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September 3, 2009

T. Kent Wetherell, II
Senate Special Master Division of Administrative Hearings
The DeSoto Building
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060

RE: Senate Bill 48 (Florida Reform School for Boys)
DOAH Case No: 09-4538CB

Dear Mr. Wetherell:

I thank you for your letter of August 19, 2009. Your letter indicated that our bill is not ripe for hearing and included a quotation of a portion of Senate Rule 4.81(6). However, our position is that the final sentence of the rule is applicable to the situation at hand. The final sentence provides:

. . . This subsection does not apply to a bill which relates to a claim of wrongful incarceration.

It is our position that this bill clearly relates to claims for wrongful incarceration. In addition, we respectfully suggest that the compelling nature of the claim is similar to the previous claims in the Rosewood claim and the boot camp claim of Martin Lee Anderson considered in the last legislative session, neither of which were required to exhaust potential administrative or judicial remedies.


As referenced in the Senate Bill B.1148, this bill relates to the treatment of boys who were sent to the Florida Schools for Boys in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The boys were committed to the schools through the juvenile justice system. The boys were sent to the schools in violation of their constitutional rights in that they had no legal counsel, were not formally notified of the charges against them, had not been informed of their rights against self- incrimination, had no opportunity to confront their accusers, and were not provided with a right to appeal. The children were incarcerated for an undetermined period of time, and in many situations, were not even aware of the charges that resulted in their incarceration.

Once the boys were wrongfully incarcerated at the “school for boys,” the wrongful conduct by those who were in charge reached levels of physical and sexual abuse that should not be tolerated in any civilized society. The acts of violence and abuse by those who operated the “schools” were described by a former school employee during a 1957 U.S. Senate Hearing as “brutality.” Children were being subjected to continuous abuse and criminal conduct by employees of the State of Florida.

The rights of the children, many as young as 10-years-old, were violated in sending them to the “schools,” and once incarcerated, the wrongful conduct continued at levels that would be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” by any reasonable standard. The abuse to which the children were subject included:

(1) Brutal beatings with the use of a leather strap, which were so severe they would often cause bleeding and extensive bruising. Many boys had to have their underwear extracted from their flesh.

(2) School personnel who perpetrated these beatings would often bet on which of them could first draw blood.

(3) Children were placed in solitary confinement for as long as 30 days in a room which was approximately 8- feet-by-8-feet, with no light and no toilet or plumbing. A bucket was provided as a toilet. Children were served half- rations of food while in solitary confinement, which was known as being in “the hole.”

(4) Many of the boys were subjected to sexual abuse by school personnel who were responsible for the care of the children.


The claimants contend that the claims bill presented falls within the “wrongful incarceration” exception under Senate Rule 4.81(6). It is apparent that the claimants were committed to the “Florida School for Boys” at a time that their constitutional rights were not protected. The standards established by IN RE: Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L. Ed 527 (1967), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that juveniles have the right to notice of charges against them, the right to counsel, the right to confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses, and the right to the privilege against self-incrimination, were violated. These violations were compounded by the conduct of those who were responsible for the welfare of the children charged to their custody. The terms of the incarceration of the boys at Marianna and Okeechobee were barbaric.

The boys’ rights were violated by the process and procedures, through which they were sent to Marianna and Okeechobee, and the violation of their rights continued through physical, sexual and emotional abuse once the boys were incarcerated. After many of the boys were severely beaten, they were immediately taken to solitary confinement or “The Hole” for a prolonged period of time in an effort to conceal their injuries while they healed. The parents of these boys were not permitted to visit during this time. The school made an concerted effort to dissuade parents from visiting. There was no trial or right to a hearing. The beatings were at the unbridled discretion of those who ran the school. “Wrongful incarceration” is an understatement to describe what these boys endured. The boys who were sent to these “schools” lived an existence that is appropriately likened to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The boys were sentenced to a life of fear, brutality and sexual assault in an isolated location, where the men in control regularly committed criminal acts of sexual assault, battery and abuse of children. A more “wrongful” type of “incarceration” is difficult to envision.

The conduct involved here is so foreign to civilized society, there are few cases to turn to for guidance. UH.C. by his next friend and attorney, Carol Hewett, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and Raymond Ogletree, individually vs. Dee Jarrard, in her capacity as Direct Services Supervisor of the Florida Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 786 F.2d 1080 (11th Cir. 1986) provides some guidance. The case dealt with a juvenile confined to a detention center pending trial on delinquency charges. There were allegations of imposition of isolation without notice or hearing, excessive length and conditions of isolation, unjustified and excessive force to a juvenile and the denial of medical care. The court held that wrongful incarceration and the violations of the juvenile’s rights were actionable. The terms “wrongful incarceration” and “wrongful imposition of isolation” were selected to describe the isolation component of the claims. The court found that compensatory and punitive damages were appropriate to consider. The abuses and brutality of the boys who are the subject of the Claims Bill far exceeds the acts described in the H.C. case.


The circumstances outlined in the Senate Bill 48 represents “wrongful incarceration” and, as such, the claim should not be placed in abeyance pursuant to Senate Rule 4.81(6). Please feel free to contact me should you need any additional information.

Respectfully yours,

Thomas D. Masterson


cc: Tom Thomas, House Special Master
Jason Vail, Senate General Counsel
Bill McCollum, Attorney General
Davison Dunlap, III, Esquire