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Secretary's Message

December 6, 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

The Governor’s Corner

by Governor Rick Scott    

With our unemployment rate below the national average and more private sector jobs being created every month, Floridians across the state are enjoying the benefits of our recent economic turnaround. Thanks in part to the hard work of our public servants, Florida’s economic success is joined by safer communities, a growing tourism industry and the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008 at 6.7 percent.

Last month we announced that crime in Florida during the first six months of 2013 dropped 5.2 percent compared to the first six months of 2012. With these numbers, Florida is continuing on the path to reaching a 43 year crime low.  Florida’s success in reaching these historic lows would not be possible without the bravery and hard work of Florida’s law enforcement officials and public servants. Thanks to their commitment to keeping our homes and communities safe, Florida continues to be a great place to work, live and a raise a family.

We also recently announced that according to VISIT FLORIDA’s preliminary estimates, Florida reached another record quarter for tourism. From July through September, 22.9 million visitors came to Florida, which is the largest third quarter visitation in Florida’s history.

The success of Florida’s economic turnaround is reflected in our dropping crime statistics and rising tourism. With the help of Florida’s public servants, we will continue to work until every family has the opportunity to live their version of the American Dream in the Sunshine State. It's working in Florida.

Service Delivery Improvement Site Live!

Over the last few months, I have been updating you about the great progress we’ve made in our Service Delivery Improvement Initiative. As you know, DJJ contracts with a number of service providers and we are currently undergoing a variety of changes to ensure the best possible service is provided to the children and youth in our care.

If you are interested in learning more about our Service Delivery Improvement initiative, feel free to check out the updated website dedicated to provide a comprehensive overview about the things we have done so far and the things that lay ahead!

If you have any questions, please contact Amy Johnson at amy.johnson@djj.state.fl.us.

Gubernatorial Fellows

On Wednesday, I met with the ninth class of gubernatorial fellows. These ten outstanding university students were selected, based on their outstanding leadership skills, strong academic achievement, community activism, and their desire to serve the people of Florida, to get first-hand experience in state agencies while completing their education.

It was especially nice to see a familiar face at the table. Our very own Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Courtney McCowen, is a part of this prestigious group and I could not be more proud. Courtney devotes her time at the department to fighting against human trafficking in Florida while also working toward her professional law degree. Courtney is currently a third year law student at Florida State University. 

Probation Update

On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Wimmer visited Circuit 18.  In addition to meeting with the very dedicated staff in Brevard and Seminole counties, she met with the State Attorney and Public Defender for the Judicial Circuit and the Juvenile Chief for Brevard County.  A highlight of the trip was a tour of the facilities on the campus of Crosswinds where she got to meet Lukas and Jasmine, two therapy dogs who assist youth who are struggling with reading.  At Crosswinds she received an update on the facility’s Civil Citation efforts, as well as the JAC and Domestic Violence Respite programs operating out of that facility. Assistant Secretary Wimmer also toured Boys Town in Seminole County during the afternoon, and reported that the services and campus were quite impressive.

ACPO Dorothy Malik from Circuit 19 attended the 14th Annual National Adoption Day Celebration on November 16 at Jenson Beach. The event, which was hosted by the Children’s Home Society of Florida, celebrated all Treasure Coast and Okeechobee families that have adopted children. They focused on raising adoption awareness and education in the community while highlighting the need for permanent loving homes for children in foster care. 

Circuit 6 CPO Adrienne Conwell participated in the Sixth Judicial Circuit’s 10th Annual Adoption Day at the Pinellas County Courthouse on November 22. The day of festivities consisted of a dance routine, singing and a greeting from Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond. After the ceremonies, family, friends and the community packed two courtrooms to observe the proceedings that put foster kids in their forever homes. 

Marion County JPOs Stacey Epstien, Stacey Bostic, Peacena Samuels, Niki Leahmon and Coley Scott along with SJPO Sabrina Prater participated in a clean-up effort at the Jervy Gant Cemetery on November 16. The youth involved earned community service hours for their efforts.

