Families, readers react to Times report on abuse at Florida reform school
Comments, e-mails and phone calls continue to pour in in response to the St. Petersburg Times report For Their Own Good. The investigative report details abuse of boys at a reform school in Marianna in the 1950s and 1960s. Fifty years later, former residents are screwed-up men -- afraid of the dark, unable to love or be loved, twisted by anger, scarred by the whippings they endured in a cinder block hell called the White House.
One St. Petersburg woman called writer Waveney Ann Moore sobbing. Her brother was a resident at the reform school from 1955-57. After returning to his St. Petersburg home, the boy stood in the street screaming, asking for cars to hit him, the caller said. Her brother committed suicide about 10 years later, jumping from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. He left behind two young children.
Another caller said he was a resident of the school and worked in the shoe repair shop. There, he said, he was forced to help make the leather belts used for beatings.
Stu from Miami wrote in the story's comments section: "I was a 'guest' of the White House in 1957. The stories are very accurate."
"My brother was there. I KNOW that building. The place was a CREEP SHOW. Never saw ANYONE but my brother when we went to visit. He was scared. It's true. It's a terrible place. Boot camps might be worse," wrote Window in Time from Tampa.
Taylor from Tarpon Springs commented: "My husband went there! Now my sons were abused by their father. ... This reaches into the generation rasied by these men."
Others wrote to offer their sympathy to the victims. "I pray that someday the ones that suffered are able to heal," wrote Lenore from Naples.
"This sounds like America's version of the Holocaust. Hunt down those responsible for these cruel acts against humanity," said KMI from Pasco
"I am ashamed of being a Floridian," wrote Carrie of Tampa. "This brutality has gone on for nearly a century and has ruined countless of lives and the institution is still in existence? Governor Crist shut this hell hole down."
Bill from New York wrote: "Have some people no sense of decency? Do you believe that children, or, for that matter, adults, animals, whatever, deserve to be beaten to the point of collapse? Is this your idea of the way society deals with its problems? Pray there is no hell"
Many of the men interviewed recall being beaten by guard Troy Tidwell, and many reader assailed him in their comments.
"I don't care if Tidwell is 100. Prosecute him for his crimes. Sounds like he spent a lot of years a free man when he should have been in prison," wrote Lee from Seminole."
If you have tales to share from the Marianna school, please contact Ben Montgomery or Waveney Ann Moore.