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Secretary's Message

November 1, 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 “Our Children, Our Future, Restoring Hope” National Faith Symposium is November 6-7, and registration information is available at www.faithsymposium.com.***

On Tuesday, I had the honor of speaking at the 2013 Tallahassee Community College Scholarship lunch. In 2008, TCC started its New Start Scholarship, which is awarded to individuals who have been involved in the juvenile justice system and Tuesday’s lunch recognized Kierra Howell, the first New Start recipient to graduate. She received her Associate of Arts (AA) degree in August and is currently is pursuing a career in dental hygiene. Kierra is truly an inspiration and I look forward to updating you on her future success. Kierra (left) is pictured here with Mary Pankowski (center), who developed the scholarship and has been critical in fundraising efforts, and myself.

Wednesday, I gathered with Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Walton County Chief State Attorney Greg Anchors, Walton County Chief Public Defender Lenny Platteborz, Walton County School Superintendent Carlene Anderson and COPE Center CEO Rachel Gillis at the Walton County Courthouse to announce county-wide implementation of Florida’s juvenile civil citation process.

Civil Citation is an incredible alternative to arrest because it enables law enforcement to immediately hold youth accountable for poor behavior without tying up resources that are needed to handle more serious crimes or limiting the youth’s long-term prospects to become productive citizens. Most of these youth are not at risk of becoming chronic or serious offenders, particularly if we get to the root of the problem at the first sign of trouble, but one criminal arrest can limit a youth’s education, occupation and military opportunities.

In Walton County, 331 eligible misdemeanants were formally processed, costing an estimated total of $1.7 million, compared to the $127,766 that it would have cost to issue these youth Civil Citations. The county-wide expansion required the partnership of many key stakeholders. Their collaboration highlights the importance of civil citation and its benefits.

Fifty of Florida’s 67 counties currently operate a juvenile civil citation process. To view a map of participating counties, click here.

Prior to 2011, civil citation was available at the local level as a diversion option. In 2011, the Florida Legislature revised the Civil Citation statute to require each community to provide civil citation or other similar diversion opportunities. As communities move forward to meet these requirements, DJJ is available to assist counties in the development of civil citation initiatives. To learn more about Florida civil citation, click here.

This week, I had the pleasure of joining the Office of Prevention for a pair of Community Conversations.  On Wednesday I was in Holmes County at the Bonifay City Hall to speak with local residents. The meeting was well attended and I was able to share with them many of the great things our agency as well as the prevention staff are doing to meet the needs of area youth. 

On Thursday , I was in Bay County and I want to thank the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in Panama City for hosting us. 

Program Monitoring and Management System Rollout

Our work to improve contract and program oversight continues. Last year, we began the process of developing the Program Monitoring and Management System.  This system automates the reporting and tracking of oversight activities (both contracted and state operated), to ensure contracts and programs are monitored according to Department policy and that findings and issues are tracked and resolved in an efficient manner.  Training and implementation is nearly complete for Residential and Probation programs.  Detention and Prevention programs will be trained in the coming months.  For information on training opportunities in your area, please contact Al Lewis in the Office of Research and Planning at Alexander.Lewis@djj.state.fl.us.

Legislative Update

On Wednesday DJJ legislative director, Jon Menendez made a public presentation to the governor’s office of policy and budget on the department’s FY 2014-2015 legislative budget request. I would like to thank Budget Director Vickie Harris and her staff for all their hard work in putting together this years’ request. Also on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Jason Welty, Director of Legislative Affairs Jon Menendez, Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Marcus Smith,  Director of Administrative Services Fred Schuknecht and Vickie Harris met with the new budget chief of the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, Tony Lloyd. The DJJ team introduced themselves to Mr. Lloyd and presented him with an overview of the department and this year’s legislative and funding requests.

Probation Update

Circuit 11 held its much-awaited annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration Oct. 11. This year’s theme was “Music Unites the World” and the event was highlighted by an array of guest speakers including Circuit Court Judge Maria de Jesus Santovenia, Pastor Alex Chaviano from the Miami Rescue Mission and President of the Young Tigers Foundation, Eric Castanos. Each speaker shared their background and spoke of their commitment to helping others in the community. The formal program was followed by a lunch of traditional Hispanic cuisine.

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Sabrina Prater along with JPOs Coley Scott and Meghan Thrasher from Circuit 5 participated in a park clean up at the Jervey Gantt Park in Ocala last Sunday. The clean-up was in partnership with the Ocala Parks and Recreation Department. Our officers supervised youth on probation while they picked up garbage and cleaned up the park while earning valuable community service hours and giving back to the community. 

