Florida closing 111-year-old reform school

May 27, 2011 at 4:02 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 27 (UPI) -- Florida is closing a 111-year-old boys reform school -- once the largest in the United States -- because of budget cuts.

Employees at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys were told Thursday it would be shut down and the remaining 63 boys now housed there transferred to other facilities, the St. Petersburg Times reported. The school is in Marianna in the Florida Panhandle, about 60 miles west of Tallahassee.

The state spends $14.3 million annually on the school. The Department of Juvenile Justice said it is shifting funding to community-based services as it deals with a $41 million budget cut.

The school opened in 1900 and was later renamed after a longtime superintendent. Three years later investigators reported children were being kept in irons.

One of the worst scandals came to light in 2008, when a group of five men sued, saying they had been savagely beaten by guards in the 1950s. Hundreds more came forward and told similar stories of punishment inflicted in a building known as the "White House."

"Wow, it's great to see that shop of horrors shut down," Robert Straley, 64, of Clearwater, one of the original "White House boys," told the Times. "It was the worst thing the state of Florida ever did, and to think that they let this go on so long is just unbelievable."

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