Torture, Rape Victims of Horror Reform School to Receive Financial Compensation

Torture, Rape Victims of Horror Reform School to Receive Financial Compensation

Victims of the Dozier School for Boys who were raped, tortured, and beaten will receive compensation from the state

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 4, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Boys who were tortured and raped at a now-shuttered reformatory school will each receive up to $50,000 in restitution due to a new bill passed Monday by the Florida Legislature.

The Dozier School for Boys operated from 1900-2011, with one campus in Marianna and another in Okeechobee. Nearly 100 boys died and were buried in unmarked graves, which the University of South Florida has spent four years exhuming—though many have yet to be identified.

The school was listed as a reformatory school for troubled or violent boys between the ages of 13 and 21, though allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuse inflicted by staff followed the institution for decades.

“I was beaten until the flesh was torn from my backside,” victim Cecil Gardner, now in his 70s, said last week. A former Dozier student, he recalled being woken in the middle of the night to be taken to the "White House"—a white building on campus designated for beatings.

“I can remember just like it was yesterday … (he) took me down to the White House and raped me. At 14 years old. … I’ve been living this day in and day out. How can grown men be put in a position to take care of young children, to rehabilitate them, and yet they end up abusing them?”

This year, the Florida Legislature is taking action to financially alleviate the horrendous pains these men were put through, allocating $20 million for victims.

SB 24, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson and Republican Rep. Michelle Salzman, creates a process for former Dozier inmates to make claims over abuse suffered between 1940 and 1975—of the 300-400 victims, each will receive around $50,000.

"The victims of abuse at the Dozier and Okeechobee schools have endured years of pain and suffering, waiting for the justice they deserve for atrocities by the state of Florida," Sen. Rouson said Monday. "Today, their perseverance has paid off. The Legislature stands with them not only with our apologies – but with action,"

"My hope is that this program will help soften the painful scars and memories the Dozier and Okeechobee School victims still hold onto," he added.

In 2017, the Florida Legislature issued an apology to victims and their families and provided $1.2 million to cover reburial and memorial costs. The legislation this year puts those words into action.

“The torture, abuse, and killing of thousands of innocent young boys at the state-run Dozier School for Boys can never truly be made right, but today, the Florida Legislature took an important step by unlocking millions of dollars in restitution funds for surviving victims," Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said in a statement.

"It is only right for the State of Florida to pay for its failure to protect these children, now grown men, who will be living with the effects of the horrors they endured for the rest of their lives.”

The bill passed both chambers unanimously and will head to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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