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Secretary's Message

February 25, 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

Last week, Secretary Marstiller had the opportunity to attend the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Executive Advisory Board meeting in Tallahassee. Secretary Marstiller provided opening remarks and answered questions from members of the advisory board. The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a not-for profit statewide association representing 29 agencies that serve homeless, runaway and troubled youth, ages six and older, and their families. The Florida Network provides prevention services through a contract with the Department.

Later in the week, Secretary Marstiller stopped by the Capital City Youth Services (CCYS) Youth Shelter in Tallahassee. CCYS offers counseling and outreach services to youth and their families along with short-term crisis shelter for youth. Secretary Marstiller also visited our Leon County Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the Leon County Juvenile Assessment Center.

Pictured above (left to right): Secretary Marstiller, CCYS CEO Kevin Priest, Florida Network of Youth and Family Services CEO Stacy Gromatski, and DJJ Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann.

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Circuit 5 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) TiAnna Greene who recently was named the NAACP Marion County Branch President. JPOS Greene stands as the youngest female president in the history of the branch. In honor of Black History Month, TiAnna was selected as one of ten prominent and influential members of the Ocala/Marion County Black Community who are living Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream through community service and leadership. Her story was represented in the February 2019 Issue of Ocala Magazine. TiAnna states that she serves with “pride, faith, honor and commitment to the community.” TiAnna acknowledges additional services to the community “from her role within the Department, mentoring young ladies ages 8 to 18, volunteering for other organizations, honoring fathers within the community, establishing the Marion County Black Business Network, to serving on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission.” Positive enhancement to the community has always been her primary focus.

JPOS Greene has been with the Department for over 20 years and has served in several capacities. She currently serves as a supervisor in Marion County, Unit 402 and is the Circuit 5 DMC/RED liaison and transition specialist. She is a leader and a mentor for juvenile probation officers and always looks at each youth and case individually, desiring the best outcome for that specific youth and family. She is an asset not only to Circuit 5, but to our agency and the entire community she serves.

To view the magazine article in its entirety (Black History feature located on pages 34-37), please click here.

Congratulations to Sergeant Lenon Anderson from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named Detention Services Central Region Employee of the Month. Sergeant Anderson was honored with this award in acknowledgement of his work ethic, consistency and willingness to do whatever is asked of him, and his dedication to the youth and his care of them. Sergeant Anderson has gone above and beyond assisting his fellow coworkers, and protecting youth from being injured. He is a model to our new staff about what it means to be "Orange Tough." 

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 Molly Best at molly.best@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 Molly Best at molly.best@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2711.


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.

Probation Team Member Participates in Telethon To Benefit Children’s Hospital

DJJ youth with AMIkids Pensacola participated in a recent tour of the General Daniel “Chappie” James Museum and Flight Academy. General James was a war hero and was the first African-American four-star general in the U.S. military, earning his fourth star when he assumed command of NORAD in Colorado.

DJJ youth with Eckerd’s Project Bridge program in Circuit 9 made a visit to Brookdale Senior Living to deliver handmade chocolate strawberries. Youth also brought carnations for each senior citizen while they shared personal experiences about what brought them there today. The five youth in attendance practiced both compassion and empathy during their visit.

The Probation team from Circuit 12 Unit 301 is using Black History Month to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans past and present. The bulletin board seen here is filled with opportunities to share inspiring stories of Black Americans. This month, the team wanted to share some insights into how we can inspire our offices to celebrate Black History Month at work, through sharing stories and struggles of Black Americans.

DJJ youth with AMIkids Tampa went on a tour of the regional offices of Enterprise Car Rentals. They spent time with Enterprise General Manager Kevin Moore, enjoyed lunch, and heard several great success stories from the Enterprise staff. A few of the youth even spent time in Mr. Moore’s brand-new Ferrari.

Circuit 13 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor James Garner participated in the “Show Them Love” telethon in Tampa to benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children. The event is named after the band Foreigner that has given their hit song “Show Me What Love is” to Shriners hospitals. For the last ten years, Foreigner has worked with Shriners hospitals for Children.

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of 22 non-profit medical facilities across North America. Children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay. 

