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Secretary's Message

May 7, 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



Staff Announcements and Kudos

Corporal Pierre Casseus and Major Dennis DriscollCongratulations to Corporal Pierre Casseus who was recently presented with the South Region Employee of the Quarter award from Major Dennis Driscoll. Corporal Casseus has been working for the state of Florida since 2005 and began working for DJJ in 2007. As a veteran staff member, Corporal Casseus has welcomed and taken many new staff members under his wing. Corporal Casseus does not miss work and can be counted on to complete all of his duties in a timely manner. He also has an award-winning smile for each person he comes across and has a great rapport with his co-workers, parents and youth.





Congratulations to Circuit 7 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Daniel Caro who was recently named Circuit Employee of the Quarter. JPO Caro goes above and beyond and always has a positive attitude! Due to the increased number of civil citation referrals, JPO Caro has volunteered to assume the civil citation liaison position for the West Volusia Service Center. Keep up the excellent work, JPO Caro!

Chief Probation Officer Daniel Merrithew, Juvenile Probation Officer Daniel Caro, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Christopher Massey
Chief Probation Officer Daniel Merrithew,
Juvenile Probation Officer Daniel Caro,and
Assistant Chief Probation Officer Christopher Massey



Prevention and Victim Services Host Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony

The Office of Prevention & Victim Services recently held its inaugural Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony at the Walker-Ford Community Center in Tallahassee where thirteen people and organizations were recognized for the volunteer services they provide to DJJ youth. Those honored were Dwayne Maddron, State Advisory Group (SAG) Chair; Judge Daniel Dawson, SAG Vice Chair; and SAG members, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones, Cheryl Massaro, and Stacy Gromatski. Also recognized were the following Circuit Advisory Boards Chairs: Circuit 1 Chair Edna Williams, Circuit 2 Chair Donnie Read, Circuit 4 Chair Vicki Waytowich, and Circuit 9 Chair Tekoa Pouerie.

Others honorees included the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff Morris Young); Leon County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff Walt McNeil); the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (Tonja Bryant-Smith, President North Florida Chapter); and the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency – Chapter II (Matthew Page, Secretary).

Prevention Policy Chief Marcus Smith was the moderator of the event and Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims presented awards to the honorees. Staff Sgt. Onazina Washington, III, USAR, who recently returned from military deployment, presented the colors. Johnny Sanders, delinquency prevention specialist from Circuits 11, 15, 16, and 17, sang the National Anthem.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey delivered opening remarks and Secretary Simone Marstiller congratulated all volunteers and thanked them for their valuable contributions to DJJ youth and families. Other guest speakers included Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor; Ashley Edwards, director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs for the City of Tallahassee; DJJ Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady; and State and Federal Director Eugene Morris. DJJ Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann delivered closing remarks.

AS Alice Sims, SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron, Secretary Simone Marstiller, SAG member and Judge Gisela T. Laurent, SAG member Cheryl Massaro and SAG member and Judge Daniel Dawson
Pictured above (left to right): AS Alice Sims, SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron, Secretary Simone Marstiller, SAG member and Judge Gisela T. Laurent, SAG member Cheryl Massaro and SAG member and Judge Daniel Dawson.

CAB Coordinator Tina Levene, AS Alice Sims, C4 CAB Chair Vicki Waytowich, C1 CAB Chair Edna Williams, Secretary Marstiller, and C2 CAB Chair Donnie Read.
Pictured above (left to right): CAB Coordinator Tina Levene, AS Alice Sims, C4 CAB Chair Vicki Waytowich, C1 CAB Chair Edna Williams, Secretary Marstiller, and C2 CAB Chair Donnie Read.



In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center (STAC) held its Imagining Freedom 2019 event at FSU’s Turnbull Center. This event was organized to bring awareness to human and labor trafficking. The event also promoted cooking with a conscience, ensuring that the food at the event was not produced with trafficked labor.

