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Secretary's Message

August 30, 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

***Reminder: The Human Trafficking Summit is October 3, and registration is available at www.djj.state.fl.us/human-trafficking-summit/registration; the “Our Children, Our Future, Restoring Hope” National Faith Symposium is November 6-7, and registration information is available at www.faithsymposium.com.***

Roadmap Update

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of presenting our Roadmap to System Excellence to the attendees of the 84th Annual Criminal Justice Training Institute in Orlando. This informative event was sponsored by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency.  The training institute featured more than 350 criminal justice professionals, including representatives from the Florida Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Parole Commission, and members of local sheriff’s offices from across the state. As you know, the Roadmap has nearly tripled in size over the last year, and the response to our reform efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. If you haven’t yet, I encourage everyone within DJJ to read the newest iteration of the Roadmap, online here

In addition, the FCCD presented Fred Schuknecht, Department of Juvenile Justice's Director of Administrative Services, with the statewide Distinguished Service Award – Juvenile Justice. FCCD also annually presents Distinguished Service Awards for Corrections, Law Enforcement, and  Judicial.

Fred has served at several state agencies including the Department of Corrections, Department of Administration, Florida Parole Commission and DJJ. He has been an active member of the FCCD Chapter II volunteering time in numerous community service events over the years. Fred was recognized as a dedicated member of the criminal justice community with a career spanning almost forty years where he has always demonstrated outstanding leadership ability, dedication to service and a hard work ethic.

Fred is a valuable member of our team and I was honored to see him recognized for his outstanding service with the Department.  

Streamlining DJJ’s Incident Management

As most of you know, we developed the Roadmap to System Excellence as a way to ensure we have the resources necessary to provide the right services for the right youth in the right place at the right time. In the latest version of the Roadmap to System Excellence, which  was released earlier in August, we outlined key goals that we believe will help achieve our overall objective of improving Florida’s current juvenile justice system to ensure we have a sustainable way to continue protecting public safety and reducing juvenile delinquency. Paramount to our success is the implementation of a model for contract procurement, provider management and program oversight that will eliminate program area silos and at the same time find new and efficient ways to support our program areas in the field, as part of our contract reform initiatives. This new way of doing business will reinforce our continued efforts to work across program areas and better utilize those resources that are dedicated to supporting those program areas, like incident management, procurement, and contract management. 

I understand that while some of you are familiar with this concept, many of you are hearing about it for the first time right now. I want to assure you that this is the very beginning of an extensive plan to communicate clearly and transparently the changes that are on the way and how they will help the Department reach operational excellence while also increasing the efficiency.

As the first part of our new model, we have realigned existing resources to implement the Incident Operations Center (IOC), which will be an enhancement to our systems of incident management.  The IOC and the Central Communications Center (CCC) will work collaboratively to ensure that incident response is tracked, completed and analyzed for both provider-run programs and DJJ-operated programs. Due to the nature of the services we provide, despite diligent planning and robust procedures, some incidents are inevitable. However, we take every incident involving our youth very seriously and I am pleased to share that the IOC along with other contract reform initiatives will strengthen our current incident management process. 

This week, we took an exciting step in the process with the appointment of Holly Johnson as the  IOC Director. Holly holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology from Texas A & M University and has worked in three different program models including Detention, Residential and Community Corrections. Holly has worked in public service since 1994 and joined the Department in 2002. Holly has worked as a case manager, a conditional release counselor, an assistant program director, a quality assurance specialist, a commitment manager, an administrative review specialist, and operations director for the Administrative Review Unit. Additionally, Holly is a volunteer member of JAX-Cert, a Citizen Corp program that trains citizens to respond to disasters within their communities.

If you have any questions regarding the IOC, please contact Amy Johnson, Director of the Office of Program Accountability, at Amy.Johnson@djj.state.fl.us.  