Secretary Specialist Marlyn Martinez from Circuit 5 volunteered as a judge for Ocala’s Horizon Academy poster, essay and poem contest for youth in the fifth through eighth grades as part of the celebration of Red Ribbon Week. Marlyn represented our agency on a panel of judges that included representatives from the Arnette House and the Marion County Children’s Alliance. 

It gives me great pleasure to announce the selection of Minnora “Minnie” Bishop as the new Chief Probation officer in Circuit 2. Minnie has more than ten years of experience in various probation roles that she brings with her to this new position.  Previously, Minnie was the learning consultant for staff development and training with the Juvenile Probation Officer Academy, the agency’s master DRAI trainer, and most recently was the statewide transition coordinator.

Probation staff from Circuit 16 sponsored a booth at the annual Key West Children’s Day. This family event featured food, rides, games, arts and crafts and a costume contest for children. Our staff provided prevention materials and prizes to children. This was the first year that our agency has participated in the event. 

SJPO Sonya Washington and JPO Jenny Hickox from Circuit 19 held a donut social last week with high school kids on supervision in Okeechobee County. This was a reward for those youth who maintained regular school attendance and good grades during the first nine weeks. The students really enjoyed the experience and did not want to go back to class. Sonya and Jenny also provide tutoring services to youth on their caseload on a weekly basis. They meet with youth on Tuesdays and Fridays at the local public library. The youth take full advantage of the free tutoring while at the same time building good relationships with their probation officers.

Last Saturday, JPOS Kelli Mukaddam and JPO Shelly-Ann Wilson from Circuit 20 teamed up with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Lehigh community for “Make a Difference Day” at Veteran’s Park in Lehigh Acres. This is a big event for the community which featured music, bounce houses, hay rides, potato sack races and corn hole tournaments. Kelli and Shelly-Ann supervised youth on probation in setting up and cleaning up the event while earning community service hours.

On Tuesday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq from Circuit 20 was a guest lecturer at Florida Gulf Coast University for a course on juvenile justice. Below is a thank you letter she received from the professor who regularly teaches the class. It reads:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for providing us with a very informative, well-organized guest lecture last night in our senior-level course on juvenile justice.   The depth of your knowledge and experience is apparent.  It was a pleasure to hear you speak on various aspects of juvenile justice as well as the Assessment Center.  You are an excellent representative for the DJJ.   We greatly appreciate your contribution to the higher education process and look forward to future collaborations.

Prevention Update

Assistant Secretary Wanda Finnie, Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris and Community Engagement Assistant Coordinator Brittany Claybrooks attended the fourth induction ceremony for the Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS) of Leon County on Tuesday at the Tallahassee City Hall. The event served as an opportunity to recognize Leon County high school students who have taken part in the local POPS program. POPS is a year-round program that affords teens the chance to participate in mentoring sessions, educational workshops, college tours, preparatory activities, community service projects and paid summer internships in professional workplaces.

(from left to right): AS Wanda Finnie (fourth from left in dark suit and peach blouse) stands with other POPS supporters as they prepare to congratulate new and returning students during the Fourth Induction Ceremony on Oct. 29 at the Tallahassee City Hall.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Martin Reid and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson attended the Orange County Sheriff’s Crime Summit on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. In order to further educate the Central Florida community about DJJ, Martin attended the daylong Crime Summit where he distributed information about Prevention programs and answered questions from participants about the Department.  

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis participated in a Healthy Start Baby Shower last Saturday at the Santa Rose County Auditorium in Milton. The event was sponsored by the Santa Rosa County Healthy Start Program. Vendors distributed information on services they provide to expectant mothers and their unborn children. In addition, door prizes were given away. Pensacola State College (PSC) handed out pamphlets and applications on the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG), which is available for students who meet the eligibility criteria who are enrolled in a health care profession. The grant pays for tuition, books, child care, transportation and emergency services. For her efforts, Lydia received this thank-you note from Anita Cormier from PSC. It reads:

On behalf of the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG), I wish to thank you for volunteering at the Santa Rosa County Healthy Start Baby Shower. This was the 6th year holding this event for all expecting and new parents and their families in Santa Rosa County. There were more than 50 exhibitors set up around the County Auditorium and more than 550 parents came through the event. I know it was a long day and I could not have done it without your help. Again, thank you for volunteering and I look forward to working with you again.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene had her life story profiled in an article from drugfree.org entitled “Transforming Trauma into Purpose.” The article shares Tina’s story of overcoming her battles with alcohol and drugs and turning her life around to become a positive influence for youth in our communities.  This is a wonderful recognition of our fellow team member and I encourage everyone to read it. To see the full version of the article, click here.

