Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors,
and a Painful Past
AuthorElizabeth A. Murray
PublisherTwenty-First Century Books TM (September 3, 2019)
FormatKindle, Audiobook, Library Binding, Audio CD


Elizabeth Murray was born in Cincinnati and has lived in the area her entire life. She is a Professor of Biology at Mount St. Joseph University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1986 (when it was the College of Mount St. Joseph). She earned a Master’s degree in Anthropology in 1988, specializing in biological/physical anthropology, before going on for a PhD in Human Biology received in 1993, both from the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Murray has been a practicing forensic anthropologist since the late 1980s, earned Diplomate status from the American Board of Forensic Anthropology in 1999, and is now one of approximately 100 anthropologists certified by that organization. She enjoys teaching human gross anatomy and forensic science, and is case manager for approximately 30 incidents involving unknown persons through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Much of her professional writing is for grades 7-12, since reading books in her own youth is what inspired her to become a scientist and gave her a love of history and mysteries.


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The Dozier School for Boys, by Dr. Elizabeth A. Murray Ph.D., is a dispassionate and analytical examination of the disturbing events that transpired at the reform school during its 111 years (1900-2011 and beyond) of operation. Perhaps we should begin with the context relating to the institution. Prior to the establishment of the Dozier School for Boys, it was common place for children, found guilty of some crime would be housed alongside adult men in penal institutions under the same harsh regimes. It was not unheard of that the juvenile inmate were victimized by the sections of the adult male prison population. There was little prospect of rehabilitation for the children as they lacked basic education, or of the opportunity to learn a trade. The school was created to reduce the negative outcomes of housing children with predators, and with a view to reduce the recidivist rates to reduce public expenditure.

Sadly, as Dr. Murray explains the initial high expectations quickly fell short. What began as an inspirational attempt at improving outcomes and reducing crime descended into Institutionalized, systematic abuse. Every horror occurred at the correctional institution from sexual exploitation, physical abuse, forced labor, and starvation of the inmates.


The Dozier School for Boys is a concise and scholarly work. It made for disturbing reading at times and because of that I would feel uncomfortable recommending it for the age range indicated. There was some repetition and read as condescending at times. Dr. Murray’s writing style may suggest to some that she lacks empathy for her subject. I however suggest that she is being dispassionate by design, avoiding the natural reaction to make subjective assessments about the horrific events and abuses of the children. Eloquently written, supported by graphic eyewitness accounts; provide a view on the Reform School experiment that failed all of its goals.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Elizabeth A. Murray, NetGalley and Twenty-First Century Books for affording me the opportunity to review The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past.


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