Proceeds were used to support survivors of sex and labor trafficking in the Big Bend Region and to train others throughout the Big Bend to identify, report and prevent human trafficking.

Several DJJ staff members participated in this event, including Prevention Director Yvonne Woodard, Prevention Budget Specialist Jashett Omeally, and Human Trafficking Intervention Director Katherine Gomez, who shared her expertise on human trafficking with attendees.

FCCD Members Gina Giacomo, Mathew Page, Tameka Thomas, Debbie Kissane, Jashett Omeally, Yvonne Woodard, Michelle Whithworth
Pictured above (left to right): FCCD Members Gina Giacomo, Mathew Page, Tameka Thomas, Debbie Kissane, Jashett Omeally, Yvonne Woodard, Michelle Whithworth



Family Bridging the GAAP Discussion in Fort MyersDelinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson partnered with a local youth group to host a Family Bridging the GAAP Discussion in Fort Myers.

There were over 80 attendees, with four main families identified specifically to participate in the discussion. Parents who participated were interested in learning more about safety for their families and themselves, in addition to appropriate responses to typical interactions with law enforcement. During the session, law enforcement and youth participated in role play scenarios, which illustrated the dos and don’ts of how to respond during a basic traffic stop.

Due to such an overwhelming response, a follow-up session is being scheduled to address summer engagement for youth and the community. A special thank you to Major Dennis Driscoll from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center and DJJ Reform Specialist Jon Vertress for supporting this session.



Residential Youth Learn Workforce Training and Professional Development Skills

Residential Youth Learn Workforce Training and Professional Development SkillsAt Broward Youth Treatment Center (BYTC), a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, staff works diligently to assist the youth in developing all the life skills necessary to transition back into the community. Eligible youth (those who have graduated high school or earned their GED) are permitted to seek and obtain employment for the remainder of their time at the program. In the past month, a total of four youth have acquired employment. Two youth were recently hired at a local Dunkin’ Donuts. Two other youth were hired at a local Wendy’s. These opportunities provide the young men with practical work experience, teach them responsibility and accountability, and allows them to apply the social and communication skills they learned while at BYTC.

In addition to providing employment to eligible youth while at BYTC, youth are exposed to other workforce training and professional development. BYTC staff assist the young men with updating their resumes and conducting mock interviews. These mock interviews allow for growth in answering on-the-spot questions, etiquette training, and other basic interview skills. BYTC also partners with the Dan Marino Foundation to help reinforce the skills they will need when they transition back into the community as productive members of society. Mr. Pierre Monchery from the Dan Marino Foundation visits the program weekly to do virtual interviews with every youth. He separates the interviews into three sessions per youth and simulates what it would be like in an actual job interview. The virtual interviewer asks standard interview questions, sometimes person-specific interview questions, and the interviewee (the youth) is given a variety of ways they can respond.

In addition, BYTC has partnered with a local Starbucks to provide mentorship opportunities as well as valuable job training and interviewing skills for the youth. The training is spread out into sessions over six weeks. For the final mentoring session, each youth receives a certificate which validates them as an official Starbucks employee. This training certification qualifies them to work at any Starbucks in the state of Florida. This undeniably makes for a great opportunity to apply all the skills they have learned while in the program. The youth deserve to be recognized for all their hard work and improvement during their time at BYTC. We wish them all the success possible!



Graduation ceremony for graduating students.Walton Center for Growth and Change, a secure program for boys operated by Rite of Passage, recently held a graduation ceremony for its graduating students. Parents, facility administration, and education partners were all invited to attend this ceremony. Students wore their caps and gowns representing the Home Builders Institute (HBI) color blue, with tassels of green and white. Students were presented with their certificates and got to enjoy a small meal and celebration for all of their hard work.




