July’s first Notable Narrative tells a story of abuse at The Florida School for Boys. St. Petersburg Times reporters Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann Moore use the account of one man—William Haynes, Jr.—as the core of their piece, while managing to fold in more than a hundred years of violence at the Marianna facility.
A narrative approach to the men’s collective experience adds heft to this recovered history in a way that a straight news piece never could. But Montgomery and Moore go further to weave in a second narrative, showing how decade after decade of exposes documenting Marianna’s dark side have not stopped the facility from returning to business as usual. A YouTube video of an assault against an inmate appeared as recently as 2007.
The accounts themselves are powerful, but Moore and Montgomery keep to plain language when referring to the worst violence, as when they describe Haynes standing “in the shower and [letting] the cold water wash bits of underwear from his lacerations, as his blood ran toward the drain.” The terse phrasing occasionally becomes relentless, but the style adds an understated gravity to the story’s terrible findings.
The men of Marianna “went in damaged and came out destroyed.” Even those who have managed to avoid prison and self-destruction display their physical and emotional scars. For fifty years, former inmate Stu Kruger has carried the pebble he held to get himself through beatings, showing just how impossible it is to leave Marianna behind. Reporters Montgomery and Moore do their part to likewise refuse readers the comfort of forgetting.
Read “For Their Own Good,” by Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann Moore