In addition, JPOS Garner participated in Shriners Day at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. JPOS Garner assisted with the ORBITER ride and the event was a success despite the rain and the cold weather. The rides at the fair were free to all special needs youths from 8:30 am to 11:00 am. After riding the rides, the youth and care givers/teachers were treated to lunch. There were over five thousand people in attendance. Many thanks to the owners of the rides for making this possible.

Circuit 8 Probation staff, along with the City of Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department and Alachua County Teen Court, recently celebrated the third anniversary of the Duval Park Project. This project was adopted by Circuit 8 in October 2016 and has been going strong ever since. There have been approximately 116 youth participating in the clean-up and restoration of this local neighborhood park. The goal of this project is to provide an opportunity for youth to obtain their community service work hours and to educate them on how we all have an effect, good or bad, on nature and our environment. Through this collaboration and partnership, we can provide a venue where youth learn responsibility, accountability, and have a sense of accomplishment, all of which are tools they can use to make positive changes to their lives and their futures! Thanks to all who participated!

Circuit 4 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ashley Graves attended the first session of the Circuit 4 Girls Court of 2019. Magistrate Brooke Brady held the sessions behind closed doors; only one girl and her parent(s) were called into the courtroom at a time and were asked to give an update on their case. Eight cases were observed and except for one case, significant improvements were reported from the youth, parents and JPOs. Parents thanked the Girls Court team profusely; some indicated that they finally have their daughters “back.” Several cases were emotional because the parents were overwhelmed with gratitude. It was great to see the positive impacts that Girls Court is having in Circuit 4. We would like to recognize the great efforts of our Girls Court Team: Turquoise Hogan, Minetricia Monbrun, Sonya Rollins, and Valentina Wiltshire.

DJJ Staff Attend Local Screening of HBO Documentary

Last week, Warren Garrison from the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement and Jashett Omeally from the Office of Prevention and Victim Services, attended a screening of the HBO documentary The Sentence and a panel discussion held by the Florida State University Project on Accountable Justice and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. The documentary depicted the perilous journey Cindy Shank, a mother of three, had to endure after being sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison for her complicity in illegal activity. The panel discussion included recommendations on how to build better and more robust juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. Astute speakers also shared their personal life experiences dealing with being incarnated.

Pictured left to right: Jashett A. Omeally, Juvenile Justice Prevention & Victim Services, Senator Jeff Brandes, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; Matthew Charles, FAMM Fellow; Warren Garrison, Juvenile Justice Program Accountability, Monitoring and Quality Improvement; Carla Laroche, Visiting Clinical Professor, Public Interest Law Center, FSU College of Law; Patricia B. McCray, Founder, Butterfly Life Journeys; Mark Holden, Chairman, Freedom Partners and Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Koch Industries, Inc.  

Prevention Staff Host Quarterly State Advisory Group Meeting

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice hosted the first State Advisory Group (SAG) meeting of Fiscal Year 2019-2020 in Tallahassee. Aimed at reviewing efforts being implemented by the Department and guided by principles of social justice, innovation, fairness and honesty, the SAG’s purpose is to create and support initiatives in Florida that reinforce the Department’s mission to help children and families reach their full potential. The two-day meeting was one filled with engaging conversation and information sharing by those in attendance. Welcome remarks were provided by Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, followed by opening remarks by newly appointed DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, who shared her excitement and eagerness to start working with the agency and its stakeholders.

Throughout the day, each program area within DJJ was given the opportunity to present updates to the SAG members on current initiatives within their prospective areas. Presentations included updates from our program areas, the upcoming legislative session, research initiatives, the Office of Youth and Family Advocacy, and human trafficking.

This meeting also afforded the Department the opportunity to welcome two newly appointed SAG members Kevin Higgins II and Alyssa Beck to the Emerging Leaders Subcommittee and recognize the contribution of retiring member Captain Kip Beacham of the Seminole Sheriff’s Office (pictured right with plaque) for his service to the Department and Florida’s children and families.

Among the DJJ staff members in attendance were Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann, Chief of Staff Heather DiGiacomo, and Prevention’s Chief Marcus Smith and Director Eugene Morris. The next SAG meeting is scheduled for May 20-21st 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Detention Facility Begins Yoga Program and Youth Enjoy Valentine’s Day

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) hosted a Valentine’s Day party for their level three youth at the facility. The kids took part in a talent show, dance contest, and a cupcake decorating contest. The judges for these events were Captain John Johnson, Juvenile Detention Officer Martina Sims, and mental health staff members Ester Yeseul and Sparkle Saulter. The food was prepared by Major Dedila Finlayson and music was provided by Officer Pamela Durant

Captain Welton Sanders, Sergeants Twanna White and Dennis Brown, and Juvenile Detention Officer II Cletis Williams from the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center attended career day at Clearwater Elementary School in Pompano Beach. The students and staff were excited to learn about different career options within the Department.

