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Secretary's Message

February 18, 2019

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, with the latest on what’s going on and what the team is doing across the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. I hope you will take a moment to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to improve the lives of Florida’s youth and families and how we are working to make our communities even better.

Please keep sharing your great work, successes, and accomplishments both on and off the clock in serving the youth, families, and communities touched by DJJ. Your stories inspire us all to do more. So, send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Secretary Simone Marstiller

DJJ Celebrates February as Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, please enjoy the following submission, written by Regional Monitor Warren Garrison from the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement:

Continuing with Black History Month, I bring your attention to the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail;’ a great piece of American literature written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this piece of American literature, Dr. King is responding to his critics. He strikes at the core of their moral contradictions, deploring the tactics they used to derail a peaceful march organized by Civil Rights activist, ultimately landing him in the Birmingham jail, spawning one of our nation’s most salient literatures. One of the striking things about the letter is the overlapping emphasis on love, patience, and peace. Dr. King begins the letter by saying he seldom pauses to answer criticism, as his critics say he was an outsider and did not belong there. As you can imagine, during his time, he had many critics and was not the American hero we have been taught to know. Dr. King simply responds by saying he is here because injustices are present. Dr. King expressed in his letter how it has taken more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights to flourish and yet, the nation continued to move at a “horse and buggy pace” as he depicted the struggles of combating with segregation. More critics would say he was in too great of a hurry and it would take time to accomplish social progress. Dr. King adequately replies, “such a belief is related to a tragic misconception of time, as time itself is neutral and social progress is accomplished through effort and not the inevitability of time.” He ends the letter by begging his oppressors and critics for forgiveness if he had been unreasonable and extended an open invitation to meet his oppressors/critics, not as a Civil Rights leader, but as their brother, while hoping the dark cloud of racism would pass away.

Early in Dr. King’s perilous journey, leading destitute American citizens, despite the dubious claims of his critics, we detect no ambiguity in this great piece of American literature. Let us appreciate one of Dr. King’s many contributions to our nation thereof, befitting for Black History Month.

DJJ employees are among the most innovative and creative people in all of state government as they continue to seek more productive ways to perform their jobs with increased efficiency. We are happy to announce that the 2019 Florida TaxWatch Productivity Awards provides an excellent opportunity to recognize the innovative ideas and resulting cost savings accomplished by enterprising DJJ employees.

Nominations are now open and the forms for the 2019 Productivity Awards can be accessed at http://tpa.floridataxwatch.org. Please take a few moments today to review the application and instructions before nominating a deserving DJJ employee or team of employees.


The nomination process is now open and will close on April 8, 2019. To nominate yourself or a team of employees, please download the nomination form from the website above, fill out the application, and submit the word document to Productivity Awards Coordinator Patrick Fargason at patrick.fargason@djj.state.fl.us. Our agency will review all nominations and then submit the packets directly to Florida TaxWatch. To ensure that all nominations are accurate and properly reviewed, DJJ will not approve nominations submitted after March 29, 2019 at 5:00 PM. No new nominations will be accepted after that time.

Questions regarding nominations should be directed to Patrick Fargason at Patrick.fargason@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2712.


This year, Florida TaxWatch has introduced distinct nomination categories so that the awards are open to even more employees. You can find the description for each category below. Teams for categories other than Agency of the Year are limited to 5 members.

Agency of the Year

This award is given to the agency/division/department/office (more than 5 employees) that, through the development or implementation of a new program or effort, has improved the quality of life or delivery of service to a significant number of Floridians.

Technology / Innovation

This award is given to the individual or group (≤ 5 members) that utilized or created new technological or innovative solutions to make the state more responsive to and/or effective for taxpayers. Qualifying nominations could include the creation of unique software to address a problem that would otherwise have gone unsolved, or the automation of a process or procedure that dramatically impacted taxpayers’ access to state resources or programs.

Quality of Life

This award is given to the individual or group (≤ 5 members) that took remarkable steps to make Florida an even more attractive place to live, work, and play. Qualifying nominations could include going above and beyond to create access to a new park or recreation area, increasing public health through a new & innovative initiative, or dramatically reducing the amount of time necessary to complete a major public works project. If you aren't sure which category to choose, this one is your answer.

Service Delivery Improvement

This award is given to the individual or group (≤ 5 members) that dramatically improved the quality and efficiency of the delivery of service to taxpayers in any area of state government. Qualifying nominations could include improvements to the turnaround time of processing documentation, reducing the time or cost necessary to provide a new or existing service, or increasing the number of Floridians served by a program without increasing the cost.