The Probation staff from Circuit 18 in Brevard County has collected holiday food baskets from probation youth in exchange for community service hours for more than ten years. During this year’s collection, a youth formerly on probation stopped by the office to deliver a food basket and to visit with his former case worker JPO Chuck Bernhard. The teen participated in the drive last year when he was on probation and despite not being in the system any longer still decided to help out. This stands as the definition of community service - giving back when you’re not required to do so. I would like to thank him for his gracious donation and wish him well in his future endeavors. 

On November 21, Lake County Juvenile Probation Officers participated in the Vision of Hope Boys Ranch Thanksgiving dinner. The ranch is a residential foster home and several of the youth are dually served by both DCF and our agency. The festivities included testimonials from several of the youth, a solo drum performance, and of course, a turkey dinner with all the fixings. 

This Thanksgiving, members from Circuit 19 probation came up with a guessing game for the entire month of November entitled “What are you thankful for?” This was in an effort to improve staff morale as outlined in the Roadmap to System Excellence. Each staff member was asked to submit what they were thankful for and the officer with the most correct guesses would win a prize. The contest had more than twenty participants and the winner was SJPO Betty Preble who took home a $10 Starbucks gift card. I would like to thank Reform Specialist Michelle Simpson for coming up with this innovative and great idea. 

JPOs Melissa Hogans and Yvette Carethers collected 52 cans of food to assist a first grade class at Shore Acres Elementary School during their can goods drive. The class was shy of the 100 can goal to help needy families in their community, but did win a popcorn party for the most cans in the school. They invited both of the officers to come back and celebrate with them. 

Members from the Martin County Probation team in Circuit 19 teamed up with the Elkettes of St. Lucie County to provide a needy family with a free Thanksgiving dinner on November 25. SJPO Betty Preble presented the Thanksgiving dinner which included a turkey, potato buds, mac and cheese, stuffing and canned vegetables to one of the families on her caseload.

JPOs Kathy Cason and Yvette Carethers identified a family to assist in their local community for Thanksgiving. They were able to collect donations from their remaining unit members: SJPOs Salvador Joya and Rosalena Mells, JPOs Candy Jaynes, Roderick Conner and Gregory Wade as well as Staff Assistant Marguerite Morrow to collect funds to provide a nice Thanksgiving for this deserving family.

The Teens At Risk program in Circuit 15 held a pre-Thanksgiving dinner on November 18 for the ten participants of the Life Skills Group and their families. The program took this opportunity to educate the parents on the programs mission, curriculum, community service hour requirements and the rules and consequences for their choices. My thanks to CPO Gregory Starling, JPOS Althea Cameron, Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty and JPOs Irene Collymore and Teqouria Wheeler for attending this informative session. 

Intern Tiffany Williams from Brooklyn, New York was granted the opportunity to complete a 600-hour internship with the Department of Juvenile Justice. Tiffany is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at Morrisville State College, located in upstate New York. She began her internship on August 26 with the Circuit 9 probation offices and we are thrilled to have her.

Welcome to the team, Tiffany!   

On November 20, Tiffany attended the Teach-In Event at Oakridge High School, which took place in public schools across Orange County. Tiffany spoke with the entire Junior Class at Oakridge High about her college experience with emphasis on interning at DJJ and told them that college is the stepping stone towards a successful career path.   Teach-In was a huge success at Oakridge High School based on the amount of questions and gratitude shown on behalf of the entire Junior Class. Tiffany was honored to have this opportunity to touch the lives of soon-to-be career men and women. 

JPOS Melissa Fuller, Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson, OMC Jill Gould and JPOs Melissa Hogans, Yvette Carethers and Charmain Cosme participated in the Great American Teach-In activities on November 21 at various schools in Pasco and Pinellas counties. They shared information about DJJ and their specific jobs while encouraging students to make school a positive experience. 

