Men who claim they were tortured at reform school visit graves

5:40 PM, Dec 12, 2008   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - Men who claim they were tortured as boys when they were in the hands of the state returned to what's now called the Dozier Reform School for Boys.

They claim they were severely beaten, and now there are questions about 31 unidentified grave sites near the school. They met for the first time, shared stories about their time at the reform school, and saw the unidentified graves for the first time.

"Sorry we had to meet under these conditions buddy," said Patrick Hallinan. He said he was 15 years old when he entered the reform school in 1959.

"It was dark, I remember..." said Hallinan as he described his first trip to the White House.

"Hell I just stepped into," said Robert Straley.

Straley said he was only 13 years old when we was admitted into the reform school in 1963. He said he stayed there 11 months.

"If you ran away you got 100 lashes," Straley described the time he got 40 lashings because someone thought he planned to run away.

"I remember it but I was so traumatized...it's not like I was looking at the wallpaper or anything or what was around me...I was just in pain and terrified," said Straley.

The two grown men exchanged horror stories, describing blood-curdling screams, masked by industrial fans and boys were allegedly beaten.

"It's hard to explain to somebody that you could be beat so severely..." said Hallinan, "I cried for 2 days straight."

That horror still haunts both men.

"I had a re-occurring dream for 45 years," said Straley. "We were definitely scared; you live in a climate of fear, period."

But Straley and Hallinan hope to turn a new leaf in their lives. Governor Charlie Crist asked Florida's Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the 31 unidentified graves, who those graves belong to, and whether any crimes were committed.

"I'd like to see some justice, that's why I'm out here," said Hallinan.

"...to see that this never happens again," Straley finished.

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