Florida Senate passes bill to fund reburial of bodies found at Dozier

The Florida Senate voted unanimously for a bill on Wednesday permitting the state to fund the reburial of the remains of those found at the former Dozier School for Boys. 

Located in Marianna in the Florida Panhandle, Dozier was a boarding school for troubled boys during the 1950s and 1960s. Within the past decade, 300 men have come forward with stories of beatings, rape, torture and deaths that occurred at Dozier. 

USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle and her team have worked for three years at the school researching records and exhuming and identifying human remains. The team discovered 51 of the approximate 100 bodies buried on the site. Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner issued a bill to address the costly reburial for bodies found at Dozier by having the state aid in the costs.  

The team delivered the final report last month and has ended work on the grounds. Seven boys have been identified through DNA.

Throughout the research process, evidence and testimonies from survivors and relatives established stories of boys being molested in what was referred to as a “rape dungeon” in one report, and there is evidence of broken bones and remnants of a buckshot pellet in one of the remains.

“I’m just happy to see that we’re at a point where we can at least bring some relief those families and provide for them to re-inter the bodies of the remains that have been identified and to establish a task force that will determine a proper memorial and location of the memorial,” Joyner said, according to WFSU News.

Plans for the 1,300-acre property, which belongs to the state, are currently uncertain, but there has been discussion of turning it into an educational property.

A similar bill awaits the state House of Representatives. However, it has met resistance in its second committee hearing.

When Rep. Ed Narain, the bill’s sponsor, presented it at its last committee on Thursday, he explained the bill’s purpose is to bring closure to the families.

“This is a bill that simply will allow the Florida Legislature to allocate up to $7,500 to the families that may have lost a loved one at Dozier to conduct a proper burial service,” he said, according to WFSU News. “This is not something that puts a black eye on Florida. It’s actually something that puts us in a proper posture to do right by the families and do the right thing for the state, given the circumstances of what has occurred.”