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Our Newly Certified Juvenile Justice Detention Officers!

On Friday, February 8, 2019, juvenile justice detention officer graduations were celebrated for officers attending the Florida Public Safety Institute (FPSI) and Broward College Academies. The FSPSI graduation took place at DJJ Headquarters and celebrated the success of 24 graduates. The guest speakers for the event were Secretary Simone Marstiller and Captain Daryl Bolton from the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC), who offered the closing remarks. The class president was Hunter Lawson from Escambia RJDC and the class motto was “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve!!”

Andre Stroman, Leon Detention; Andrew Orcutt, Collier Detention; Antonio Norton , Duval Detention; Brandon Carter, Leon Detention; Brittany Davis, Leon Detention, Clint Marsh, Bay Detention; Daquan Harris, Bay Detention; Darius Gallon, Leon Detention; De’Arrell Williams, Leon Detention; Demond Winters, Southwest Detention; Eugene McElvin Jr., Leon Detention; Howard Davis, Leon Detention; Hunter Lawson, Escambia Detention; Jarkievious Blackshear, Leon Detention; Joshua Stuart, Volusia Detention; Lorenzo Ponder, Jr., Duval Detention; Ly’Nodra Martin, Escambia Detention; Paul Lowe, Escambia Detention; Shane Hamilton, Escambia Detention; Sherelle Patrick, Volusia Detention; Talaci Works, Bay Detention; Todd Fontaine, Volusia Detention; Wesley Greene, Escambia Detention; Wills Joseph, Volusia Detention.

The Broward College graduation took place on campus and celebrated the success of 21 graduates. The guest speakers for the event were South Region Detention Director Kevin Housel and Associate Dean Wayne Boulier from the Institute of Public Safety, who offered the closing remarks. The class president was Alex Bernardin from Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the class motto was “We unite together. We change lives together.” A special thanks to our instructors, Denise Cannon, Duane Pace and James Rogers for their exemplary training and preparing the officers for this very special day. Please join me in congratulating our graduating officers and welcoming them to our DJJ team!

Samuel Alexandre, Miami-Dade Detention; Alex Bernardin, Miami-Dade Detention; Lawrence Bruton, Miami-Dade Detention; Stanley Charles, Miami-Dade Detention; Vincent Dubuisson, Palm Beach Detention; Nerline Dumerjean, Palm Beach Detention; Deveron Ellis, Broward Detention; Jhaland Francois, Palm Beach Detention; Adeline Halladay, Palm Beach Detention; Keenan James, Miami-Dade Detention; Myles Johnson, Broward Detention; Wood Jourdain, Palm Beach Detention; Elvia Lopez, Palm Beach Detention; Woodlyne Louis, Palm Beach Detention; Lino Louis Obin, Miami-Dade Detention; Miguel Mack, Miami-Dade Detention; Krystal Payne, Palm Beach Detention; Feleich Peterson, Palm Beach Detention; Sofony Senelus, Miami-Dade Detention; Rashad Williams, Broward Detention; Tiffany Wooden, Miami-Dade Detention.

Congratulations to Statewide Juvenile Justice System Improvement (JJSI) Coordinator Ashley Solberger Webb who was recently named the 2017-2018 Headquarters’ Probation & Community Intervention Employee of the Year. Since joining the branch, Ms. Webb has performed in an exemplary manner. She is a team player and takes great pride in every assignment. She is always willing to assist others, is dependable, and is the go to person for the branch. Ms. Webb is also able to anticipate potential issues and propose solutions. Additionally, she coordinates the activities associated with JJSI and the Statewide Probation Advisory Team, along with many other ad hoc assignments for the branch.

Pictured above: Ashley Webb and Jeannie Becker-Powell 

Congratulations to Sergeant Kutina McLeod from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the detention center’s Employee of the Month. Sergeant McLeod works hard to keep the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center safe and secure and leads with her tough determination every day.

Congratulations to Breahannah Hilaire from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named their Provider Employee of the Month. Ms. Hilaire is a dedicated and caring professional that works each day to do what is best for the youth that we serve. Thank you, Ms. Hilaire, for all that you do every day for Orange RJDC!

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center also awarded Statewide Trainer Paul Britten an honorary “Orange Tough” award for his ongoing support to the center. Statewide Trainer Britten continues to provide support, encouragement, and leadership to the youth and staff at Orange RJDC and exemplifies what it means to be “Orange Tough.”

