State transfers Dozier property to Jackson County

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
December 4, 2018

JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (CNS) -- The state has transferred more than 1,200 acres, including the main campuses at the infamous Dozier School for Boys, to Jackson County, where the school was founded in 1901.

County officials say it is one more step to closure in the brutality that took place there. Hundreds were beaten and some died in the so-called White House, all at the hands of state officials during the Dozier School's 100 years of operation.

In 2017, the state ordered the sprawling campus to be turned over to local officials.

Jackson County Commission Chair Clint Pate acknowledged the school's dark history as he made his pitch for the property.

“We’d like to take the challenge of turning this into a positive impact to Jackson County instead of some of the negative stuff we’ve had with there,” said Pate.

With little debate, Governor Rick Scott and the cabinet agreed to turn over the school's 360 acres. They also transferred another 919 acres for economic development.

“This is long overdue,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The legislation calls for a monument and the preservation of the White House and the Boot Hill cemetery. The barbed wire that kept inmates from escaping is now gone. Several buildings on the property are still usable.

“I’m really excited about turning it into a positive and we’re gonna be good caretakers of the property,” said Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts.

A plan to re-inter more than four dozen bodies taken from the campus has been delayed until sometime next year. Seven bodies from children who died in a fire will go back to Boot Hill on the property. More than 40 others will be re-interred in a Tallahassee Cemetery.

While the state has apologized, the question of reparations for dozens of men who survived the abuse remains open.

County officials could not put a timetable on how long it will take to turn the property into something positive.

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