State compensation for Dozier sex abuse victims ready for floor votes

'It’s never, never about the money,' Ralph Freeman, a former student of Dozier School, says
Posted at 5:56 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-27 17:56:04-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After enduring savage beatings and sexual abuse at two now-closed Florida reform schools, victims may finally see state compensation. Following over a decade of advocacy, state lawmakers are poised to vote on two bills aimed at providing restitution in the coming days.

Survivors of the atrocities committed at the Dozier School for Boys and Okeechobee campus have tirelessly fought for accountability since 2005.

The proposed legislation, which cleared its final Senate committee Tuesday, allocates $20 million to compensate victims who suffered mental, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of school staff between 1940 and 1975. Eligible former students then able to apply for a portion of the funds through an application process.

Ralph Freeman, a former student at Dozier School, emphasized that the fight for compensation isn't solely about monetary restitution but about achieving justice.

"It’s never, never about the money," he said. "It’s about justice. We talk about in our country that we are the drum majors of justice. We even fight in other countries to protect liberties and democracy. We need to sweep in front of our front door first."
If approved by the House and Senate, the legislation will proceed to the governor for signing.

There’s also an ongoing effort to find what are thought to be dozens of unmarked graves on the Dozier grounds. To date, more than 30 have been discovered, and victims allege they are the bodies of former students who died as a result of the abuse.