robert Curry,
who was doing a behavioral study on the boys. If a boy had received an infraction during the week, he did not get
the treat but, instead, had to set at the same table and watch the other boys so Dr. Curry could watch his reactions.
He’s also become very curious on just where Dr. Curry, a purported psychologist, got the milk and cookies.
“Every time I was fortunate enough to get cookies and milk, I know it had a strange taste or texture that was different
from normal milk,” recalled Capt. Middleton. “I was the pantry boy and totally accountable for dry goods and
refrigerated items, and I never gave out any bottles of milk. I had the only set of keys. I went to the kitchen at 4:30 a.
m. and I never issued it.”
After having their cookies and milk, Capt. Middleton said the boys were told to take showers then were sent to bed.
Looking back, he thinks the treats were given to the boys to induce sleep. However, he’s not sure of that.
One thing he is sure of, Dr. Curry was not a doctor. The man, he continued, did not have a medical degree and was
of questionable character.
“He went to a junior college and got an associates degree in social work, but he deceived the state into believing he
was a board certified psychologist,” said Capt. Middleton. “He would come down to the showers and watch the boys.
He would call us out of the showers, when we were nude, and look at us. He also liked to run his fingers through our
hair, touch us on our shoulders and say suggestive things.”
According to Capt. Middleton, Souza not only doled out his infamous soup but would also give boys antipsychotic
medication and would conduct shock therapy on boys in Pearce Cottage. The medications, he continued, changed
the behavioral actions and outbursts the boys were having.
“You could hear the blood curdling screams coming out of that place at night,” recalled Capt. Middleton.
He said Dr. Souza started his experiments when he returned from Germany.
When asked if Souza’s Soup was ever given to the boys housed at the FSB in Okeechobee, Capt. Middleton said
he didn’t know but it seemed plausible.
“I don’t know if it was done in Okeechobee,” said Mr. Straley, “but they sent Tidwell and (Frank) Zych to
Okeechobee to ‘straighten the mess out.’ I guess they straightened them out. Zych stayed, but Tidwell returned to
Mr. Zych, who has since died, later became the superintendent at the Okeechobee school.
Mr. Turner said he will soon be leaving Florida to see even more doctors in hopes of finding something that will
relieve his suffering. If the doctors only knew what was in that yellowish drink besides dark flakes, he thought out
“I just wish they could trace back to see what that rascal was putting in that soup,” he said.