SJPO Tonya Emsweller and JPO Charnisha Palmore from Circuit 13 participated in the Great American Teach-In on November 21 at the Literacy Leadership Technology Academy. Tonya and Charnisha spoke with the students about the Department’s mission and the Roadmap as well as interventions within the community that can deter them from future involvement with our agency. 

JPO Omar Bohler (pictured center) from Circuit 9 talked to youth from Evans High School on November 12 about making positive choices. His presentation was motivational and focused around asking the children about the positive people they know, the positive places they go and the positive things that they do. Omar was invited to speak to the children by local radio personality Michael Baisden. 

On October 12, JPOs Jalynsey Brown and Antwannett Wilson from Circuit 15 spearheaded a community clean-up for the local Boys and Girls Club in Belle Glade. Five youth in the care of our agency participated by collecting more than five bags of trash and debris around the building and in doing so earned valuable community service hours. This is the second clean up activity the youth of the Glades area have participated in this calendar year. 

Retired CPO Feirmon Johnson was awarded the Unsung Hero Award for his nearly forty years of dedicated service to Florida’s youth. Feirmon was presented with this award on November 14 from Barbara Gerlock who is the chair of the Circuit 15 Juvenile Advisory Board. Feirmon’s name was added to a plaque that will remain in the probation administration building. 

On November 8, SJPO Christie Harris and JPO Latanya Dover represented DJJ at the Adult and Senior Outreach Program at the Tampa Police Department House in Robles Park. The event provided information to the community about the integral role that our agency and our probation officers take in their local community. The Department seeks to maintain an ongoing relationship with the Tampa Police Department to continue our mission statement. 

Reform Specialist Tabitha Bush from Circuit 17 recently presented DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence and DJJ 101 to the second annual Cross Systems training last month. The training was designed to inform children and families on how to access and navigate the wide array of services we provide. This effort is spearheaded by the Broward County Children Services Board’s One Community Partnership Committee, in partnership with Children Services Council. 

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity hosted a community wide political forum entitled “Protect and Serve and Violation of Civil Rights” on November 14 at the St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Ft. Lauderdale. CPO Cassandra Evans from Circuit 17 served on the panel as more than eighty community members were in attendance for the event. The panel fielded questions regarding their views on civil citation for first-time misdemeanor offenders. This was a great opportunity for community members to learn more about DJJ’s Civil Citation Initiative and the important role it plays in helping Florida’s youth avoid the juvenile justice system.

Human Trafficking Update

Tyson Elliott, DJJ Human Trafficking Director, presented a webinar this week in partnership with the Florida Sheriff’s Association. More than 60 law enforcement participated and learned to correctly identify victims of human trafficking. Thank you, Tyson, for working to continually bring awareness to this issue.

Prevention Update

On November 21, statewide DMC Coordinator Joshua Kuch made a presentation on his research of Allostatic Load at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting in Atlanta. The ASC is an international organization whose members pursue scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge concerning the measurement, etiology, consequences, prevention, control and treatment of crime and delinquency. Josh presented his research at the annual meeting of the national academic criminology community where current and future research projects are discussed. The Allostatic Load research is an ongoing project that will attempt to measure levels of stress among youth in residential facilities in an attempt to determine if stress has an impact on recidivism and if DJJ programs have an effect on individual levels of stress.

On Wednesday, Federal Grants Coordinator Juliet Westmoreland spent some time volunteering at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee. She spoke with students about Hanukkah celebration which just ended last night. Juliet discussed the importance of the menorah (candelabrum that holds candles that are lit during the Hanukkah observance). Each student got to partake in eating latkes (potato pancakes) and spinning the dreidel (4-sided spinning top).  

