CLAIMS BILL FOR VICTIMS OF THE FLORIDA SCHOOL FOR BOYS                                                        
          
  
Location:Home >Session >Bills
October 08, 2010

 Florida Senate - 2011                              (NP)    SB 44
 
 
 
 By Senator Fasano
 
 
 
 
 11-00028A-11                                            201144__
1                        A bill to be entitled                      
2         An act for the relief of the victims who were abused
3         while confined to the Florida Reform School for Boys
4         located in Marianna and Okeechobee; providing an
5         appropriation to compensate them for injuries and
6         damages sustained as result of the abuses perpetrated
7         by the personnel of the reform schools; providing a
8         limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing
9         an effective date.
10  
11         WHEREAS, during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, certain minors
12  were sent to the Florida School for Boys located in Marianna and
13  Okeechobee, Florida, and
14         WHEREAS, some of the boys who were sent to those reform
15  schools were severely physically and psychologically abused by
16  the personnel operating the reform schools in Marianna and
17  Okeechobee, and
18         WHEREAS, some of the boys who were physically,
19  psychologically, and sexually abused had been sent to the reform
20  school for “crimes” such as being truant from elementary school,
21  for running away from abusive homes, for running away from
22  foster homes, for being “incorrigible” in an orphanage, for
23  jumping a fence at a city swimming pool, or for smoking, and
24         WHEREAS, many of the boys were not given a trial prior to
25  being sent by the state to the reform schools, and
26         WHEREAS, more than 300 former students of the reform
27  schools have come forward alleging abuses during the 1940s,
28  1950s, and 1960s, and
29         WHEREAS, many beatings were inflicted in a building known
30  as the “White House” at the reform school in Marianna, and
31         WHEREAS, the boys were forced to lie face down on a blood-
32  and urine-stained cot, were told to bite a pillow covered with
33  blood, vomit, and bodily fluids, and
34         WHEREAS, the boys were struck repeatedly (as many as 100
35  strikes) on their buttocks and legs with a leather razor strap
36  with a wooden handle, and
37         WHEREAS, such strikes were given with a full swing from
38  overhead, and
39         WHEREAS, such strikes were given with such force that the
40  strap frequently cut into the boys’ skin, causing bleeding and
41  bruising, and
42         WHEREAS, such strikes frequently caused portions of
43  clothing to become embedded into the skin, requiring pieces of
44  their cotton underwear be extracted from the boys’ flesh, and
45         WHEREAS, school employees imposing the whippings would turn
46  on a large industrial fan to muffle the screams of the boys
47  being beaten, and
48         WHEREAS, the personnel of the reform schools who
49  perpetrated such beatings would make monetary bets on which of
50  them could draw blood first from the boys, and
51         WHEREAS, some victims needed medical treatment following
52  the beatings, and were left with permanent scars, and
53         WHEREAS, some of the boys who were severely beaten were as
54  young as 10 years of age, and
55         WHEREAS, after being beaten, some boys were placed in
56  solitary confinement for as long as 30 days in an approximately
57  8-by-8-foot cell having no lights or windows, containing only a
58  bunk with a mattress and no sheets, and a bucket to be used as a
59  toilet, which was known as the “hole,” and
60         WHEREAS, the boys were segregated at the reform schools
61  into white and black areas, and
62         WHEREAS, both races were subjected to beatings, and
63         WHEREAS, some of the beatings were given as punishment for
64  “violations,” such as eating an extra pancake at breakfast,
65  eating blueberries while running an errand, wearing buttons with
66  the wrong insignia on the jacket, lying about using a curse
67  word, having a “bad attitude,” or smiling at the wrong time, and
68         WHEREAS, on one occasion, a boy was tied between two trees
69  while he was repeatedly kicked in the groin, and
70         WHEREAS, some of the boys were simply pulled out of their
71  beds in the middle of the night for beatings or for sexual
72  assaults, and
73         WHEREAS, some of the boys were raped and otherwise
74  physically and sexually assaulted, including being forced to
75  perform oral sex by the reform school personnel and by
76  supervisors and cottage “fathers,” and
77         WHEREAS, beatings in the Okeechobee facility included
78  strikes with leather straps that had quarters or dimes embedded
79  in the leather to provide extra weight, and assaults using
80  “probing rods” that were made of wood and used for punishment by
81  sodomizing the boys, and
82         WHEREAS, boys were asked sexually inappropriate questions
83  by a school psychologist purportedly hired to counsel the boys,
84  and
85         WHEREAS, boys were sexually assaulted by a “school
86  psychologist,” and
87         WHEREAS, boys were sexually abused by school guards in an
88  underground room called the “rape room,” and
89         WHEREAS, the boys were threatened with their lives by the
90  reform school personnel and told not to tell others of these
91  abuses, and
92         WHEREAS, one of the reform school administrators who is
93  alleged to have beaten many of the children admitted under oath
94  that boys were punished by taking them to the “White House,”
95  that the boy being punished was told to lie face down on a cot
96  in an otherwise empty room, that at times they would have two or
97  three boys from the kitchen hold down the boy being punished,
98  that he hit the boys with a thick leather razor strap with a
99  handle 8 to 10 times per infraction, that he at times witnessed
