Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee and the infamous
"Adjustment Unit"...

Construction of building at the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee, Florida
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/258450

The Florida School for Boys was a reform school operated by the state of Florida in the panhandle town of Marianna and in the south-central town of Okeechobee. For a time, it was the largest juvenile reform institution in the United States.

Throughout its 111-year history, the school gained a reputation for abuse, beatings, rapes, torture, and even murder of students by staff. Despite periodic investigations, changes of leadership, and promises to improve, the allegations of cruelty and abuse continued.

Many of the allegations were confirmed by separate investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2010 and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice in 2011.

Fact sheet: Okeechobee campus

  1. Physical beatings continued till 1967
  2. Segregation continued till 1967.
  3. Okeechobee was not co-ed. No females were allowed on the campus, aside from wives of cottage fathers, nurses and secretaries.
  4. There was no "Summer of Love" at Okeechobee in 1967
  5. By and large both staff and inmates spoke with a distinctly southern drawl – remember - this is the “south”. There were exceptions.
  6. Inmates were separated by age and size and placed into large single story structures called “cottages”. The age differential was not greater than one year.
  7. Each “cottage” was named after a former president of the United States. For example: Monroe “cottage” where the biggest and oldest inmates were assigned. The age variance was 17 to 21 years old for Monroe inmates. Many Monroe inmates were already hardened criminals and were destined to go to the “Big House” (Rayford State Penitentiary) . Monroe was always first in meal time marches to the “kitchen”
  8. Whenever the cottage inmates had a destination to reach, they had to “muster” in line. Once in line, the cottage father had the option to inspect every inmate. If the cottage father had an issue with a particular inmate, for instance the inmate might have let his hair grow a little longer than the accepted norm, he would deliver a verbal mandate: “Y’all git haircut heah!” If the inmate didn't “git” a haircut he risked getting a numerical demotion which was almost always devastating. Getting a number less than a “4” decreased the chances of being released from the Okeechobee School for Boys. See numerical ranking system below:
  9. Once in line inmates had to “square off” into a double file – two abreast column. The column then marched in the direction of the destination. Talking while in line was absolutely forbidden. Doing so would result in a numerical demotion.
  10. Every cottage had one to two Pilots – inmates that had incurred “favor” from “the MAN”. Pilots were for the most part hated and feared by the inmate. Although there were exceptions.
  11. Ranking System
    • 1 = Grub
    • 2 = Rookie
    • 3 = Explorer
    • 4 = Pioneer
    • 5 = Pilot
    • 6 = Ace
  12. Each week a list of all inmates for each cottage was posted on the bulletin board for that cottage. The Ranking System was a Reward System. The higher number an inmate received the more privileges he got. The lower a number an inmate got the more privileges he lost and “more time” is added to his stay

Construction of dormitory at the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee, Florida
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/258452