O.J. Keller Bans Whipping at Marianna School
Carrying out the mandate of the 1967 legislature, Keller Ordered the cessation of punishment
with the paddle and the strap. Marianna School Superintendent Lenox Williams resigned
because he lived with the old adage: "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" The townspeople of
Marianna are in an uproar because they too think more corporal punishment is in order to keep
the delinquents in a reasonably calm state.
The assistant commissioner for youth services in the State of Tennessee thinks corporal
punishment should have gone out with the horse and buggy. Thomas G. Pinnock, supervisor of
juvenile rehabilitation in the State of Washington says: It is hard for me to imagine there is any
state in the Union in this day and age which would use corporal punishment. It is forbidden in
both adult and juvenile institutional programs."
P.D. Sherman, an official of Rhode Island, was even more vigorous in his denunciation of
sadism: He wrote Keller: "I can think of nothing more horrifying, distressing and destructive of
the aims, goals and objectives of any training school worthy of its name.....Barbarism of that
kind is worthy only of the British Navy of the early 19th century and the enemies with whom we
Florida law at the time did not allow beating or corporal punishment for adults in jail. It did allow
whipping or strapping children. But the children's bureau of the U.S. Department of Health,
Education and Welfare said in its guidelines for juvenile lockups: "Corporal punishment should
not be tolerated in any form."
A study of 250 boys committed to Marianna showed they had received 691 whippings among
them, the Miami News reported. Eleven-year-old boys had received 38 percent of the beatings,
and 17-year-old boys received just 3 percent.
Gov. Leroy Collins set up a committee to investigate, then cleared the school administration.
The superintendent at the time, Arthur G. Dozier, for whom the school is now named, said
paddling was better than the alternative: solitary confinement. He added that the school was
setting up a psychiatric unit, which would cut down dramatically on the spankings.
Six years later, in 1964, a reporter for the Miami Herald visited Dozier and quickly heard about
the White House. "It is not on the tour," wrote reporter Joy Reese Shaw. "Nobody likes to talk
about what goes on inside — and when they do, the sting of the whip seems to split through the
words." Shaw talked to a boy from Miami sent up for bicycle theft. He had epilepsy and an IQ of
74. He had been whipped seven times in 11 months. "For the last four sessions of the
legislature Marianna has requested a security detention building, and been denied," she wrote.
"It would cost $198,320.00 to end the floggings."
Four years later, in 1968, a state supervisor for the Marianna school witnessed a beating that,
all these years later, still makes his blood pressure rise. Reached recently by phone, Audie E.
Langston said he didn't want to talk. "I just happened to be there when they caught a kid who
was a runner. They caught him and took him into that building and one of the guys said, 'You
should see this,' " Langston said in a short interview. "It was not a good thing. The people who
were doing it thought they needed that method of control." Back then, Langston wrote a letter to
his boss, O.J. Keller. He called what he saw "sickening."
"A young boy [was] taken into a stark, bare, dimly lit room where he was compelled to lie on a
small cot and receive licks with a heavy leather strap. At the time the strap was being wielded by
a man who was at least 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed well over 200 pounds. . . The child quivers
and writhes in a contorted manner from the pain of the sadistic treatment, not only repulsive but
somewhat criminal in nature.
The letter, which Keller made public, spurred a push to ban corporal punishment.
A former house father at the school also sent Keller a letter, published in the Miami News,
saying, "The belt falls between eight and 100 times. After about the tenth stroke, the seams of
the sturdiest blue jeans begin to separate and numerous times the boys' skin is broken to the
extent that stitches are required."
A supervisor who trained for a year at Marianna described a boy's buttocks as "bleeding
profusely; the skin was broken, and the color of his buttocks was green, blue, red and purplish .
"It reminded me of the Dark Ages." The state did outlaw corporal punishment. But a year later,
in 1969, the reform school superintendent told state legislators that bringing back the strap
would cut down on the runaways. He was fired.