On October 25, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Audrey “Pat” McGhee along with CPO Adrienne Conwell, ACPO Donna Butt, Contract Manager Tracy Cooke, Regional Director Tim Niermann and JPOS Harold Graves participated in the celebration of the Lewis Abraham Lacoochee Boys and Girls Club, which is set to open early next year. The club was established to serve youth in the area that need a safe place to spend time, learn and grow. The club will also provide opportunities to families of Lacoochee by providing programs that focus on academic success, increasing healthy lifestyles and promoting character and leadership.

From left: Pat McGhee, Delinquency Prevention Specialist; CPO, Adrienne Conwell; ACPO, Donna Butt; Contract Manager, Tracy Cooke; Regional Director, Tim Niermann and JPOS Harold Graves

Detention Update

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Vincent Vurro on his appointment to the Superintendent position at Monroe Regional Juvenile Detention Center, effective December 6, 2013.  Mr. Vurro has more than 23 years of juvenile justice experience and most recently served as the Superintendent at the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Vincent is a leader among his peers and considered an expert in the field of juvenile detention. His leadership skills and his ability to establish and maintain effective relationships with internal and external stakeholders will be a tremendous asset to the Monroe County community and Detention Services.

Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center is enjoying the holiday season. Superintendent Darrell Johnson stands with the youth’s most recent creation.

DJJ’s Registered Dietitian Jamie Burch conducted Food Service training this week for all South Region Food Service Directors, Assistant Superintendents and Regional Director, Dr. Gladys Negron. Jamie spoke to the  group about USDA meal patterns, special diets, production records and nutrition and wellness. The training provided a wonderful opportunity for the directors and assistants to network and share ideas.

Retired World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstar and current Senior Juvenile Detention Officer Chris Tipton, known on stage as “Classy” Chris Nelson, participates in charity events to benefit at-risk Florida teenagers like those he serves at DJJ. On Nov. 22, he raised more than $2,000 for Gentlemen’s Quest, a step dance group for teenage boys in his community that teaches them to become positive adults. The event was featured in the Plant City Times; to read the story, click here.

Juvenile Probation Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the juvenile probation officers (JPOs) who graduated today in a ceremony held in Tallahassee. JPOs provide a formal recommendation for each youth arrested and advise the court regarding appropriate sanctions and services. They work with youth in judicial circuits throughout Florida at every point in the juvenile justice continuum, from initial intake screening through the supervision of services. JPOs ensure youth comply with court requirements and assist teens and their families in accessing services, such as counseling and skills development, that support their success in building a brighter future. Thanks to DJJ Chief of Staff Jason Welty, who addressed the graduating class. Kudos to Learning Consultant Christina Ash, as well as Artavia Parrish, Duane Pace and Cina Wilson-Johnson, who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility. The graduates, pictured below, successfully completed 403 hours of training to become certified officers. They will work in the city listed next to their names.

Pictured from left to right) Front row: Soffia Aikens-Jacksonville, Deanna Chesteen-Gainesville, Octavia Brooks-Daytona Beach, Brianna Bales-Mount Dora, Jacquelyn Hudson-St. Augustine

Middle row: JonMeliah Verdell-Jacksonville, Cheryl Williams-Tallahassee, Albert McKinley-Milton, Katanna Smiley-Panama City, Erica Chennaux-Panama City, Denise Saginario-Young-New Port Richey, Ebonie Henderson-Sanford, Angela Martincich-Panama City, Magdalana Yost-Daytona Beach

Back row: Matthew Butterfield-Clearwater, Alexander Purpuro-Tallahassee, Donnell Malpress-Jacksonville, Stephen Jordan-Starke, Tianna Greene-Ocala, Chris Archie-Tallahassee, Irene Royo-Bradenton, Janice Hetzel-Bradenton, Arilu Diaz-New Port Richey, Andre Ellis-Jacksonville, Debra Smith-New Port Richey

Residential Update

Last week, residents at Dade Juvenile Residential Facility participated in the American Red Cross “Holiday Mail for Heroes” initiative.  Every youth wrote a personal message in a holiday card that will be distributed to veterans, military families and active-duty service members in installations worldwide. This was a partnership between the program staff and residents at Dade Juvenile Residential Facility and the Dade County Public School System. 