In addition, Sergeant Dennis Brown and the B shift staff from the Palm Beach RJDC hosted a Super Bowl party for the youth at the facility. Everyone enjoyed pizza, wings, chips, dip and cupcakes to support their winning team. During halftime of the Super Bowl, the youth played bean bag toss, bingo and football trivia.

Finally, the youth and staff from the Palm Beach RJDC enjoyed their Valentine’s Day by having a meal with one another. The meal was provided by Major Mamine Saintil and was served by the education department.

The Orange RJDC recently began a partnership with the Kula for Karma program, a local non-profit organization, that brings therapeutic yoga programs to at-risk youth in need. Kula for Karma works with youth in detention using therapeutic yoga and mindfulness. This practice assists youth in developing better physical health as well as teaching skills, such as self-regulation, impulse control, and self-confidence.

The B5 and G1 level three youth from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) were also treated to their weekly pizza party. This week’s meal was provided by the League of Women Voters.

Election officials from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office recently dropped by the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center to provide youth with information and education on voting. In addition, the election officials also had the chance to register and pre-register youth, ages 16 to 18, to vote. We want to thank our visitors from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections for sharing with the youth the important responsibility of voting.  

The Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center congratulates youth LG, ZD and LR for being exceptional students inside the classroom. These youth have all maintained the highest level in conduct and serve as great students and role models in class. The youth received special certificates for being exceptional students.

Youth from the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center were given the chance to express themselves during a recent art group. The youth recently had the opportunity to design and paint masks.

The youth from the center are also involved in designing and decorating their own bulletin board for a project called Unbound. This project required the youth to incorporate their team’s antagonist or protagonist into the design. This project is directed by the detention center’s teachers from Marion County Schools.  

The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated Valentine’s Day with the youth at the center. The Escambia detention team provided the youth with cupcakes and Rice Krispy treats.

The young ladies from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center involved in the Arts for All program recently learned about fashion design. After learning about the shapes of the body, the girls got busy making their own fashion designs. The girls will hang their work in their sleeping rooms.

The Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently welcomed Circuit Judge Steven Fahlgren to the center. Judge Fahlgren toured the center and took the time to encourage the youths in secure detention to use their full potential by getting a good education, utilizing mentors, and making decisions that would help shape them for a better future. He also shared with them that he believes in second chances, but that the youth would need to take full advantage of the opportunities when they are present.

Judge Fahlgren also collaborated with Major Mark Refour and Captain Michael Philpot about various ideas that may impact the youth before they enter secure detention with sanctions.

Residential Staff Volunteers with Night to Shine And Youth Celebrate Black History Month

The Tim Tebow Foundation is committed to celebrating people with special needs. Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom experience for people with special needs, ages 14 and older. Over 655 churches from around the world came together on February 8th to host Night to Shine. The Genesis Church in Tallahassee hosted this year’s celebration and was the largest in the state, with over 800 guests and more than 2,000 volunteers from around the community. This year was especially wonderful because they included Marianna and Panama City proms due to the damage from Hurricane Michael. Residential Services employee Annie Williams has been on the planning committee for the last 5 years, and dedicates much of her time to the preparation, set up, and tear down of the entire event  Annie serves as the team leader for the red carpet and crowning committee, where guests are met with loud clapping and cheers or silent smiles and waves as they have their moment on the red carpet. The prom participants also had the opportunity to be crowned as the Kings and Queens they are. Please take a moment to watch some heartwarming memories captured during this year’s prom.

Pictured above: DJJ’s Annie Williams (left) and her buddy and guest Shannon

Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, celebrated Black History Month with guest speakers followed by a talent show featuring our very talented youth. Categories included comedy, music and poetry. Youth were especially excited about having Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham and North Regional Deputy Director Lori Jernigan in attendance.

Although the youth were judged in each category to determine first place, the audience were the true winners!

