For Their Own Good

For Their Own Good

Men sentenced to the Florida School for Boys in the 1950s and 1960s are coming forward with haunting stories of torture and abuse. (St. Petersburg Times)

A boy could be sent to the Florida School for Boys in Marianna for anything from murder to running away from home. Some were sent there because the state didn’t know where else to put them. The boys were as young as 5 and as old as 20.

For more than 100 years there have been allegations of savage abuses at the school. Now, men sentenced to the school fifty years ago are coming forward with terrifying stories of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of those who were meant to reform them. They all tell hauntingly similar stories of severe beatings with a weighted leather paddle inside a small building called the White House.

This project by the St. Petersburg Times is based on more than 100 hours of interviews with 27 men who were sent to the Florida School for Boys in the 1950s and ’60s, and with current and former officials with the state, the school and the Department of Juvenile Justice. The interviews were supplemented with newspaper clippings, congressional and court testimony, archival photographs and other documents.

The men say the school left them physically and psychologically scarred and that ultimately the state of Florida is to blame. A lawsuit has been filed against the state, and the governor has launched an investigation into unmarked graves on the property.

In addition to the video and article, the project includes a portrait gallery of the men who have now come forward to tell their stories and a gallery of historic photos of the school in the 1960s.

CHANNEL: St. Petersburg Times (

Length: 7:54

Photography and Videography: Edmund D. Fountain
Video Editors: Edmund D. Fountain and Catriona Stuart
Story: Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann Moore