WMNF | MidPoint: The Search for Justice at Dozier School for Boys


Renowned USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle joined MidPoint on Wednesday to discuss her new book, “We Carry Their Bones: The Search for Justice at the Dozier School for Boys,” and her career as an investigator. investigation of mass graves in war zones in Bosnia and Peru. Kimmerle discussed the investigative tools available to a forensic anthropologist and explained how she researches and analyzes the information and data currently available to be able to identify unidentified bodies and skeletal remains buried, often many years after deaths. She brought those tools and skills to a years-long investigation into undocumented deaths at Dozier School for Boys, a “reform school” for 111-year-old boys in Marianna, Florida Panhandle, which eventually closed. in 2011. You can listen to Erin Kimmerle’s interview here: https://sound.wmnf.org/sound/wmnf_220706_100600_12newsW1_423.MP3

Kimmerle first heard of Dozier and the bodies of survivors of abuse suffered by boys at Dozier School. Former residents told horrific stories of abuse and exploitation in Dozier. Families of the missing boys claimed there were undocumented burials on school grounds, more than those buried at Boot Hill, a small cemetery on the property with 31 graves marked. She volunteered to help identify these bodies for a number of families, but first she had to fight for access to school grounds to conduct her investigation. Residents, many of whom had worked at the Dozier School in the past, objected to his investigation and it was initially unclear who or what state agency even had the authority to grant access to the school’s land. Dozier school. There was significant political resistance that she first had to overcome to determine who could be buried in unmarked graves and how they would die.

The school had been a major employer in Marianna and some people affiliated with the school still lived there. They did not want an investigation to be carried out into what had happened there. Kimmerle noted, “he (Dozier) was run by the farmers and landowners who ran the convict lease system. There really was no teacher there for the first 14 years…Looking at the juvenile centers today, they find the same thing. Truly underpaid and untrained staff”, and the potential for abuse in the juvenile justice system is still rampant.

With her book, recently published by Harper Collins, Kimmerle wants people to consider different perspectives on reform, punishment and rehabilitation. “If an 8-year-old child commits murder, how should we as a society handle that? Should we put them through months of isolation, harsh punishments and hope for the best? Or are there other ways we can try to work with that person and help or rehabilitate them? »

Kimmerle is also the developer and coordinator of an exhibition, “The Art of Forensics”, which features a number of missing persons rendered in photographs and facial reconstructions, both digital and in clay, which she highlights. scene with law enforcement in an effort to expose more people. to these missing persons in the hope that they will be recognized by someone. The next exhibit is scheduled for August 27-28 at The Vault in downtown Tampa.

Kimmerle’s work at the Dozier School is also the basis of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, who clouded his book by stating, “In a corrupt world, Kimmerle’s revelations are as close that we will come to justice. .”


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