State Archival Records

Florida State Reform School: A Timeline

June 4, 1897: Lawmakers vote to establish a state reform school of ''not less than 50 nor more than 320 acres.'' It is to be ''not 
simply a place of correction,'' but a school where young criminals can be ``restored to the community with purposes and character 
fitting a good citizen.''

April 2, 1898: City leaders in Marianna secure the winning bid to operate the new state reform school, offering 1,200 acres of land 
and $1,400 in cash for its development.

Jan. 1, 1900: The Florida State Reform School opens.

June 1, 1903: A legislative committee reports it ``found [inmates] in irons, just as common criminals.''

1911: A report of a special joint committee on the reform school says: ``the inmates were at times unnecessarily and brutally 
punished, the instrument of punishment being a leather strap fastened to a wooden handle.''

June 5, 1913: The school's name is changed to Florida Industrial School for Boys.

Nov. 18, 1914: A fire erupts in a ''broken and dilapidated'' stove in the white boys' dormitory while almost all of the staff members 
were in town. Six boys and two staff members die in the fire, resulting in a grand jury report.

Oct. 22, 1918: A flu epidemic strikes. The mayor of Marianna sends a telegram to Tallahassee: ``Industrial school in critical shape. 
Need nurses and doctor, am using every person able, so many places cannot attend to all.''

Jan. 4, 1926: A committee is appointed to investigate whether boys could be paroled from the Industrial School for Boys to relieve 
``crowded conditions at the institution.''

Jan. 25, 1946: Arthur G. Dozier, a schoolteacher, is appointed superintendent of the camp. Later, the reform school is named for him.

July 8, 1958: Michael O'McCarthy, then named Michael Babarsky, is recaptured after an escape one day earlier. He says he was 
taken to the White House and beaten with a leather strap.

Dec. 24, 1982: Advocates for children and prison reform file a statewide class-action lawsuit to reform the state's juvenile justice 
system. Among their allegations: Children, some as young as 10, are held in severe crowding and sometimes are shackled and 

May 5, 1987: State officials announce plans for a sweeping overhaul of the youth corrections system to end the four-year legal battle 
between children's advocates and the state.

Sources: State archival records, Miami Herald reports, United Press International.


June 1, 1903: Report from investigative committee to the Florida Senate

"We found them in irons, just as common criminals, which in the judgment of
your committee, is not the meaning of a 'State Reform School,' as defined
by the law creating said school, and should not be so construed by those in
the authority of said Reform School. We have no hesitancy in saying, under its
present management it is nothing more nor less than a prison, where
juvenile prisoners are confined."

1911: Report from an investigative committee

The children are "at times unnecessarily and brutally punished, the
instrument of punishment being a leather strap fastened to a wooden handle."

Jan. 5, 1915: Jackson County grand jury

"We find that the employees were men who were not settled in life, who
have had no experience in raising boys of their own or anybody else's and
who know nothing about the science of bringing up children in the way they
should go. We find that the young men having direct supervision of the boys
were immoral and not proper persons to lead wayward boys toward

March 18, 1948: Superintendent
Arthur G. Dozier

"When a boy leaves Marianna, he is in good health, has caught up with his
studies, has a new set of values, a fair basic knowledge of a trade and is
usually resolved to lead a new and better life.

"The chances are about three to one that the boy will have no further
conflict with law enforcement agencies."

March 3, 1958: Dr. Eugene Byrd, testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee
on juvenile delinquency

"There are two rooms, one room in which they weighed in; the other room in
which they are beaten consists of a cot on which they lay down. They are told
to hold the head rail and not to yell out nor to move. They are beaten by
the director of the department, not the superintendent of the school. The
superintendent does witness each beating."

March 11, 1958: Superintendent
Arthur G. Dozier

"There has been no brutality
in this school."

Dec. 21, 1967: Joseph Miele, a Pinellas County court-appointed defense
attorney, arguing his client, Gary H. Reed, shouldn't be sentenced to

"If you send him up there, you will be putting a good apple in a barrel
with some rotten apples. Up there they are going to teach Gary to do things
without getting caught."

March 20, 1968: St. Petersburg Times news story

"Roy Manella, an official of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and
Welfare, said at a Tallahassee news conference that the Marianna
institution was one of the worst examples in the nation of a boys' reform

March 31, 1968: "Hell's 1,400 Acres,"
St. Petersburg Times

"Here, friends, are 605 of your delinquent children. If they weren't Really
Bad when they got here, chances are they're learning. Learning to sniff
glue, gasoline and shoe wax. Learning to steal cars and break into
groceries in a more professional way. And sometimes learning about sodomy
and other perversions."

Feb. 24, 1969: Judge Frank Orlando, Fort Lauderdale

"When a couple of boys I sent up there came over to say hello I felt like a
rat for sending them to that place."

Feb. 25, 1969: Evening Independent editorial

"It is time that we quit being shocked every time an outsider visits
Marianna. It is time we found out why such conditions continue to exist and
who is responsible for them."

Nov. 24, 1982: St. Petersburg Times editorial

"The cruel practice cannot be justified. Guards wouldn't be allowed to
hogtie inmates in adult prisons. Why should authorities be allowed to do
something that barbaric to children? State officials responsible for
allowing the practice deserve more than admonishment. They should be fired."