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Secretary's Message

August 16, 2013

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase DJJ employees and the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on than what I report here, so I would like to encourage each of you to keep the weekly letter in mind and remember to share your good news. It’s easy – email news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters

Leadership Update

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary Christy Daly attended the State Advisory Group (SAG) meeting in Daytona Beach where she spoke with SAG members about the status of DJJ’s priorities: the 985 Legislative Rewrite, Budget and Roadmap to System Excellence. Wanda Finnie, Assistant Secretary, Office of Prevention, also provided remarks to the SAG members and thanked them for their support and involvement. SAG subcommittee meetings were held on Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), Finance and Youth. Jon Menendez (Office of Legislative Affairs) presented on FDJJ Statute Rewrite; Erika Gaeta (Office of Research and Planning) covered delinquency Trends; and Dani Delvento (Office of Prevention) discussed Circuit Advisory Boards. We got great feedback from the SAG members and I want to thanks the staff who took the time to attend and share this valuable information.

Thursday, Office of Probation Assistant Secretary Joan Wimmer and I met with the Palm Beach County Police Chiefs Association to further the local efforts of their successful Juvenile First Offender Program to include the entire civil citation process. The Association and the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission voiced their willingness to continue to work through this effort to ensure that this diversion opportunity for first time offenders is equitably available for all youth throughout Palm Beach County.

Detention Update

I am pleased to share that three SAG members – Chair Lucas Boyce, Michael Long (youth member of SAG) and  Alan Abramowitz – and two Prevention staff members, Juliet Westmoreland and Gloria Gatlin, visited the Volusia Detention Center earlier this week. The group personally expressed to me their gratitude for Superintendent Paul Finn and the facility staff and complimented the team on their professionalism and genuine concern for the youth. The SAG members sat with the youth  over dinner, discussed their circumstances and got their thoughts on how the system could better serve youth in their situation.  

Probation Update

Circuit 16 JPOs Geoff Peattie and Stephen Meredith participated in a clean-up project led by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The volunteers, which included a juvenile on probation, helped clean the area between Murray Marine and the Key Haven boat ramp on Stock Island which is a community in Key West. The group collected nearly five tons of trash and debris. 

JPO Clint Schweers from Circuit 14 assisted in a pre-arrest intervention with a youth regarding a family disagreement. The youth in question did not have a history with DJJ and was having some trouble at home. Clint discovered that the conflict was the result of a summer school issue and contacted the Malone High School guidance counselor to resolve the issue. The youth passed summer school and will be able to attend regular classes later this month. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Clint for his due diligence in keeping this youth out of the system. 

JPO Kristina Picone from Circuit 7 recently attended a “Zumba-thon” in Taylor County. The event was held to raise money to purchase additional school supplies for Pierson Elementary and Taylor Middle and High School. Over $550 dollars was raised during the event and several boxes of school supplies were donated. Kristina plans to attend a second “Zumba-thon” at the end of the month to help raise money for the Deltona YMCA. 

SJPO Katherine Gomez from Circuit 6 participated in the Annual Mattie Williams Family Center Backpack Giveaway and Block Party in Pinellas County. The Center gave away nearly 500 backpacks stuffed with school supplies. Katherine helped set up the event, supervised DJJ youth performing community service and served lunch to the neighborhood. She has partnered with the center for the last seven years and has built a positive relationship between DJJ and the local youth. 

Last Saturday, JPOS Abby Anderson, SJPO Eileen Sevlie and JPOs Irma Melendez, Dionne Anderson, Jerriel Lewis, Nicole McDonald and Omar Bolar, from Circuit 9, spearheaded a back-to-school drive entitled “Knowledge is Power” for the residents in Orange County. Orange County schools and  other community-based service providers set up booths to assist with academic support and school registration. DJJ staff served the youth and their families hamburgers and hotdogs purchased with donations from various fundraising events.

Prevention Update

Prevention Staff participated in the first back-to-school Drive in Midway August 3 at the Midway Police Department. The event was sponsored by the Midway Police and the Golden Knights Motorcycle Club and was spearheaded by our own Verla Lawson-Grady. The event provided school supplies to more than 250 community youth from Pre-K to 12th grade.  

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones held a meeting Tuesday at the Gainesville Police Department to discuss new protocols for arrest of probation youth on school campuses. Jones, who is also a member of the Florida SAG and represents the state on the federal advisory group, has been working tirelessly with local stakeholders and the Department to address the issues concerning school arrests. Among the distinguished guests were middle and high school principals as well as the Alachua County School Superintendent. Circuit Judges Jones and Roundtree were also in attendance along with prevention staff. 

