Sunday, April 15, 2007

Letter from Mark Caldwell : Time for truth


Hello Mr. McNeil,

Mark Caldwell again, I think you might not actually know what happened to my son Justin Caldwell at Dozier on February 11th 2007. So I am going to tell you, then you will know, there are alot of witnesses who will testify to what I tell you, and they will be subpoenaed, these people will tell the truth like I am telling it to you!

The first incident happened in the morning in the dining hall, my son Justin had his tray of food and Mr. Spears asked for Justin to come over to him, so Justin set his tray down on a table and walked to Mr. Spears and Spears told Justin, "your dad called to speak with you yesterday and I did not see you yesterday evening so you might want to give your dad a call".

My son Justin said okay thank you. At that time Justin turned to go back and Mr. Wooden was handing out silverware in front of a pole or beam in the dining hall. Justin walked between Wooden and this pole and bumped against Wooden accidently and tried to apologize.

But Wooden turned and started yelling at Justin, "you better watch where the f_ _ k you are going Caldwell". He got in Justin's face yelling vulgarities at him. At that time Justin started cussing back, and Wooden got even closer in Justin's face. In fact, he was spitting as he yelled at Justin.

Wooden was leaning so close to Justin he hit the bill of his hat on Justin's forehead knocking his hat off and apparently making Wooden even madder than he already was. At that point Wooden smacked Justin in the forehead where he had two staples from a different incident and punched Justin on the other side of his forehead with his fist. Then Wooden put his hands around Justin and threw him to the floor.

Justin was on his back and Wooden was on top of Justin with his hands on either side of Justin's head beating Justin's head into the floor multiple times. At that time another staff member, Mr. Spears, was trying to get Wooden off of Justin. Staff Robert Speights was holding one of Justin's arms down.

Mr. Jackie Miles also witnessed this abuse and tried to get the situation under control. A few of the other offenders also got up and were going to get involved because they witnessed this abuse of my son. My son yelled no at them to stay out of it or they might get into trouble.

Miles and Spears finally got it settled down, and my son told Mr. Spears he wanted to call abuse. Mr. spears took my son to call abuse. Spears and Justin were in the room alone when Justin said to Spears, "you seen what he done to me", at which time Spears replied, "I only heard him use really vulgar language against you".

Justin and the boys that were going to get involved in this incident of abuse against my son were then taken to ISP. They witnessed the abuse of Justin a second time by Alvin Speights. This abuse occured when Speights asked Justin to stand up, so Justin stood up, and then almost immediately after asking Justin to stand up, said to Justin," are you going to sit down Caldwell"?, Justin said you just asked me to stand up sir. Speights went over to Justin, grabbed Justin, and kicked Justin's feet out from under him taking Justin to the floor on Justin's back.

Speights then puts his hands around Justin's neck and begans beating his head into the floor. Justin, having been abused twice in one day, began fighting back because it was out of control. At this time Speights told the other staff member Mr. Gilbert to turn Justin over on his stomach. When Justing was turned on his stomach Speights again began beating Justin's forehead into the floor.

The staff then got Justin up and helped walk him towards the table in ISP. Justin told them he felt dizzy, and at that time collapsee into the table and onto the floor. So technically my son Justin was unconscious before he hit the table!!!!!!!!!

They then dragged him to the middle of the floor and Gilbert tried to get my son to regain consciousness by slapping his face. Then staff were called to transport Justin to Jackson County Hospital!

Mr. Caldwell said: This is the actual story as Justin told me and others witnessed and it will be proven in a court of law, so you see Mr. McNeil my son has been falsely charged by Mr. Wooten, and other staff did not expect the attention I have brought to Dozier and now it is going to cost them all their jobs, because it is a felony to not report abuse, and it has been going on until now, I am stopping it!!!! This is why I will have Wooden fired, along with Spears, Gilbert, Robert Speights, Jackie Miles, and Timothy Justice, because he knows and is responsible for not following up on abuse reports before Tallon even got to Dozier, to try and straighten out the mess Timothy Justice has made!!!!! I will bet you never knew what I have just told you and it is the truth, you will see!!!

Also Mr. Miller abused my son and Spears was witness to that abuse, that is why Mr. Miller is going to be fired, he slammed my sons face into a door and broke his nose, the next thing my son remembered was waking up in a van being moved to another building on the Dozier campus, my son did not need any of this abuse, he has already had more than anyone should endure, and he now needs to be sent home, and I need you to help me see that this also happens!!

Thank you sir for your time!!
Sincerely, Mark Caldwell
I love my son!!!!

In response to news articles

In response to Ledger article:

I believe it is important to get the facts straight when presenting information to the public. Justin Caldwell is said to have assaulted a staff member at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.

