Special Report: Dozier School, What’s Next?

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The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Jackson County has been an embarrassment for the people of Marianna for the last decade. 
 
The state closed the campus in 2011 amid allegations of abuse, torture, even murder, during the first 50 years of operation.
 
Now that investigations are completed, attention turns to the future of the property, which sits on the West side of the city.
 
Local officials are looking at what to do with the 1300 acres that make up the campus.
 
“Something needs to be done that will have a positive economic impact to our community,” said Marianna City Manager Jim Dean.
 
Dean is one of the nine people Governor Rick Scott appointed to the Dozier Task Force.
 
The group met twice to bring some closure to those personally affected by abuse that took place at the school.
 
But that is only part of what lies ahead.
 
Local stake-holders are already talking about how to move forward.
 
“On more than one occasion the representatives from the County, representatives from Chipola College, and the Jackson County School Board along with the city of Marianna have met and had discussions about the transfer of that property,” said Dean.
 
“All of those people, they would have to decide who do they want to be representatives of setting a plan into action,” said Interim County Administrator Pam Pichard.
 
Then there’s the question of the kinds of projects that would be appropriate for the property.
 
“There’s been a discussion about a regional autism center, there’s been a discussion about vocational facilities, training facilities, and the list can go on and on,” said Dean.
 
“One of the things we could say is we would like to see this land developed for economic opportunity. We don’t know what that consists of right now but we’re trying to figure out what that is,” said Pichard.
 
There’s been some questions about what should happen to the old Dozier facilities.
 
The Florida NAACP and a group of the former inmates, collectively known as the White House Boys, will have some input about saving or demolishing the buildings.
 
There will be a lot of public involvement from groups and individuals in the final plans.
 
However, none of it can begin until the state of Florida relinquishes ownership.
 
“We would like to see the property returned back to the citizens of Jackson County, because that’s who literally gave it to the state of Florida,” said Dean.
 
Local officials are hoping to receive the Dozier property during next year’s legislative session, which begins March 7th.
 

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