Community Pearls Luncheon: Celebrating Our Community Change AgentsYouth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, attended Zeta Phi Beta’s Community Pearls Luncheon: Celebrating Our Community Change Agents. The event recognized citizens in Jacksonville and nearby areas who give back to their community through service and positive transformation. One honoree was a former Duval Academy youth who participated in the Krumpin 4 Success Youth Entrepreneur Academy. He has now completed his own provision patent for his invention called the “D-Lift” and is working on motivational speaking opportunities to reach youth across Florida in juvenile facilities, jails, community organizations, and schools. Zeta Phi Beta also awarded scholarships to young students who have been active in community service, community advocacy, and overall exemplary community involvement.




Kissimmee Youth Academy flag football football gameKissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, recently held a flag football game. The program’s assistant facility administrators combined the living units for a fun-filled day. The youth were eager to engage with one another and play a fun football game. They had plenty of energy and were excited to throw around the football on such a beautiful day.




Crestview Youth Academy, both a secure and non-secure facility for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, received a visit from the Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) Bus. The youth were able to obtain their Florida IDs right at the program. Crestview Youth Academy even partnered with Okaloosa Youth Academy, whose youth were also able to utilize the FLOW Bus services!

The FLOW Bus is the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (FLHSMV) mobile unit that provides a convenient method to renew a driver’s license, obtain a replacement driver’s license, change a name or address on a driver’s license, get an identification card, renew a vehicle registration, and purchase a specialty license plate. DJJ has partnered with the FLHSMV to provide no-cost driver’s licenses and identification cards for our youth.



Probation staff at Safe Kids Southwest Florida event.

Circuit 20 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Lut Clarcq and JPO Supervisor Sandra Burgado participated in the Safe Kids Southwest Florida event in Fort Myers.

Safe Kids Southwest Florida, led by the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, is comprised of organizations and concerned citizens mobilized to fight the #1 killer of children, unintentional injuries. Safe Kids Southwest Florida  is dedicated to raising awareness among the general public and policy makers through education, direct intervention programs and public policy initiatives.






Detention Center and School Board Staff Host Annual Field Day Event

Youth participating in field day activities at Escambia RJDC.Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) and the staff from the Escambia County School Board hosted its annual Youth Field Day at the detention center. The field day activities promoted and reinforced the message that exercise is fun and enjoyable. The kids participated in traditional and not-so-traditional activities, including various games for individuals and teams such as tug-of-war, dunk booth, dash and drop, and sack throws. A special thanks to the center’s Physical Education Coach Michael Taylor, who was instrumental in organizing this event. Thank you also to Aaron Dubreui (lead teacher), Naretha Evans (lab teacher), Mercedes Musto (English teacher), Teresa Cardwell (teacher’s aide) and Carylon Brown (teacher’s aide) and the Escambia RJDC staff who all who helped make this event a success.




Broward RJDC Volunteer MeetingBroward Regional Juvenile Detention Center conducted a volunteer meeting with the help of Government Operations Consultant Nissia Moore from the Detention South Region Office. The meeting had an excellent turnout and the team was able to move forward on several upcoming projects. During the meeting, the team discussed PREA, trauma-informed care, and the detention center’s vision and goals. This was a great experience for the staff and volunteers at Broward RJDC and provided the opportunity to build a rapport and strengthen their relationships. Everyone left the meeting excited and looking forward to changing the lives of our youth!








Youth participating in karaoke.

Haley Hunt, nationally renowned speaker, ambassador, and singer-songwriter, spent some positive time with the girls at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center, eating ice cream sundaes and singing karaoke.

Ms. Hunt and her organization, Life Group, provide mentoring for youth in addition to completing art projects and arranging for guest speakers to visit with the youth at the center.










Youth participating in the Easter egg hunt at Miami Dade RJDCAs part of the holiday activities at the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the youth participated and enjoyed an Easter egg hunt. The youth also made Rice Krispy treats, colored eggs, and enjoyed a pizza party. The youth also enjoyed a special holiday meal including chicken, rice, string beans and a special holiday cake.