The Arthur G. Dozier school for boys had been the scene of terrible violence and a host to the brutal mistreatment of many, before its closure in 2011. This week, an effort by the University of South Florida to excavate the bodies at the site, some of which are suspected to be remains of victims of the barbaric treatment, has uncovered 55 bodies.
This is 24 more bodies than official records indicate should have been located at the site. To date, no criminal investigation has ever been conducted into the events that transpired at Dozier, despite allegations of rape, torture, beatings, and murder.
Dozier’s investigation has had a troubled history and has seen unenthusiastic support from the State of Florida. In 2008, five former wards of Dozier came forward and recounted their harrowing tales of abuse by the guards at the facility. In 2009, the article “For Their Own Good” ran and prompted inquiries for further investigation into the correctional facility. Despite this, no comprehensive search was performed. The state ordered an investigation and state attorney Glenn Hess for the district that includes Marianna, the city Dozier is located in, issued a brief letter that more or less dismisses the possibility of bringing criminal suit.
As has been pointed out at The New Yorker, a law school student could have found more reason to continue the investigation and the failure to exhume the known bodies and search for more in light of all that is alleged to have occurred there is appalling.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. Governor Rick Scott did not order a further investigation. It wasn’t for three more years that any notable action would come for pursuing justice for the dead.
“This is a good example of the ridiculous stance that the state of Florida has taken,” Senator Bill Nelson said at the time, “and I believe this is under the direction of the governor.”
The families of the dead have sought answers for decades and it is a shame that the state of Florida, under the direction of Rick Scott, has continued to deny them solace.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that they are refusing for these families, who have lost a child and (their remains) are closing, to have closure.”
At the time, Nelson claimed that if Scott did not take action on exhuming the bodies, he would go to the Department of Justice at the federal level and see what could be done about getting answers. That was in July of last year, and by the end of August that same year, suspectedly after recognizing that a reckoning was coming for Dozier, a vote was held in which Scott and the remainder of the Florida Cabinet approved the excavation.
Now the investigation has turned up 55 bodies, 24 more that should have been there. There are no limitations in the state of Florida on crimes that cause death. Will Glenn Hess finally have what it takes to begin a criminal investigation?
It is time, these boys deserve the justice and dignity that has long been denied to them by a state that has done little more than try to forget them.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.