Legislation for Dozier restitution stalled

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - Legislation seeking to put in place a means of providing restitution for victims of the infamous Dozier School for Boys in Marianna has hit a snag in both chambers.

Victims of the reform school came to the State Capitol Wednesday in hopes of drumming up support for the effort.

The state has already formally apologized for the atrocities that occurred at the Dozier School for Boys, a reform school run by the state for a century.

Now the victims are asking the state to back its words up with action.

“We’re not giving up,” said Pastor Johnny Lee Gaddy, who attended Dozier from 1967 to 1971.

Gaddy has a simple request for restitution.

“If I can get the boat and a truck, then I can go fishing,” said Gaddy.

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He isn’t surprised legislation that would create a pathway for victims to make a claim has hit roadblocks in both chambers.

“Thirteen years later, I ain’t got it yet,” said Gaddy.

Survivor Roy Conerly has also spent more than a decade fighting for compensation.

“I don’t have a number, but if one were offered to us we would consider it whatever the number is,” said Conerly, who attended the school in 1961 and 1962.

In 2013 an excavation of the reform school led to the discovery of the remains of 40 boys.

Survivors suspect they died from abuse.

In the Senate, the bill is being blocked by one senator who represents the area where Dozier is located.

He told us early in the session he doesn’t believe the alleged abuse occurred.

“I don’t believe for a minute that 500 people were mistreated there,” said Senator George Gainer in January.

But Senate sponsor Darryl Rouson believes the bill is too important to quit fighting for.

“Certainly in the greatest state of the union we can come up with a fair method of moving beyond just words of apology to real action,” said Rouson.

The legislation’s future is uncertain, but what is certain is that as long as the victims are alive, they’ll continue coming to the Capitol year after year to fight for their cause.

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