Florida law enforcement has begun an investigation into who lies beneath the 32 white crosses at a cemetery near the grounds of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.
The crosses bear no names or dates and the Department of Juvenile Justice has no records that explain who's buried in the cemetery near the 108-year-old reform school.
Governor Charlie Crist has ordered the investigation to find out what is in the graves, identify any remains, and determine whether any crimes occurred.
Young boys who committed crimes were sent to the school and were routinely beaten and abused in the 1950s and '60s at the school.
A group of men who call themselves, The White House Boys, were abused at the school in a building called the “White House”. They called for State and Federal authorities to investigate the graves. The men believe the graves contain the bodies of boys killed at the reform school.
One of those men, Dick Conlon, remembers walking into the school laundry and seeing a young boy tumbling inside a dryer. Afraid for his own safety, Conlon walked away. He says he feels guilty for not helping the boy and recalls that particular boy was never seen again.
The “White House” contained two rooms – one for white inmates and one for blacks – where guards would repeatedly strike children with a long leather-and-metal strap so severely that underwear became imbedded in skin. The vicious beatings occurred for the slightest infractions.
In a rather unusual move, the Department of Juvenile Justice acknowledged the abuse at the school by placing a plaque at the “White House” building.
A former resident of the school, Michael O'McCarthy, said, "Rarely do state or federal governments like to admit that they have committed this type of egregious, destructive kinds of crimes, especially to children."
Governor Crist said, "Justice always cries out for a conclusion and this is no different. If there's an opportunity to find out exactly what happened there, to be able to verify if there were these kinds of horrible atrocities ... we have a duty to do so."
Bryant Middleton, a former inmate was told by a CNN producer that the governor ordered the probe.
"My god! That's remarkable. My god! That's all I ever wanted," he said. "That will begin a lot of the healing for those that survived that school."
"Some of us will never get over the brutality, the sexual assaults and the fear. But this is a major step in the right direction," he said.
Perhaps the States of Jersey can take a lesson from Governor Crist – stop ignoring the likes of Senator Syvret, Lenny Harper, Simon Bellwood and most importantly, the victims of the Jersey abuse scandal!
Special thanks to T&T reader, JG for the tip!