‘It was torture:’ Memorial unveiled on grounds of former Dozier School for Boys

MARIANNA, Fla. — A memorial to victims of the Dozier School for Boys was unveiled Friday in Marianna, Florida.

The Dozier School for Boys opened in 1900 and was finally closed in 2011.


Throughout its history, reports of physical and sexual abuse plagued the state-run facility.

“It was torture,” said Jacksonville resident Charles Deas Jr.

At 14 years old, Deas was sent to the Dozier School for Boys for breaking a window.

RELATED: ‘A lot of people didn’t make it out:’ Dozier School for Boys memorial set to be unveiled next Friday

He remembers walking into the now-infamous White House after getting in a fight with another boy.

“This smell of flesh. You can’t describe it,” Deas said.

Then the beating began.

2021 STORY: Florida Senate bill proposes compensation for survivors of Dozier School for Boys

“They would beat you till you were raw,” Deas said.

Now, next to the same building where countless cases of abuse are alleged to have occurred, a memorial stands, documenting the horrors endured by the victims of Dozier.

The statues portray four boys in line waiting to enter a doorway, representing the entrance to the White House.

2019 STORY: More possible graves discovered at shuttered Florida reform school

Beyond the door, a bed and a large industrial fan, which victims have said was used to drown out the screams during beatings.

On the other side, there is a statue of three boys exiting the White House, one carried by the others.

The memorial has been in the works now for nearly five years.

2014 STORY: Former Dozier School student still shudders at memories of abuse

State Senator Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, sponsored legislation officially apologizing on behalf of the state for the atrocities that occurred at Dozier in 2017.

At the unveiling ceremony, she said the memorial serves as a reminder to future generations.

“That true cruelty exists and cannot ever, ever be ignored or overlooked,” Davis said.

2013 STORY: Action News Jax Investigates delays in digging Up Dozier School

The remains of 40 unidentified boys were unearthed on the school grounds in 2013.

Victims like Deas believe many more remain undiscovered.

While Deas survived, his experience led him down a path of drug abuse.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

He finally got clean in the late ‘90s.

He said sees the monument as a sign of progress, in the fight to right the wrongs of the past.

“It’s very important for people to know what went on at that place and what happened to their loved ones, because a lot of them like you said, didn’t make it out of there,” Deas said.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Senator Davis called the monument a “first step.”

She said she plans to continue to fight for legislation identifying surviving victims and providing reparations.

Similar bills have failed to gain traction in recent years.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.