Duval County

Florida Senate bill proposes compensation for survivors of Dozier School for Boys

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Locals who survived a state-run juvenile detention facility could soon be paid for the suffering they endured.

Local lawmaker Tracie Davis is part of the push to make that happen after the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys shut down in 2011.

A group of survivors call themselves the “White House Boys,” named after the building they were beaten and tortured inside. To this day they still remember the horror they experienced in that white house.

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“I lost three years of my life,” Charles Kennedy said.

Kennedy was sent to the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna for stealing a bike. He was just eleven years old.

He said he was sent there to get help, but instead his life was destroyed.

Hundreds of other men have gone on to tell a similar story after their time at the detention facility: stories of alleged beatings, mental and sexual abuse.

“When you look at some of these people. They never recovered,” Kennedy said.

Jimmy Abigando was sent there for truancy when he was 14.

Both men said they can still feel the fear they felt dozens of years ago.

“They beat you half to death in there,” Abigando said.

“The constant fear of when you get up, you don’t know if you’re going to make it that day,” Kennedy said.

They consider themselves the lucky ones, those who were able to move on.

“We’re the ones that seem to have risen above the top, but we’re fighting for the people on the bottom,” Abigando said.

They said a new bill in the Florida Senate is a step in the right direction for the many who are still suffering today.

“If they pay restitution like they should. It should be an admission to the state of Florida that it costs dearly to do that to people. It cost somebody something,” Kennedy said.

The bill is called the “Arthur G. Dozier School For Boys And Okeechobee School Abuse Victim Certification Act.”

It would create a process for identifying victims and later financially compensating them. The amount is undetermined at this time.

Local State Representative Tracie Davis will carry the legislation in the house.

“We, the state of Florida, can finally provide some kind of compensation for the abuse of the children from Dozier and Okeechobee,” Davis said.

The legislature offered a formal apology in 2017 to survivors, but Kennedy said this bill is the real acknowledgment of the state’s mistake.

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“They’re just trying to survive. They should get something for that,” Kennedy said.

The bill is filed for the 2022 Legislative Session, which starts in January.

It would also apply to survivors who attended the Florida School For Boys in Okeechobee.