JJSIP Update

A number of DJJ staff—Laura Moneyham, Meg Bates, Joni Wimmer, Mark Greenwald, Mike Baglivio and Kathy Jackowski—attended the American Society of Criminology meeting held the week of Nov.18, in Atlanta.  Mike Baglivio, PhD, and Kathy Jackowski gave a presentation titled “Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders: A Statewide Analysis of Prevalence and Risk Factor Prediction of Subsequent Recidivism,” which focused on the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project (JJSIP) being implemented by DJJ.   

Mike Baglivio and Kathy Jackowski, making their presentation.

In addition, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at The Florida State University Carter Hay, PhD, principal investigator, and Research Assistant Alex Widdowson, MA, were part of a workshop about the effectiveness of rehabilitative strategies with a presentation titled “Changes in Risk and Protective Factors among Incarcerated Juveniles in Florida.” The presentation was based on the R-PACT Validation Study conducted by FSU for DJJ.  

From left, Mike Baglivio, Kathy Jackowski, Alex Widdowson, Carter Hay, and Mark Greenwald

The DJJ team also attended an awards presentation during the conference at which Mark Lipsey, PhD, director of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University, was presented with the August Vollmer Award, which recognizes efforts at connecting research with effective practices.  Dr. Lipsey worked with DJJ as part of the JJSIP project, particularly in the implementation of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP). 

The SPEP is a validated, data-driven rating scheme for determining how well an existing program matches research evidence for the effectiveness of that particular type of intervention for reducing the recidivism of juvenile offenders.  The SPEP scheme is based on a meta-analysis conducted by Dr. Lipsey and his colleagues over the last 20 years of more than 500 studies.  These analyses investigated the general program characteristics that are most strongly associated with reductions in the re-offense rates of the juveniles served.

Education Update

Several students in DJJ schools across the state are being recognized for their entries into the Untold Stories Essay & Visual Art Competition.  Students’ essays and artwork were selected by CEEAS as consortium-state winners and a finalist for inclusion in Richard Ross' forthcoming book, Juvie Talk.  We are so proud of these students mentioned below and encourage you to congratulate them on their accomplishments:

Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center has been selected by CEEAS as a consortium-state winner.

Essay: Mom on Drugs by J.V.

Visual Artwork: by S.A. (Corresponding Essay Title: Tears of Joy)

Spring Lake Youth Academy has been selected by CEEAS as a consortium-state winner. 

Essay: Alone by B.S. 

Visual Artwork: by J.C. (Corresponding Essay Title: An Abusive Life Turned Around)

Cypress School at Okeechobee Girls Academy selected as a finalists for inclusion in Richard Ross' forthcoming book, Juvie Talk.

Essay: A Peek Inside My Life by K.R.

CEEAS has also selected the following essay and visual art piece as a consortium-state winner.  

Essay & Accompanying Visual Art: My Untold Story by M.R.

To read full selections from Untold Stories, click here.

Get Your 2013 W-2 Form Online


Employees can elect to receive their 2013 W-2 form electronically between now and January 6, 2014. Simply start by accessing the Department of Financial Services Employees’ Information Center available at the following link: https://apps.fldfs.com/EIC/EmployeeInfoCenter. Online W-2 forms are available before paper forms are distributed so sign up today! If you have previously elected to receive your W-2 electronically there is no need to enroll again.

For questions, please contact Vivian Chambliss via email to Vivian.Chambliss@djj.state.fl.us or (850) 717- 2657.

Wellness Wire

I encourage all of you to read the December edition of The Wellness Wire which provides calendars of events hosted by the providers of Florida State Group Insurance. This newsletter also gives tips to improve health and wellbeing. With the holidays fast approaching, this is something for us all to keep in mind. To read the newsletter, click here.