100  bruises on their buttocks afterward, that the director of the
101  school was always present during the “spankings,” that he
102  witnessed the director and another employee at times giving the
103  “spankings,” that boys could be given such punishment for
104  infractions such as smoking, talking about running away, or
105  having an “attitude problem,” and
106         WHEREAS, the national guidelines for training school and
107  juvenile agencies in the 1960s provided that corporal punishment
108  should not be tolerated in any form, including slapping,
109  spanking, paddling, belting, or any kind of abuse, and
110         WHEREAS, Arthur G. Dozier, a former school superintendent,
111  acknowledged the whippings in 1964 when Mr. Dozier stated to the
112  press that although he did not like the whippings, he would not
113  like to see the Legislature take away the right by completely
114  forbidding whipping, and
115         WHEREAS, the school in Marianna is currently named the
116  Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, and
117         WHEREAS, the reform schools were severely underfunded
118  causing overcrowding, and, according to the national guidelines
119  of the time, Marianna housed more than five times the number of
120  children recommended for a state training school, and
121         WHEREAS, the underfunding also resulted in inadequate
122  supervision, and, according to the national guidelines of the
123  time, Marianna employed an insufficient number of caseworkers,
124  and
125         WHEREAS, according to the national guidelines of the time,
126  the Marianna school was understaffed in teachers, and
127         WHEREAS, according to the national guidelines of the time,
128  the Marianna school was understaffed in recreation workers, and
129         WHEREAS, according to the national guidelines of the time,
130  the Marianna school was understaffed in psychologists, and
131         WHEREAS, juvenile court judges who toured the school in
132  1969 stated that conditions were dismal, without adequate
133  facilities, without adequate staffing, and sexual perversion was
134  common, and
135         WHERREAS, one judge stated he felt like a rat for sending
136  boys to that place, that by sending boys to the training center
137  they were doing damage as far as sexual problems were concerned,
138  and that eventually he would like to see the place phased out,
139  and
140         WHEREAS, Governor Claude Kirk toured the school in 1968 and
141  stated “If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances,
142  you’d be up there with rifles,” and
143         WHEREAS, Dr. Eugene Byrd, a psychologist and former staff
144  employee, testified in 1958 before the United States Senate that
145  the conditions and beatings of the boys that he witnessed
146  amounted to “brutality,” and
147         WHEREAS, a pattern of abuse at the reform schools has
148  existed for more than 100 years: in 1903, investigators found
149  children in shackles; in 1911, a report of a special joint
150  committee on the reform school stated that the inmates were at
151  times unnecessarily and brutally punished, the instrument of
152  punishment being a leather strap fastened to a wooden handle;
153  and in 1914, at least 10 children died in a fire in the main
154  building of the Marianna reform school, where it was reported
155  that all fire-escape doors were locked, and
156         WHEREAS, similar abuses occurred at the reform schools
157  located in Marianna and Okeechobee and were considered standard,
158  accepted practice and procedure for administering discipline at
159  the schools, and
160         WHEREAS, these children suffered severe physical and
161  psychological damages that have endured throughout their adult
162  lives, causing damages, including, but not limited to: severe
163  depression; post-traumatic stress disorder; persistent insomnia,
164  including an inability to sleep in the dark for many years;
165  substance abuse; phantom pain; and relationship and economic
166  hardships, including, but not limited to, an inability to
167  maintain personal relationships, causing multiple failed and
168  broken marriages and families, violence, prison time, suicide,
169  lack of trust, and an inability to maintain employment, NOW,
170  THEREFORE,
171  
172  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
173  
174         Section 1. The sum of $ ...... is appropriated from the
175  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Juvenile Justice for
176  the relief of the victims who were abused while confined to the
177  Florida Reform School for Boys in Marianna and Okeechobee and
178  who sustained injuries and damages as a result of such abuses
179  perpetrated by the personnel of the reform schools.
180         Section 2. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
181  a warrant in favor of the victims who were abused while confined
182  to the Florida Reform School for Boys in Marianna and Okeechobee
183  in the sum of $ ...... upon funds in the State Treasury, and the
184  Chief Financial Officer is directed to pay the same out of such
185  funds in the State Treasury.
186         Section 3. The Legislature is not deemed by this act to
187  have waived any defense of sovereign immunity or to have
188  increased the limits of liability on behalf of the state or any
189  person or entity subject to the provisions of s. 768.28, Florida
190  Statutes, or any other law.
191         Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
192  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
193  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
194  resulted in injuries to the victims who were abused while
195  confined to the Florida Reform School for Boys in Marianna and
196  Okeechobee. The total amount paid for attorney’s fees, lobbying
197  fees, costs, and other similar expenses relating to this claim
198  may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under this act.
199         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.