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Facility and Gulf Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, believe in providing outstanding care and treatment for the youth by developing and nurturing a strong team. The administrative team embarked on a team building outing where they enjoyed good laughs, food and fellowship. The staff enjoyed pancakes and were given an overview of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book. Staff were asked to read the book and take the assessment in preparation for a discussion of the team’s strengths during the next morning meeting.

After breakfast, staff ventured on to Escape Our Rooms where they were locked in the Speakeasy room for an hour. As they explored each room, it was exciting to see the team pull together to solve puzzles, riddles, find clues and combinations to several locks. The take away lesson in the adventure was that no matter how much the team’s backs are up against the wall, the staff at Hastings and Gulf Academy will always pull together and bring home the victory. 

Youth from St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, participated in a new and innovative concept that was provided through Residential Services Northeast Region Office – 24/7 Dad (For Teens).

The 24/7 Dad (For Teens) group is an opportunity for the teenage dads to learn and understand the meaning of fatherhood and proper techniques. This 12-week program will provide seven young men from St. Johns Youth Academy instruction and insight on the true meaning of being a father, by exploring personal feelings as they strengthen and elevate their understanding of fatherhood.

Upon completion of the workshops, the young men will graduate and participate in a cap and gown ceremony. Each participant also receives a 24/7 Dad (For Teens) workbook that they bring to class each week that will become a personal reference when they graduate.

The sessions are held at St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church and are facilitated by Ron Cage of Cage Consulting. Mr. Cage’s warm, jolly smile helps set the tone as he builds a supportive village in which the young men involved are encouraged to let down their guards and speak openly. In the first session, the young men were extremely engaged the entire time. After the session, the young men participated in a writing exercise  that they described as “exciting”, “100% real”, and “unbelievable.” The young fathers at St. Johns will be also be provided visitation with their children to practice some of these fathering skills. St. Johns Youth Academy is extremely proud to be able to participate in the program. 

Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure facility for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, held its quarterly A/B Honor Roll celebration led by Recreation Therapist Tavarius Roberson. This quarterly celebration featured grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and juice, as youth were rewarded for their persistent hard work in the class. Along with celebration, the youth with A/B Honor Roll received trophies. Lead Teacher Charnetta Starr and her education staff promote success, work ethic, and excellence in academics as they diligently instruct and lead the youth. Once youth finished eating, the group headed to the blacktop where youth were able to challenge each other in a friendly competition of basketball. The team ended the celebration by expressing to the youth the importance of education and hard work. 

Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for boys operated by AMIkids, hosted guest speaker Sheriff Wayne Ivey during their recent graduation ceremony. The City of Melbourne Mayor, the Honorable Kathy Meehan, was also at the program to present the Melbourne youth with a proclamation celebrating 50 years of serving at-risk youth. Other elected officials were on-hand to join Mayor Meehan in congratulating the youth that have successfully completed the program. To-date, AMIkids has served more than 2,000 at-risk youth, helping them develop into productive members of their communities.

Sheriff Ivey ended his speech with a quote from NC State Basketball Coach Jim Valvano: “You + Motivation = Success. If you are motivated to be successful, those around you can’t help but be motivated”.

Many consider the Super Bowl to be one of the most popular sporting events in our country. The staff at Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, found it suitable to host a Super Bowl Party that was thoroughly enjoyed by the youth involved. At Broward Youth Treatment Center, they immensely enjoy the benefits that come with social dining, especially well-established customary sporting traditions held by our nation. The youth were provided with a variety of food and refreshments, as well as an opportunity to interact in a normalized setting, which allowed for a pleasant time between peers and some staff. Thank you to all the staff and youth involved in making the party a great success.

Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, recently celebrated Chick-Fil-A Day. As one of the many collaborative community partnerships the program has been fortunate to establish, the team from the local Chick-Fil-A brought their lunch truck on site to the program to treat everyone to a special lunch. Everyone working on site was treated to their famous chicken sandwiches, fries, soft drinks, and milk shakes. The event was a huge success, as staff got an opportunity to unwind and have fellowship with one another, while enjoying a special luncheon in a picnic area they set up outside in the parking lot area. This is an example of the continued support Palm Beach Youth Academy receives and the great relationship the program has with the respective community and local businesses. Everyone was grateful for the gesture and a repeat event is already in the works for next month.