WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS!
BY the time the 2nd week of February rolled I had somewhat moved on to exploring other avenues but was still trying to coordinate a date with the Bestie to check out the State Archives & also head back to Marianna. Unfortunately, it was looking more & more like April before we’d make the trip. I was eager BUT I would deal with it…Turns out I wouldn’t have to deal for long. On February 16th I closed the door on my job. Well actually, they closed the door on me…I opened it back up, gave the finger with a pleasant smile on my face, slammed it shut again & dead bolted that sh$t!! NO love lost there! As I spent my 1st few days at home, a thought popped into my head…WHY WAIT?? My sentiments EXACTLY! 2 Days later I was in the car making the 4 1/2 hour trip to Tallahassee.
WELCOME TO THE STATE LIBRARY!
THE drive was long but it seemed to go by quickly. I had gotten on the road later than I’d wanted to but by 2:00 pm I was pulling into the parking garage of the Library. I would have about 2 1/2 hours with the ledgers.
Upon entering, the guard directed me to the elevators & told me to go to the 2nd floor. I did just that & when I stepped out, there it was! I walked over to the counter & gave my request to the 1st person I saw! I thought I’d be holding the ledgers in a minute OR 2! Well, NOT quite…Try more like 20 minutes & trust me, EVERY stinking one of those minutes came with a list of “Must Do’s!” I had to sign in, get a numbered key, head into what looked like a broom closet, where I was instructed to put most of my stuff into a locker & then I was told to take a seat at one of the tables. She walked back to the desk to put in the request for the materials to be pulled. Now it was time…Time to have another lady tell me that I needed to sit at a table directly in front of the desk & to make sure I was facing it…And a 3rd who passed by & informed me that ink pens were NOT allowed so I’d have to go back to the broom closet & throw it into my locker. JESUS CHRIST!! I started to ask her when they would be taking my DNA sample for the Library files but was interrupted by the squeaky wheels of a cart…MY cart…With MY Ledgers! It stopped right next to my table & ALL I could do was stare down at the 2 large fabric covered books. Holy Hell...
MORE THAN I BARGAINED FOR!
IT took me a couple of minutes to snap back to reality BUT when I finally did, I reached down to pick up Volume 8…With BOTH hands…Those suckers were heavy! They also had about 200 pages each which was definitely going to make it challenging to take notes so I decided that using my phone to take photos of the pages would be best option.
A PATTERN EMERGES…
AS I was snapping away, I was also skimming the info on each page…specifically the columns that listed the “offense”, the sentencing judge, length of sentence & discharge outcome. It only took a few pages to see a pattern. Petty offenses & several of the same judges handing down sentences for things like “Truancy.” The term…”Until Legally Discharged.” I started thinking about one of the reports I had read that included correspondance between the School Superintendent, Walter Rawls to the Board of Managers (conveniently under the leadership of Senator W.H. Milton), requesting open ended sentences. In one letter Rawls stated the following:
In a nutshell, Rawls was reporting that it wasn’t financially beneficial to house “inmates” with such short sentences. To fix this he wanted the sentences to be “indefinite” & the term to be at the school’s discretion. The longer the stay, the more money Dozier made. Length of sentence alone wasn’t going to cut it though, the school also wanted quantity. Superintendent Rawls felt he had a solution for this as well. Again he wrote to Milton with his request & Milton, in turn, passed it along via his own letter. Eventually the request moved up the chain until it fell directly into the hands of Governor N.B. Broward. Broward then appealed to the State Legislature on the school’s behalf:
Whenever a child was sent to Dozier, their county was required to pay a $50 fee directly to the school. This fee resulted in a decline in admissions as it was more cost efficient to send a defendant to their own county’s DOC. Superintendent Rawls, with the full support of Senator Milton & Governor Broward, believed eliminating this fee would make it more appealing to send a juvenile to be “Reformed” as opposed to being sent to jail.
THE END OR JUST THE BEGINNING?
Now that I’d seen some of the ledgers, several pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place. I left feeling like I had accomplished something for a change. I would be able to go home & look closely at each page that I had photographed & hopefully be able to show this pattern more clearly. With any luck, I would begin to have answers to at least some of my questions. Who knows, maybe something will stick out & lead me to what I should do next.
☆EXCERPTS & SOME INFO TAKEN FROM USF DIGITAL LIBRARY ~ ARTHUR G DOZIER SCHOOL FOR FOR BOYS INTERIM REPORT☆