Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Officials To Finally Investigate Abuses At Florida State Reform School

From ABC News:

[Former inmate Richard] Colon says he does not know what happened to the boy's body or who forced him into the dryer. But he and a group of men who were students at the school during the 1950s and 1960s believe his remains may be buried among 32 unmarked graves recently discovered near the school, where they suspect boys who were killed at the school were dumped.

Their claims, kept hidden for more than 50 years, prompted Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday to order the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the four neat rows of white crosses in Marianna near the area where the once segregated school used to house black inmates.

The statement by a Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman that these historic abuses are just now being reported is clearly incorrect since the state of Florida settled a lawsuit in 1987 regarding abusive practices at this reform school and others that didn't admit wrongdoing but agreed that boys would no longer be shackled and hogtied.

Maybe back then state officials didn't look at the allegations in the civil suit as allegations of physical abuse and instead looked at the reported treatment as appropriate punishment for boys convicted of crimes in juvenile court.

When people talk about how incarceration hardens criminals it isn't incarceration alone which does the hardening. The how of that incarceration matters. An iron fist mentality might seem more effective because of the power of fear, but it teaches dangerous lessons to inmates.

When people reject treating prisoners (children or adults) with respect by labeling respectful treatment as coddling those people come across as dangerously naive. For some boys being treated respectfully while incarcerated might be the first time they see that behavior as a viable option to deal with conflict and those who do them wrong.

Respectful treatment of prisoners -- adult or juvenile -- is firm when needed and when done properly it is more effective than an iron fist can ever be.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:24 AM   1 comments links to this post


At December 17, 2008 7:12 PM, Blogger Rj said...

Florida is a very special place with regard to children. I blog about this regularly.


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