Justin's father, Mark Caldwell, said this did not happen. A tape will soon be released that will prove Justin Caldwell is the victim of abuse at Dozier School for Boys.

There were two incidents that occurred on February 11, 2007, the date of videotape. The first one was in the morning in the dining hall. Staff member James Wooden claims Justin assaulted him. Three days later Wooden went to the police and filed Battery on a Detention Facility Staff charge against Justin.

However, there are witnesses that have reported Justin did not assault Wooden but rather Justin was assaulted by Wooden.

Dawn Chase, the mother of Christopher Sully, remembers all too well what happened to her son at Dozier. The similarities in these two boy's stories are chilling.

Ms. Chase spoke with Rick Reno, attorney for Justin Caldwell, who said he viewed the videotape. He saw the staff member, Alvin Speights, on top of Justin while he was beating Justin’s head on the floor. Justin was lying on his back at the time. Reno indicated to Dawn that he saw the staff member continue to hit Justin as Justin was flipped onto his stomach.

In an interview with Mark Caldwell, Mr. Caldwell indicated he was told that Justin was helped up by two staff members and led to a table. Justin said, "I feel dizzy", and collapsed out of the staff members arms onto the table, then down to the floor, unconscious.

The next thing Justin remembers was being taken to the hospital.

Isabelle Zehnder
Founder and President
Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA)

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The media is getting it wrong and Mark wants the public to know the truth about what happened to his son! He is not going to stop until the truth is heard and until the media gets it right!!

He wrote:
To whom it may concern,

If you are going to report the news get it right or do not report it!! My
name is Mark Caldwell and I am the proud father of Justin Caldwell.

Justin did not hit his head on a table knocking him unconscious. The staff member Speights WAS BEATING MY SONS HEAD ON THE FLOOR AND WHEN MY SON STOOD UP HE SAID HE FELT DIZZY AND AT THAT TIME LOST CONSCIOUSNESS AND FELL INTO THE TABLE.

You will soon find out he also had his head beaten on the floor in an earlier incident the same day by a staff member named Mr. Wooden and three days later Wooden went and filed false charges against my son, SO GET IT RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Caldwell
"I love my son"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in Need of Reform - Staff Fired at Dozier


I said it's time for change - and change has come!! Though we are only part way there, the firing of these two employees is a good start.

The article states that Justin assaulted an employee earlier that day. It is my understanding this did not happen and that this was part of a set up and cover up by employees. Justin is being represented by attorney, Rick Reno, who will fight for justice for this young man.

The Department of Juvenile Justice in Florida has proven to be a corrupt system in need of very serious reform. Too many children have been abused, neglected, and have died.

The firing of these two employees is a good start - Justice for Justin is the next step. This boy has been locked in this system since he was 12 years old - he is now 18 years old. He should have been released when he was 13 1/2. It is time for this child to go home with his father. (Link to Justin's Blog:


April 14, 2007

Head of school for juveniles loses job: DJJ cites 'systematic' problems at institution

By Stephen D. Price

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Walt McNeil on Friday fired the acting superintendent and a juvenile justice officer at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna after an investigation into abuse of a youth.

McNeil said the action was a call for a ''change of culture'' at the school.

''There are systemic operational problems at our Dozier facility that span the chain of command from top to bottom,'' McNeil said.

The incident occurred Feb. 11. Justin Caldwell, an 18-year-old at the school, is charged as an adult with battery in an attack on an officer at Dozier School that day.

Later that day, McNeil said in an unrelated incident, Caldwell accused juvenile justice residential officer Alvin Speights of choking him, causing him to hit his head on a table that knocked him unconscious. That incident was caught on a security camera, but McNeil said the faces of other youth not involved had to be obscured before it could be released to the media.

The tape was given to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and could be released early next week, he said.

Last year, DJJ came under fire for delaying release of footage of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson being beaten by guards at the Bay County juvenile boot camp. After being sued by the media, the department eventually released the tape. Anderson died the day after the incident in Bay County and eight employees of the boot camp have pleaded innocent to charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

In the Marianna case, Caldwell has been charged as an adult with battery on staff and is being held in the Jackson County Jail. He had been at Dozier for two years on larceny charges.

Speights was in the process of being fired Friday, and charges against him are pending in the ongoing investigation, McNeil said.

Also, in response to the investigation, John Tallon, regional residential services administrator and acting Dozier superintendent, was fired Thursday.

''It is clear we have to act decisively to change the culture of our Dozier facility,'' McNeil said.

Among changes from the agency's investigation:

Rex Uberman, DJJ assistant secretary of residential services, will temporarily move his office from Tallahassee to the Dozier campus to oversee daily operations.