L Photo: (L-R): Rhyna Jefferson (Prevention), Eugene Morris (Prevention), Brent Musgrove (Prevention), Liz Phillips (Probation), Yvonne Woodard (Prevention) and Cici Battle (Prevention) pose in front of Prevention table display.

R Photo: Verla Lawson-Grady (Prevention) addresses the crowd while Midway Police officers listen in the background.

Last Tuesday, Prevention and Probation staff from across the state attended National Night Out events in Tallahassee, Midway, Pensacola and Miami Gardens. National Night Out is an annual event designed to strengthen communities by encouraging neighborhoods to engage in stronger relationships with local law enforcement and each other. Collectively, more than 1,000 citizens attended the programs in the four aforementioned communities. 

The Tallahassee Area Chapter of the 100 Black Men organization will host a back-to-school sleepover for boys tonight at the Handle Tookes Recreation Center on the campus of Florida A&M University. Special Projects Manager Eugene Morris will speak to the group of young men tonight beginning at 6:45. The goal of the sleepover is to motivate and encourage young men in the local community to become model students in the upcoming school year. 

On Tuesday, the quarterly SAG meeting was held in Daytona Beach to discuss ideas in support of the Department. Pictured to the left were Kip Beacham, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones, Committee Chair Cheryl Messaro, and Lourdes Gimenez who are all members of SAG’s Subcommittee on Disproportionate Minority Contacts. 


Residential Update

Vanessa Wicker from the Office of Residential Services conducted an Impact of Crime (IOC) facilitator training for residential programs in the northwest region last week at the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Chipley.  Fifteen residential provider program staff members participated in the three-day training.  The IOC is an effective intervention curriculum developed by DJJ and designed to teach youth the impact that crimes have upon victims and the “ripple effect” of crime on families and the community.

The class included a special presentation about victim impact  by Pat Tuthill (pictured above) from the Office of Probation, whose daughter Peyton was brutally killed in 1999.  Pat described for the class the tremendous impact of this crime and how important it is for our youth to understand this issue.  Pat is also the executive director of the Peyton Tuthill Foundation, which provides assistance to victims of crime, scholarships for homicide survivors, protection of victims’ rights, and advocates for public safety through effective public policy. 

Shown above is the entire class.  Front Row:  Daniel Hernandez (Escambia Boys Base), Patricia Blair (Twin Oaks RAM-C), Pat Tuthill (Office of Probation), Katy Strickland (Dove Academy), Rhonda Gibson (Twin Oaks RAM-C), Annie Rodgers (Escambia Boys Base), and Anna Parker (Dove Academy).  Back Row:  Jonathan Wiggins (Escambia Boys Base), Lindsey Carr (Bristol Youth Academy), Vanessa Wicker (Office of Residential Services), David Hogan (JUST), Brenda Cobb (Dove Academy), Antwon Allen (JUST), Artice Fields (JUST), and Moniece Wesley (Twin Oaks Vocational Academy).

Staff Changes

I am pleased to announce Bob Roller joined the Department today as our new Chief of Contracts.  Bob comes to us from the Department of Children and Families where he managed contract administration, contract operations and contract quality assurance.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and is a Certified Public Manager.  He has a strong background in human services, both in direct care and administration. I’m confident that he will be a terrific asset to our team.

Performance Management Update

The Office of Staff Development and Training has completed more than half of the scheduled trainings on the Performance Management System. As managers complete these trainings, they will be tasked with entering all current (non-SMART) job expectations into the People First system and sending the expectations to their employees. Employees will receive an email notification that expectations have been entered and will then need to log in to their People First accounts to review and acknowledge receipt.  

Agency cascaded performance expectations were pre-populated in the People First system as of July 1, 2013. You may view a simulation of the People First Performance Module by clicking here

If you have questions or comments regarding the Performance Management System, please email performance.management@djj.state.fl.us.

Workers Compensation Reports 

I am elated to announce that the July workers compensation reports have been released and have provided some staggering results. A mere twenty-nine first reports of injury or illness were reported last month. This marks a dramatic decrease as it is the third lowest number in the last six years. I want to thank all of your for making safety a priority in the workplace. Please continue to analyze all incidents in your area (especially how they could have been prevented) and communicate this to employees. This is a very powerful prevention technique to keep our workplace safe for everyone. Congratulations for the positive safety start to our new fiscal year and thanks for everything you do to keep our workplace safe!