What Goes Around, Comes Around
A new report out of Florida tells it all, in one sentence: “On a hillside in the rolling, tall-pine forests near the Alabama-Georgia border, a team of more than 50 searchers from nine agencies last year dug up the graves to check out local legends and family tales of boys, mostly black, who died or disappeared without explanation from the Dozier School for Boys early in the last century.” There have been 55 bodies recovered so far. So far, but there may be more.
A report last October noted that “Some of those sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys as "incorrigible" never returned. Those who survived have described decades of beatings, rapes — and possible murders — at the school in Marianna, Fla., from 1900 until it was shut down in 2011.”
In fact, if we go back almost 200 years, the count probably reaches more than 1,000. More than 1,000 lives shattered, lost, ruined, and snuffed out.
This is a summary of the history of juvenile “corrections” in this country.
It is no accident that most of these kids were black. In his chilling account of the infamous “convict lease” system, Douglas Blackmon documents thousands of mostly black males who literally “disappeared” deep in the factories and mines of the this system of exploitation. All in the name of profit.
The graves that have been uncovered reveal deadly secrets of an era that is hopefully coming to an end in this, a country based upon the notion of “equality” and “opportunity” where the “poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” were welcomed by the words on the Statue of Liberty.
Except if your skin color was something other than white. But even those who were welcomed were just wanted as fodder for the “captains of industry” to use to gather wealth.
For those who were not needed to amass this wealth, we set up “houses of refuge,” “reform schools,” and the convict lease system where they would toil in obscurity and then be buried among the “rolling, tall-pine forests” deep in the South. In recent years virtually every state has reported widespread abuses of young offenders locked up within these 19th century dinosaurs we call “training” or “reform” schools.
A New York Times report; here’s another one from the Southern Poverty Law Center; and a GAO report in 2007. For a more complete list see a page from my web site.
So far officials have located 11 families of the deceased and hope to find more as they send bones and other artifacts to the University of North Texas Science Center for DNA testing.
The University of South Florida has been in charge of the investigation and data collection at the site, under the leadership of Professor Erin Kimmerle. Kimmerle had these sobering thoughts on the investigation when he said that these discoveries "will not only bring resolution to these cases but will add to our knowledge about investigations of missing and unidentified persons in jurisdictions throughout the country."
Yes, you read it right: “investigations of missing and unidentified persons in jurisdictions throughout the country.” When it will end is anybody’s guess. At least in several states these institutions are being shut down, with California leading the way by shutting down the infamous California Youth Authority.
People in authority will have to pay someday. What goes around comes around.
Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice
Contribute to CJCJ
Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.
Explore how California’s 58 counties send their residents to correctional institutions with interactive maps, charts, and downloadable data.