Florida’s Torture Chamber for Delinquent Boys


images2For 109 years, Florida has sent bad boys to the Florida School for Boys–for things like rape and assault, yes, but also for petty infractions like truancy or smoking in the bathroom, or sometimes because the state wanted an easy solution to a kid with no parents. A long overdue spotlight has been directed onto the school, and with horrifying results: it’s revealed FSB to be less a place of reform and more a place of torture. Kids who are now grown men describe being dragged into a small white outbuilding where they were hog-tied and lashed until their backsides were split open and running blood in rivers. The men recall bits of tongue and lip dried on the pillows on the beds in that building. They recall the smell of death, the blood smeared on the walls, and the superintendents (especially the one-armed man) who administered the whippings. What were they told as the leather tore open their flesh? “It’s for your own good.”

Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →