Dozier school survivor reacts to reburial funding bill

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Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) signed a bill that provides funding for the reburial of dozens of Dozier School for Boys inmates who died while in state custody.

"You were just getting beaten with a weighted, leather flogging strap," said Robert Straley, of Clearwater, a former inmate at the facility in Jackson County. "First it is helplessness, then it becomes anger and it all turns to rage."

Straley still has flashbacks of being abused at Dozier, times when he finds himself cursing and clenching his fists for no apparent reason.

"About five or six times a day I have this adrenaline rush that would just come over me, violent thoughts," he explained.

He was 13 when he was sentenced to 11 months at Dozier for running away from home. Those 11 months would prove to be the harder than he could have imagined.

Afterward, he stayed silent about the abuse. He held the secret for 40 years, even from his wife. Then, in 2009 he spoke to a reporter, helping to end the reign of terror Dozier held over his mind.

"They did something no one else had done or would do," said Straley. "They reached into the past, 60-something years, and brought this issue out and addressed it."

Wednesday, Gov. Scott allotted $1.5-million for a memorial to the boys who died while in state custody.

Straley wonders which of his friends died. He remembers how guards spoke to one another.

"'That boy has run one time to many. He is not going to come back, I don't think, this time,'" he recalled. "There's no telling how many are out there."

A state task force will decide what to do with the land that Straley says was once the worst place on earth.

Dozens of bodies were found there, some now identified with DNA. Others have not been identified, or have not been claimed.

State legislators say the bill is Florida's opportunity to say it is sorry.