Congratulations to Karla Edwards and Mary Lardie from the Central Region Office of Detention Services who are both retiring from the Department after 35 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. The office staff held a going away luncheon for the duo at their local Bahama Breeze and they were surprised by just how many current and former colleagues were in attendance. We would like to wish them both the very best in their retirement!

Pictured above: Karla Edwards (left) and Central Region Director Monica Gray. 

Congratulations to April Walker from the Central Region Office of Detention Services on her promotion to SMA II. April has been working with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice since 2005 in various roles.

April graduated with distinction from the Criminal Justice Academy at her high school and continued her studies in Criminal Justice at the University of South Florida. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Behavioral Healthcare.

April’s heart is dedicated to helping at-risk youth and families in the Tampa Bay community. For 18 years, she has served as volunteer and co-director for Daughters of Destiny Girls Mentoring & Empowerment Group in Tampa. In this role, she helps female youth become positive and productive young women through faith, education, inspiration, and motivation.

April’s 13 year relationship with DJJ has cultivated her growth as an advocate for at-risk youth and families. She has been an asset to the youth, the community, and the Department. Central Region is honored to have her as part of their team.

Congratulations to Eris Womack who was recently named as the new superintendent for Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Superintendent Womack started her career with the Department of Juvenile Justice in January 1994 as a detention care worker at Pinellas RJDC, and continued to work her way up the ranks from sergeant to captain. She gained knowledge in all areas of detention, but excelled in computer skills, with a strong focus in intake and release. Superintendent Womack has great working relationships with many stakeholders and community partners. She is a life guard instructor and has served as a life guard for public pools in Pinellas County. Womack is a proud mother of two children and a grandmother of two. Congratulations on her promotion and for 25 years of service!

Congratulations to Sabrina James who was recently named the Office of Detention Services Headquarters Staff Employee of the Month. She was recently recognized by Chief Matt Hefelfinger and Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler. Ms. James has been Assistant Secretary Fosler’s right hand since her arrival. She spends countless hours improving office aesthetics and making the environment they work in cheery and comfortable.

Staff Development and Training Holds Supervisor Training

Last week, 21 staff members participated in supervisor training in collaboration with Valencia College School of Public Safety. Agency staff from a variety of areas participated, including contract services, detention, finance & accounting, general counsel, MQI, probation and support services. This intense five-day training focused on learning tools that provide assistance in being a supervisor. Topics included DiSC Assessment of leadership styles, Customer Service in Government, Time Management, Change Management, and Emotional Intelligence. Time was spent creating an implementation plan to support the transfer of skills learned throughout the week.

Members who participated felt that the training provided many strategies to assist them upon their return to their respective areas.  Some of the comments about the training included: “Each professor was amazing. Best training ever.” “I enjoyed the mixture of people and jobs they do at DJJ.” “This training was very informative. Learned a lot over the past week.” “Information received, useful for daily use.”

The next supervisor training is currently scheduled for May. We are excited that these trainings are making an impact on the professional development of our staff.  

Probation Program Receives Visit From NASCAR Legend

Circuit 2 Probation staff participated in a vision board party at their offices in Tallahassee. This event allowed staff to take a few hours from their hectic day to focus on themselves and have fun in the process. The event, held at the end of January, gave staff members a chance to wear blue in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Circuit 2 Probation staff joined other community providers for a recent meet and greet at thePalmer Munroe Ten Center in Tallahassee. The event provided an opportunity to mingle and share information. Lisa Sherry with Disc Village hosted the event and provided refreshments for everyone. The group also participated in several team-building activities.

Pictured above (from left to right): Assistant Chief Probation Officer Christina Ash, Juvenile Probation Officer Rachel Kumbat and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Felicia Fowler

Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. “got down and dirty” volunteering on a chainsaw crew as it cleaned up debris from Hurricane Michael in Panama City. Las week, Earnhardt, Jr. joined a crew from Team Rubicon, the non-profit group of veterans that works with first responders at disaster sites across the U.S. and the rest of the world. Team Rubicon is basing its operations at AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI). Mr. Earnhardt Jr. also stopped by AMIkids PCMI to visit with staff.

Reform Specialist Anna Mason and the Circuit 16 interagency team recently met to discuss the roll-out of the new Ready-Op system. This system allows agencies to work together to monitor youth and get real time information. Representatives from the Sherriff’s Office, Key West Police Department, Monroe County Schools, Drug Court, Career Source, State Attorney’s Office, Guardian ad Litem, and Guidance Care Center all came together to learn about the new system. Turnout for the meeting was great and Circuit 16 continues to work closely with these stakeholders to provide the best possible services for the youth in Monroe County.

