Florida Senate - 2018                             CS for SB 1780
       By the Committee on Criminal Justice; and Senator Rouson
       591-02586-18                                          20181780c1
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to victims of reform school abuse;
    3         providing a short title; defining the term “victim of
    4         Florida reform school abuse”; requiring a person
    5         seeking certification under this act to apply to the
    6         Department of Juvenile Justice by a certain date;
    7         prohibiting the estate of a decedent or the personal
    8         representative of a decedent from submitting an
    9         application on behalf of the decedent; requiring that
   10         the application include certain information and
   11         documents; requiring the department to examine the
   12         application, notify the applicant of any errors or
   13         omissions, and request any additional information
   14         within a certain timeframe; providing that the
   15         applicant has 15 days after notification to complete
   16         the application; requiring the department to process
   17         and review a completed application within a certain
   18         timeframe; prohibiting the department from denying an
   19         application for specified reasons and under certain
   20         circumstances; requiring the department to notify the
   21         applicant of its determination within a certain
   22         timeframe; requiring the department to certify an
   23         applicant as a victim of Florida reform school abuse
   24         if the department determines his application meets the
   25         requirements of this act; requiring the department to
   26         submit a list of all certified victims to the
   27         President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House
   28         of Representatives; providing an effective date.
   30         WHEREAS, the Florida State Reform School, also known as the
   31  “Florida Industrial School for Boys,” the “Florida School for
   32  Boys,” the “Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys,” and the “Dozier
   33  School,” was opened by the state in 1900 in Marianna to house
   34  children who had committed minor criminal offenses, such as
   35  incorrigibility, truancy, and smoking, as well as more serious
   36  offenses, such as theft and murder, and
   37         WHEREAS, throughout the Dozier School’s history, reports of
   38  abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats of closure plagued the
   39  school, and
   40         WHEREAS, many former students of the Dozier School have
   41  sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility located on
   42  the school grounds known as the “White House,” and
   43         WHEREAS, a psychologist employed at the Dozier School
   44  testified under oath at a 1958 United States Senate Judiciary
   45  Committee hearing that boys at the school were beaten by an
   46  administrator, that the blows were severe and dealt with great
   47  force with a full arm swing over the head and down, that a
   48  leather strap approximately 10 inches long was used, and that
   49  the beatings were “brutality,” and
   50         WHEREAS, a former Dozier School employee stated in
   51  interviews with law enforcement that, in 1962, several employees
   52  of the school were removed from the facility based upon
   53  allegations that they made sexual advances toward boys at the
   54  facility, and
   55         WHEREAS, a forensic investigation funded by the Legislature
   56  and conducted from 2013 to 2016 by the University of South
   57  Florida found incomplete records regarding deaths and 45 burials
   58  that occurred at the Dozier School between 1900 and 1960 and
   59  found that families were often notified of the death after the
   60  child was buried or were denied access to their child’s remains
   61  at the time of burial, and
   62         WHEREAS, the excavations conducted as part of the forensic
   63  investigation revealed more burials than reported in official
   64  records, and
   65         WHEREAS, in 1955, this state opened a new reform school in
   66  Okeechobee called the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee,
   67  referred to in this act as “the Okeechobee School,” to address
   68  overcrowding at the Dozier School, and staff members of the
   69  Dozier School were transferred to the Okeechobee School, where
   70  similar disciplinary practices were implemented, and
   71         WHEREAS, many former students of the Okeechobee School have
   72  sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility on school
   73  grounds known as the “Adjustment Unit,” and
   74         WHEREAS, more than 500 former students of the Dozier School
   75  and the Okeechobee School have come forward with reports of
   76  physical, mental, and sexual abuse by school staff during the
   77  1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and the resulting trauma that has
   78  endured throughout their lives, and
   79         WHEREAS, during the 2017 legislative session, the
   80  Legislature unanimously issued a formal apology to the victims
   81  of abuse with the passage of CS/SR 1440 and CS/HR 1335,
   82  expressing regret for the treatment of boys who were sent to the
   83  Dozier School and the Okeechobee School; acknowledging that the
   84  treatment was cruel, unjust, and a violation of human decency;
   85  and expressing its commitment to ensure that children who have
   86  been placed in this state’s care will be protected from abuse
   87  and violations of human decency, NOW, THEREFORE,
   89  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   91         Section 1. (1) This act may be known and cited as the
   92  “Arthur G. Dozier School and Okeechobee School Abuse Victim
   93  Certification Act.”
   94         (2) As used in this act, the term “victim of Florida reform
   95  school abuse” means a living person who was confined at the
   96  Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School at any
   97  time between 1940 and 1975 and who was subjected to physical or
   98  sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel of the school during the
   99  period of confinement.
  100         (3)(a) A person seeking to be certified as a victim of
  101  Florida reform school abuse must submit an application to the
  102  Department of Juvenile Justice no later than October 1, 2018.
  103  The estate of a decedent or the personal representative for a
  104  decedent may not submit an application on behalf of the
  105  decedent.
  106         (b) The application must include:
  107         1. An affidavit stating that the applicant was confined at
  108  the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School,
  109  the beginning and ending dates of the confinement, and that the
  110  applicant was subjected to physical or sexual abuse perpetrated
  111  by school personnel during the confinement;
  112         2. Documentation from the State Archives of Florida, the
  113  Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, or the Okeechobee School which
  114  shows that the applicant was confined at the schools for any
  115  length of time between 1940 and 1975; and
  116         3. Positive proof of identification, including a current
  117  form of photo identification.
  118         (c) Within 30 calendar days after receipt of an
  119  application, the Department of Juvenile Justice shall examine
  120  the application and notify the applicant of any errors or
  121  omissions or request any additional information relevant to the
  122  review of the application. The applicant has 15 calendar days
  123  after receiving such notification to complete the application by
  124  correcting any errors or omissions or submitting any additional
  125  information requested by the department. The department shall
  126  review and process each completed application within 90 calendar
  127  days after receipt of the application.
  128         (d) The Department of Juvenile Justice may not deny an
  129  application due to the applicant failing to correct an error or
  130  omission or failing to submit additional information the
  131  department requested unless the department timely notified the
  132  applicant of such error or omission or timely requested
  133  additional information as provided in paragraph (c).
  134         (e) The Department of Juvenile Justice shall notify the
  135  applicant of its determination within 5 business days after
  136  processing and reviewing the application. If the department
  137  determines that an application meets the requirements of this
  138  act, the department must certify the applicant as a victim of
  139  Florida reform school abuse.
  140         (f) No later than March 1, 2019, the Department of Juvenile
  141  Justice must process and review all applications that were
  142  submitted by October 1, 2018, and must submit a list of all
  143  certified victims to the President of the Senate and the Speaker
  144  of the House of Representatives.
  145         Section 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.