Farm Share

Last Saturday, I joined State Representative Jason Brodeur, Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari and a host of volunteers, including some of our youth who earned valuable community service hours, for the Farm Share event in Seminole County at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford. Deputy Secretary Christy Daly was also on hand for the event, which distributed fruits and vegetables donated from local famers to over 500 needy families in the local community. Events like this one give us a chance to strengthen our community engagement while helping out those less fortunate. 

New Pet Therapy Dog 

I am very proud to announce that our agency has added a second therapy dog. As part of the department’s Canine Comfort Program, the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers will soon welcome an 18-month-old hound/lab mix with a playful and loving personality. Like Justice, newest addition was adopted from the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, a non-profit organization that took him in after he was found abandoned on the side of I-95.The new pup was adopted on August 2nd and will join the team at the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers in the coming weeks. Miami Dog Whisperer Richard Heinz has been training him since he was adopted and has said that DJJ’s new dog reminds him a lot of Justice.

South Region Director Dr. Gladys Negron said, “Justice has been an immense comfort to the youth who have experienced trauma, loneliness, anger, aggression, and, as a result, has helped the staff who work with him. I am overjoyed that more of the youth in our care will now have the opportunity to experience the benefits of a therapy dog.” The new dog, like Justice, came from the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington.

Bottom, From left, Miami Dog Whisperer Richard HeinzMDRJDC Superintendent Daryl Wolf; Top, from left, Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center Acting Superintendent Sharon Shore, South Region Director Dr. Gladys Negron.

Adding an additional therapy dog would not have been possible without the success of our first dog Justice who lives with MDRJDC Superintendent Daryl Wolf and spends most of his time comforting and playing with the facility’s youth. On Tuesday, Justice, who has already received press coverage from across the country, was the centerpiece of a feature story on the WPLG-TV Local 10-Miami. The piece, which can be seen here, highlights our ground-breaking pet therapy program and includes interviews with Superintendent Daryl Wolf and several of the youth at the facility. I’m overwhelmed at the success he has earned and thankful that this program is making such strides in the rehabilitation of the young people in our facilities.

Justice also took his first road trip this week; on Thursday, he became the first canine to present in a breakout session for the Child Protection Summit in Orlando hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Justice was accompanied by South Region Director Dr. Gladys Negron and Miami-Dade RJDC Superintendent Daryl Wolf. Negron and Wolf spoke to the workshop participants about the benefits of incorporating pet programs into active programming for children. In addition to Justice’s workshop, Director of Policy and Programming Jeannie Becker-Powell and Director of Special Projects Brenda Posthumus led a workshop featuring our Roadmap to System Excellence. Jeannie talked about why the Roadmap is a model that engages stakeholders, parents and staff in an open dialogue about service delivery and provides a direction for true reform. The participants learned about the process, including the foundation and philosophy behind the Roadmap and mapping for long-term change. 

Legislative Update

This week, the Office of Legislative Affairs was busy discussing DJJ’s proposed Chapter 985 revisions with representatives of both the Florida Police Chief’s Association and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. The meeting proved positive and substantive dialogue was given regarding several of the proposal’s more significant revisions, and I would like to thank the FPCA and FPAA for their time.


Today, Chief of Staff Alex Kelly and Legislative Director Jon Menendez discussed the same issues with representatives of the Florida Sheriffs Association. As we move forward with our Chapter 985 revisions, it’s important that we do so in a thoughtful and transparent manner. We want to ensure that we hear all feedback and concerns from our stakeholders.

Prevention Update

Last Saturday, Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator Brittany Claybrooks attended the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and civil rights workshops at Howard University in Washington, D.C. This event highlighted the civil rights accomplishments that have been achieved since the original march in 1963 culminating in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and developed strategies to educate and enlighten future generations. 


Probation Update

It is my extreme pleasure to announce the appointment of Gregory Starling as the new Chief Probation Officer for Circuit 15. Mr. Starling has over 25 years of experience working with juveniles. He started his career at the Palm Beach Halfway House in 1987 and has held various positions throughout the entire juvenile justice continuum. He has a significant history as a management analyst that include programming for juveniles , training for case management staff, and subject matter expert in the juvenile justice continuum. Mr. Starling has served as Assistant Chief Probation Officer in Circuit 15 since 1999. Greg has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from Bethune Cookman University.  He additionally is very active in several local committees and boards that deal with youth. Please join me in congratulating CPO Greg Starling for being selected to lead Probation Services in Circuit 15. 