DJJ’s Statewide Transition Call was conducted by Statewide Transition Coordinator Shauntrai Curry and participants included residential providers, Residential Services leadership, Probation Services circuit staff, Probation Services leadership, transitional housing providers, aftercare/ transition providers, and regional education leadership.

The call focused on strengthening transition efforts through effective communication between all entities responsible for ensuring the successful re-entry of the youth back into the community. The Community Re-entry Team (CRT) policy was discussed as it was officially signed and went into effect on January 1, 2019, replacing the previous CRT protocol. This policy establishes specific requirements for the provision of CRT services for all youth transitioning from residential commitment to post residential (i.e. conditional release, post commitment probation) supervision, as well as youth with court ordered direct discharge/release. This discussion helps to ensure that each team is aware of the changes in the policy and impact on the CRT practice in each circuit.

Participants were reminded of the department’s collaboration with Georgetown University and the Youth in Custody Practice Model, resulting in the initiation of video conferencing for CRTs. This statewide initiative allows Probation Services circuits to email a CRT invitation via Skype link to residential providers and community stakeholders for video participation. This also improves participation from families and other supporters for the youth in preparation for transitioning back to the community. Beginning April 1, 2019, all circuits will be utilizing Skype capabilities, notifying other partners via the Skype link.

A vow was made by those who attended the Light Up The Night event held at Trinity College, a vow to end human trafficking through effort, education and an endless supply of love for our fellow human beings. This event was organized by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, who were joined by various agencies dedicated to ending human trafficking. As live music filled the air, families walked between the resource tables to receive information on how they could get involved. Children enjoyed getting pictures taken with several of their favorite super heroes and Disney princesses, in addition to jumping in several bounce houses. As in years past, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice was proud to be a part of this special event and share information about our involvement in the fight against human trafficking.

Also, on hand for the event were several victims of human trafficking who were more than willing to share their story. Many were touched by the stories of those who had been victimized by human trafficking. As the night closed and candles burned brightly a promise was made, “Together we will fight against human trafficking until it is nothing more than a bad memory.” Special thanks to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Chris Barber and Juvenile Probation Officers Christina Banks and Maria Ortiz for attending the event and disseminating brochures.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) Discussion at the PACE Center for Girls of Polk County in Lakeland. The event was partnered with officers and deputies from Lakeland Police Department, Polk County Sheriff Office, and Highlands County Sheriff Office. The overall experience for the girls was great as they discussed the relationship between young people and law enforcement. The girls also had the opportunity to speak to the officers one on one after the session to develop a safe rapport.

Residential Youth Get a Visit From the Zoo

Clinical Therapist Shacara Mitchell from Union Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, held an end-of-the-month awards ceremony recognizing five youth for their accomplishments. The categories and winners were: “Top Dog” – based on the total number of points accumulated for the month - youth H.P.;  “Mr. Consistency” – based on the youth’s consistent positive behavior – youth E.F.; “Most Improved” – based on the youth’s improvement in education, group sessions and behavior throughout the month – youth D.D.; “Mr. Scholarly” – as voted on by the teachers – youth J.B.; and “Positive Peer” – one who displays good leadership and teamwork as voted on by the youth’s peers – youth Y.C.. Each youth received a certificate for their accomplishments, had their photos posted on the bulletin board, and was treated to a day of food and bowling at the “Splitz Bowling Alley”. Great job by Ms. Mitchell and congratulations to the youth.

Dove Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, received the above letter from youth C. F., upon her departure from the program. During her time in the program, she was actively involved in educational opportunities and was gainfully employed. The program is grateful to have had the opportunity to assist C. F. and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors!

The weekly recreational therapy indoor competition is in full swing at Cypress Creek JOCC, a secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. The program’s recreational therapist demonstrated a "frog" squat hop before the participating youth tried the move as their challenge exercise. Approximately five out of 30 youth were able to complete the challenge without stopping or sitting for a break. The competition was fun, with small assorted candy bags for all who participated. 

The Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, welcomed a different kind of visitor to their classroom. The Central Florida Zoo stopped by the program and Ashley Schilling, a ball python and animal ambassador, hosted an exciting and interactive education session about animal conservation and the ecosystem. Students were attentive as they learned about the role the zoo plays in preserving our ecosystem, boosting animal population, and reintroducing animals back into the wild. To make all of this possible, students were taught about various jobs such as groundskeeper, animal curator, and veterinarian, that must be performed to keep the zoo running on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the presentation, students were able to interact with the animal ambassador! With so much excitement, interest, and connection to the zoo topics presented, it may not come as a surprise to many in attendance if one day, one of the students works at a zoo.

Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, hosted its annual Super Bowl Party. To qualify, the youth had to meet the highest standards of all behavioral and treatment requirements from January 5 up to the day of the game. There were 26 youth that earned the privilege and could attend the festivities. The youth were served pizza, chicken wings, nachos, as well as brownies and ice cream for dessert. The youth enjoyed their night of food, football and fun as it was a new experience for them all. A special thanks to the on-duty staff members including Case Manager Tonia Turner, Transitional Manager Carlos Thompson, Shift Supervisor David West, Recreational Therapist Josh Glanton. This event would not have been possible without their help!

The South Region Quarterly Program Directors Meeting was recently held at the Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Correction Center (OJOCC), a secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. South Regional Director Michell McCarthy welcomed the program directors and corporate leadership for each facility. There were 35 program directors and corporate staff, as well as regional operations staff, who participated in the meeting.

The meeting began with a tour of the maximum-risk facility, grounds and vocational education areas, conducted by OJOCC Facility Administrator Mike Durham. The agenda included a review of the Trauma Responsive and Caring Environment (TRACE) by Vanessa Wicker-Reeves, Transition Planning by Shauntrai Curry, Shift Reports by Kristin Hann, Length of Stay by Valrose Graham, Safety and Security Audits by Shandria Striggles, and an open exchange of ideas among the program directors regarding methods to improve staff morale.

The tour included a look inside the HBI woodworking shop and a chat with the HBI Instructor, DJJ Commitment Manager Monica Alford, and  Okeechobee Youth Correction/Development Center Facility Administrator Justino Rodriguez. Youth in OJOCC also learned about the care of chickens and how they benefit the garden and plant growth, plant germination in the hydroponic garden, and how to maintain the garden once the plants have been transplanted from the hydroponic system into the ground. The boys in the program built a chicken coop situated between the hydroponic greenhouse and the tilled garden area. The coop is enclosed in chicken wire, protecting the chickens from predators—especially large birds of prey. 

The boys learned how to train the chickens and took turns feeding and caring for them. Only hens are kept in the coop so that the eggs remain unfertilized.

The back of the chicken coop raises up and the boys can easily harvest the eggs the hens lay. There is a side panel to the coop that is located directly below the resting areas for the hens inside the roofed shelter, which allows the coop to be cleaned easily and the chicken droppings to be emptied into the adjacent garden area where the droppings will be tilled into the earth to provide fertile soil for planting in the spring.

Prevention Staff Participate in Farm Share Event

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III hosted and served as moderator for a G.A.A.P. discussion at PACE Center for Girls Jacksonville. Over 40 young ladies from PACE participated with deputies from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The discussion began with an open dialogue between youth and law enforcement. As the discussion flowed and everyone became comfortable, you could sense the change in perception and there was a calmness about the room. The youth and law enforcement began to gain an understanding of each other and began to cultivate a positive relationship.

During the event, the youth and law enforcement gave their opinions and thoughts on their communities and each other and what ways could help bring about a more positive and supportive relationship. 

DJJ staff members teamed up with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) to participate in a Farm Share event at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee. The event was spearheaded by Sherriff Walter McNeil to feed families in need. This event was organized by Shonda Knight and Pastor Gary Montgomery with Living Stones International, Inc. Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally, Statewide Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Assistant Chief of Probation Cristiana Ash, Reform Specialist Michael Byrd along with multiple probation officers and sheriff’s deputies volunteered at Farm Share. Together, with the assistance of over 75 volunteers, over 38,000 pounds of healthy and nutritious food items was distributed. Volunteers documented providing food to 500 families in Leon and surrounding counties. 

Detention Youth Get Creative in Art Class

Danielle Barbato and her team from the Circuit 9 Public Defender’s Office stopped by the Orange RJDC and brought the B5 Honors Mod youth and the Level Three female youth burgers and fries from Checkers as well as cupcakes to finish! The youth enjoyed their treat and getting the chance to speak with the guests to reinforce their good behavior.

Charles Burnett and Austin Valdes with the State Fire Marshal Division recently conducted a fire safety training for Central Region superintendents, maintenance mechanics, general services, chief and director.

The training was followed by a luncheon in recognition of Eris Womack and SMA April Walker's promotions, as well as Major Adrian Mathena's one-year anniversary as the Orange RJDC Superintendent.  

Over the last few weeks, the girls from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center have been activity engaged in their “Arts for All” program. First, the girls painted tiles using India inks and last week, made Valentine’s Day cards for their family members. The girls will be able to take their artwork home with them upon release.