Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I had never heard of the Arthur C. Dozier School for Boys, a residential juvenile justice facility (1st image, more photos here) in Marianna, Florida, so I wasn't aware that it closed in 2011. Nor was I aware of its century-long reputation of poor conditions, torture, overcrowding, sex crimes, and unexplained deaths. "There's been 111 years of child abuse at this place. Maybe I'm here to represent those children. Many of them can't speak. I'm not here to speak. I'm just here to stand as a representative," said Bryant Middleton - incarcerated at Dozier in the 1960s - from the grounds on the day they locked the doors. The property was due to be sold, but the family of 13-year-old Tommy Varnadoe has filed suit to allow his buried remains to be located. His death certificate indicates that Varnadoe died of pneumonia in 1934. Other residents had more mysterious fates. Edgar Elton, who was not supposed to participate in sports, suffered a severe asthma attack in gym class and was summarily pronounced dead on the scene in 1961. After Owen Krell was sent to the reformatory in 1940, for running away from home and stealing a car, his family never saw him again. They were told that he had died of exposure after spending the night outside and had been buried.The task of searching for the unmarked graves of an unknown number of boys who died at Dozier was taken up this summer by University of South Florida anthropologist Erin Kimmerle (videos here). Through the use of ground-penetrating radar, her team has found 49 graves so far, 31 of which were with the marked graves in the cemetery (2nd image) and 18 of which were outside its grounds. Kimmerle comments, “These are children who came here and died, for one reason or another, and have just been lost in the woods. We found burials within the current marked cemetery and then we found burials that extend beyond that. For the majority, there’s no record of what happened to them. It’s about restoring dignity.”

1 comment:

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