Last Thursday and Friday, statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts visited Circuit 19 to discuss broadening the Civil Citation Initiative. Thursday morning Theda, along with CPO Wydee’a Wilson and Reform Specialist Michelle Simpson, met with representatives from the Indian River Sheriff’s Department. Theda spoke to the group about the value of initiative and received a positive response from Sheriff Deryl Loar who said he wanted his office to be number one in the state for issuing civil citations. He requested that our agency come back at a later date to do an in-depth training with his 80 deputies.

On Friday, DJJ’s team met with Okeechobee County Undersheriff Noel Stephen who expressed an interested in utilizing the Civil Citation Initiative. I would like to give my sincere thanks to everyone who makes an effort to inform local law enforcement on the benefits of Civil Citation.  

On Monday, STEP (Success Through Empowerment Program) held its graduation for their second cycle of group sessions in Circuit 11. STEP, formally the Youth Empowerment Program, consists of seven-week cycles of programs and activities designed toward empowering local youth with information and engage in topics such as bullying, human trafficking, gang awareness, drug prevention and educational opportunities which can have a major impact in their lives. STEP was initiated through the efforts of local probation staff.

I would like to extend a special thank you to JPO Robin Myers from Circuit 14 who took the extra initiative to help needy families in her local community at the beginning of this school year. Robin worked tirelessly collecting donations, and when those ran out, she selflessly used her own finances to purchase school supplies for less fortunate families. These families would otherwise not have been able to begin the school year with the supplies that they needed and the look on the faces of those children were priceless. Robin exemplifies community engagement, and I’m very happy that she is a member of our team.

Detention Kudos

Please join me in congratulating Major Jeanette Lee on her promotion to Superintendent of the Escambia Regional Detention Center. Jeanette completed the police academy in 1989 and the next year began working as a Detention Care Worker I. Throughout her career, she has strived for the next challenge taking on more responsibility and being promoted in the process. Jeannette has served the agency as a Detention Care Worker II, Senior Juvenile Detention Officer, Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor and Assistant Superintendent. She was appointed Acting Superintendent of ERJDC in February. Again, congratulations Major Lee on your appointment as Superintendent!

I would like to recognize Dennis Hall, Alternatives to Secure Detention Monitor, from the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Facility for his longstanding commitment to deliver food to homeless men and women as well as the Trinity Rescue Mission of Jacksonville. About five years ago, the Second Harvest Food Bank in Jacksonville contacted Dennis through his church and put him in touch with local restaurants who wanted to use their leftover food for a useful purpose. Dennis and his fellow brothers with the Knights of Columbus volunteered to pick up the food and deliver it to local inner city schools and community organizations. Currently, the group picks up food from Bojangles, KFC, Pizza Hut, Longhorn Steakhouse and Starbucks to deliver nearly 700 pounds of food to needy persons six days per week. At times, Dennis would deliver food to the families of the youth he supervised and said it made a difference in their lives knowing they would have something to eat and the Department cared so much for their wellbeing. On behalf of the Department, I would like to thank Dennis for going the extra mile for the less fortunate in his community.

Retirement Notice

I would like to bid a fond farewell to CPO Feirmon Johnson from Circuit 15 upon his retirement today from the Department. Feirmon began his long and distinguished career with the state of Florida in 1974, and he leaves today with just over 39 years of dedicated service to the youth in South Florida. Feirmon began his career in the Division of Youth Services and his attitude toward building community partnerships will be a legacy that will live on long after his departure. The Labor Day holiday is designated to celebrate the American worker, and as we are now upon the holiday weekend I can’t think of a better way to end the work week than honoring a gentleman who gave 39 years to one profession. Best wishes to you, sir!