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Dozier victims could be compensated under new measure

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The Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday approved a bill that will create a process allowing the certification of victims of abuse at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and a related juvenile facility in Okeechobee.

More than 500 boys suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse at the reform schools from the 1940s through the 1960s, according to a formal apology passed by the Legislature last year.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, would require victims to submit an application for certification, including an affidavit, to the Department of Juvenile Justice by Oct. 1, 2018.

“There is some question as to how many are still living,” Rouson said.

The agency would review the applications and submit a list of certified victims to the Legislature by March 1, 2019.

Rouson said the information would then let lawmakers make “an informed decision” about whether the victims should receive compensation from the state, which would take the form of a claim bill filed in the Legislature.

“Whether it's scholarships for their children, whatever form it comes in, it could be compensation, monetary compensation, but those decisions will be made once we’ve identified a class,” Rouson said.

One 75-year-old former resident wrote Rouson, saying he left Florida and hasn’t come back since his beatings at Dozier. He vowed to come back if and when the White House where the atrocities took place is torn down.

The bill (SB 1780) next heads to the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

A similar measure (HB 1315), sponsored by Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, has yet to be heard in the House.