DJJ hired Community Trust, a Tallahassee-based consulting firm that specializes in juvenile justice facility management, to manage daily operations at Dozier.

Isaac Williams, Community Trust CEO, will temporarily serve as acting superintendent at Dozier.

Staff at Dozier School will be trained to use verbal intervention techniques instead of physical contact on misbehaving youth.

All future management reviews involving Dozier youth or staff will be handled by an investigative staff reporting to Uberman.

''We will not accept abuses of any type of our youth,'' McNeil said.

Published Friday, April 13, 2007

2 juvenile justice employees fired after teen is choked, thrown

Associated Press Writer

Two Department of Juvenile Justice employees will be fired after an ongoing investigation revealed the use of inappropriate force that knocked an 18-year-old resident unconscious at a Marianna facility, department Secretary Walt McNeil said Friday.

The investigation into the incident has made it clear that the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys has widespread deficiencies, McNeil said. The department has made management changes and hired an independent consulting firm to oversee the facility, which is a high-risk residence currently housing 162 boys from 14 to 21 years of age.

"We recognize that there are systemic operational problems at our Dozier facility that span the chain of command from top to bottom," McNeil said. "It is clear that we have to act decisively to change the culture of our Dozier facility."

On Feb. 11, resident Justin Caldwell was choked and thrown to the floor by Alvin Speights, a residential officer at the Dozier school, McNeil said. On the way down, Caldwell hit his head on a table and was knocked unconscious.

Speights was in the process of being fired Friday, and Dozier's acting superintendent, John Tallon, was fired Thursday, McNeil said.

Caldwell had assaulted a different officer earlier in the day, but McNeil could not say whether Speights' actions were in retaliation for that incident because the investigation is ongoing. Other firings could come after the completion of the investigation.

Caldwell is currently in jail in Jackson County as a result of the earlier incident, McNeil said.

Among the changes that will take place, the department's assistant secretary of residential services will temporarily move his office to the facility to supervise daily operations, McNeil said. Community Trust, a Tallahassee-based consulting firm specializing in juvenile justice facility management, will also oversee daily operations, and its chief executive will become acting superintendent.

Also, the facility's 200 employees will be trained in verbal intervention techniques to replace physical actions against youth who are misbehaving.

McNeil said Friday's announcement was an effort to be transparent about problems at the department.

The department came under scrutiny after 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died in January 2006, a day after being roughed up by guards at a Panama City boot camp. The Florida Legislature dismantled the military-style boot camps during last year's legislative session.


DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE: DJJ fires 2 after choke hold

A guard at a school for troubled boys will be fired for using inappropriate force, along with the school's superintendent.

April 14, 2007

TALLAHASSEE -- The Department of Juvenile Justice has fired the head of a school for troubled youths after an investigation concluded that a guard at the Panhandle facility used inappropriate force in February when he choked a teenager, causing him to hit a table and lose consciousness.

DJJ Secretary Walt McNeil told reporters Friday that the superintendent of the state-run Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna had been fired on Thursday and that the guard is also being fired. He cited ''systematic operational problems'' at the school that ``span the chain of command from top to bottom.''

''When the safety and security of any of the youth in our facilities is compromised for any reason, we will act swiftly and decisively to care for those youth,'' McNeil said, urging anyone knowing of abuse in DJJ programs to report it to him.

McNeil said there was no evidence that the youth, Justin Caldwell, provoked the guard, although Caldwell is now in a county jail for committing battery against a different guard earlier that day.

McNeil said the investigation has not yet concluded whether the guard, Alvin Speights, was acting in retaliation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reviewing the incident, and Speights may face charges when the investigation ends.

It was the first announcement of abuse in DJJ since Gov. Charlie Crist appointed McNeil in January. The former Tallahassee police chief, who came into the job saying the system was ''broken'' was well-received by critics of DJJ, which has been troubled by the fatal beating of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson last year. The boy's parents are seeking $5 million from the Legislature, and the governor has asked lawmakers to honor the request.

Rex Uberman, the department's assistant secretary of residential services, will move his office from Tallahassee to Dozier to supervise the school, which houses 162 boys ages 14 to 21. DJJ has also hired Community Trust, a consulting firm specializing in juvenile-justice management, to take over daily operations. Trust CEO Isaac Williams will act as superintendent.

The school's 200 employees will be trained in using verbal intervention techniques instead of physical contact, DJJ said.

In 2004, an employee at Dozier was fired after using an improper headlock and failing to report it.

The February incident was captured by the school's video cameras. McNeil said he intended to release the video soon, once witnesses' identities have been concealed.