Residential Update

The Office of Residential Services R-PACT Coordinator Vanessa Wicker held two R-PACT Booster trainings for certified R-PACT trainers in the state.  One was held on Thursday, Oct. 24th in Tampa, the other October 28th in Tallahassee.  Master trainers Gail Wire (Eckerd), Dru Greene (DJJ Technical Assistance) and Kevin George (Paxton) assisted Vanessa in preparing for and providing these trainings.  The R-PACT trainers that attended one or both of the sessions included Raenequa Baker (G4S), Greg Brown (DJJ Program Monitor, Northwest Region), Cathy Henderson (G4S), Crystal Johnson (DJJ Technical Assistance), Stanley M. Martin (Paxton), Jeff McSpaddin (Twin Oaks), Diane Ruane (DJJ Technical Assistance), Lynda Rolack (DJJ Quality Improvement), Mike Slattery (YSI), Michelle Hinson Williams (G4S), and George Wright (DJJ Contract Monitor, South Region). 

The R-PACT Booster was developed to provide an opportunity to review the R-PACT course content, process skills and review best practices.  The booster class also provided group interaction for those who teach R-PACT to others in the field and was a forum for more in-depth discussion of the R-PACT validations found through a study conducted by researchers from the Florida State University.  Participants of each booster training were able to learn from a detailed slideshow, group discussion and role playing exercises.  The goal is to provide an annual R-PACT Booster course for all R-PACT trainers and users. 

In addition, trainings are being scheduled for those who administer the R-PACT.  Individuals can register for R-PACT training through CORE.  For more information about becoming an R-PACT trainer, please contact Vanessa Wicker at (850) 717-2536 or by email Vanessa.Wicker@djj.state.fl.us.

Arnold’s Wildlife, a local animal refuge, will be hosting an event on Nov. 16, for the “Gator Boys” of television show fame.  As a part of the Home Builders Institute program at Okeechobee Girls Academy, the youth assisted Arnold’s Wildlife in a landscaping project.  Below, the girls are shown engaging in one of many projects they participate in as a way of giving back to the community. 

Detention Update

Due to poor quality dog biscuits being distributed in pet stores, there has been an increased number of dog deaths across the country. Accordingly, the girls and staff from the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Facility (MDRJDC) spent Wednesday afternoon incorporating education skills, career building skills and learning about nutrition by making dog biscuits for their favorite Pet Therapy Dog, Justice. Superintendent Daryl Wolf provided the ingredients and recipes to make three different types of biscuits; cheese and bacon, peanut butter and pumpkin just in time for a nice Halloween treat for Justice. The girls learned how to measure the ingredients, how to follow a recipe, roll out dough, cut designs and be creative and also how to turn this into a potential business and career by starting a business for gourmet dog treats. Justice, was unavailable for comment about the biscuits because he had a mouthful. 

This week in Tallahassee, the North Region Superintendent’s Meeting for Detention Services was held here at DJJ headquarters. The 2-day meeting focused on specific short- and long- term regional goals related to detention reform.   A number of topics were addressed including Performance Management, Emergency Drills, Workforce Development, and Behavior Management.  This meeting provided opportunities for the superintendents to share best practices and develop strategies to ensure a consistent approach to meeting the diverse needs of youth in secure detention. Gene McMahon provided PREA training for all who attended and Derrick Elias gave EEO training.

Participants included (above from L to R):  Michael Lindsey, Sheddrick Brooks, Christi Stua, Forrest Hallam, Dixie Fosler, Jeanette Lee, Cody Wood, Heather Hart, Victoria Lenentine, Paul Finn, and Stacey Kakarigi

On October 18,  employees from the Southwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center (SWFRJDC) joined  in the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. This walk helps the American Cancer Society continue to do the most for people facing breast cancer today to end the disease tomorrow. This  walk was a celebration of survivorship - an occasion to express hope and a shared determination to make this breast cancer's last century. My thanks to the following employees who participated in the walk: Mental Health Provider Sue Gallen, Officer Kimberly Soto, Officer Keisha Williams, Sgt. Peter Ferrer (and his family), Officer Jack McCotter and Sgt.  Rodney Goss.

FSECC Update

On Thursday, staff from Headquarters along with staff from other state agencies’ participated in the FSECC 5k. The 5k is an annual FSECC fundraiser and is a great event showcasing the collective efforts of state employees supporting charities throughout Florida.

Also on Thursday, Headquarters hosted “Halloween Cupcake Wars” to raise funds for the FSECC. Staff voted on their favorite cupcake design and could also purchase cupcakes, cookies and brownies to support the FSECC.