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Secretary's Message

May 24, 2013

Wansley Walters

Dear DJJ team members:


Welcome to my weekly letter. I am pleased to share the following news and announcements.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Monday is Memorial Day, a state and federal holiday. I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a safe and enjoyable three-day weekend, and also to recognize the more than one million brave men and women who have lost their lives serving our country. I am proud to live in the United States of America, what I believe to be the greatest nation in the world, and I am grateful for those who came before me and made it what it is today. If you do anything this weekend to honor service men and women, please let me know by sending to news@djj.state.fl.us so I can feature it in next week’s letter.   

ROADMAP TOWN HALL MEETING: This Tuesday, we’re hosting the 12th scheduled Roadmap to System Excellence town hall meeting in Fort Myers, and I’m particularly excited for this trip because it’s the first time we’ll be presenting the Roadmap to the public in Southwest Florida. The meeting will be held at the Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Community Center from 6-8 pm, and I’m looking forward to hearing what the community thinks about our proposed reforms. I would like to thank all of the staff who have helped in making this town hall meeting possible.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: On Monday, Governor Scott signed the Florida Families First budget into law. This budget, which I wholeheartedly support, comes as a huge victory for our agency and our stakeholders as it provides continuing reforms to the juvenile justice system. The Florida Families First budget provides more than $10 million to expand effective prevention and treatment programs for youth at risk to engage in criminal activity. This investment includes:

  • More than $2 million to expand slots in existing PACE Center for Girls across the state and open a new school in Miami-Dade;
  • $1.5 million to expand the children-in-need/families-in-need counseling services to at-risk youth in rural counties through the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services;
  • $5 million for Boys and Girls Clubs to expand their Street Smart, Gang Prevention and Prevention through Reentry programs statewide; and $1.5 million for the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs targeting youth of incarcerated parents for mentoring and counseling.”

To read the full press release from the Governor’s office concerning the Florida Families First budget, click here:

In last week’s letter I mentioned that the legislative team is working to draft proposals to revise Chapter 985, Florida Statutes. On Thursday, Chief of Staff Alex Kelly and Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Jon Menendez met with Judge Daniel Dawson in Orlando to discuss concepts and outlines concerning the revision. Judge Dawson is vice chair of the department’s state advisory group and his suggestions will be valuable as we work toward a proposal that will support Roadmap to System Excellence priorities.

CONGRATULATIONS: I was pleased to speak before the graduating class of juvenile justice probation officers today in Tallahassee. The following team members successfully completed 196 hours of training to graduate as certified juvenile justice officers. The officers listed below will serve in the city listed next to their name:

Probation Office Graduation


Collette Anderson                            Bartow

LaPorsha Bolden                              Orlando

Ardena Bosley                                  St. Petersburg

Leila Brown                                       Bartow

Teresa Chambliss                             Tallahassee

Laura Coyne                                      Ft. Myers

Randy Dobie                                      Orlando

Roy Dorman, Jr.                                Bradenton

Quianda Fields                                  St. Petersburg

Andres Gaeta                                    Ocala

Michael Lowe                                     Bartow

Nissia Moore                                      Fort Pierce

Meagan Morato                                 Ocala

Andrea Pate                                       St. Petersburg

Kenson Vincent                                Tampa

Fredrick Vrgora                                 Key West

PENSACOLA BOYS BASE: On Wednesday, the department announced that the contract for the Pensacola-based residential program, formerly known as Pensacola Boys Base (PBB), has been awarded to AMIkids. This facility, which will be known as the Escambia Boys Base, will change hands on June 1. The facility’s staff and youth at PBB are known as beacons of community service for the Pensacola area, and I am thrilled to say that will continue. To read the full release, click here.

PROBATION UPDATE: Officers from Circuit 6 attended the 2013 St. Petersburg Kids Breakfast on May 14. The event, which was hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of St. Petersburg, celebrated the partnership the club has with the community. DJJ received an award for their outstanding partnership with this organization. I would like to thank JPOs Cindy Saltsman, Janet Schnering, Tonya Mathis, Sr., Sharronah Scott, Sr., Troi Owens and Lawanta Stewart as well as Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and CPO Adrienne Conwell for accepting this award on the department’s behalf.

Kudos to SJPOs Mercedes Bertematti and Maria Gilhooley from Circuit 11 as they facilitated the first successful completion of the LifeSkills Training (LST) groups for the South unit. The group consisted of seven low and moderate risk youth, six of which graduated. The graduates will have their criminal records reviewed twice over the next year to monitor recidivism rates. The next LST in Circuit 11 is scheduled for July and will be geared toward moderate and high risk youth. Circuit 11 will also hold an LST in Spanish coming soon.

Circuit 13 held its quarterly circuit-wide meeting on May 10. This meeting featured several guest speakers who presented information on community-based services including Antoinette Hagley-Nanton from Dacco and Tanya Hollins from the PACE Center for Girls. Scott Buchanan from the Eckerd Diversion Unit also attended and addressed officer safety issues and gave an update on the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. I would like to thank each of these guest speakers for their attendance.

RESIDENTIAL KUDOS:  For the past five years, the Duval Juvenile Residential Facility has given scholarships to graduating seniors who have excelled in education. The Duval House New Beginning Scholarship has been a blessing to the youth and their families within our community. The youth and the Duval House Advisory Board have contributed to these scholarships through fundraising endeavors, such as carwashes. Today, three $500 scholarships were awarded to deserving youth at a banquet featuring keynote speaker Gerald Felder, a Naval Chaplain who has been a major contributor to the scholarship fund and serves as a speaker on the impact of crime. I would like to thank Chaplain Felder along with the following staff members and volunteers for their continued commitment to this great cause: Superintendent Sheddrick Brooks, Assistant Superintendent Larry Gresham, Recreation Therapist Robert Griggs, Advisory Board Members Herlena Washington, Jackie Barteletto and Karen Pray, as well as Lisa and Earnestine Randolph and Yancy Uitenham

Community Coversations 

Pictured L to R: Marcus Smith (DMC Coordinator), Eugene Morris (Special Projects Administrator-Prevention), Wanda Finnie (Assistant Secretary of Prevention and Victim Services), Maresha Alexander (JPO Supervisor in Gadsden County), Verla Lawson Grady (Family Engagement-Prevention),  Frederick Wilkerson (Planning and Outreach-Prevention) and Craig Swain (Gadsden County Probation officer).

PREVENTION UPDATE: On Tuesday, DJJ held the first in a series of Community Conversations at two locations in Gadsden County focused on preventing and diverting youth who do not belong in the DJJ system and how to find them appropriate alternatives to holding them in detention centers. The Community Conversations tour was developed to give Florida’s communities a forum to share their immediate needs with our agency. The conversations were held at the Beulah Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Gretna and the Old Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Havana and were led by educators, local politicians, faith-based organizers, community stakeholders, concerned citizens and the prevention and probation staff. The conversations dealt with providing more opportunities for the youth of Gadsden County as well as the importance of increasing parental involvement in the lives of young people. The next community conversation is tonight at the William A. McGill Library in Quincy.

WELCOME HOME: I am very proud to welcome home United States Army Reservist Onazina Washington. Washington, who had been serving in the 160th MP Battalion in Bagram, Afghanistan since July of last year, is a member of our prevention staff. He made a surprise visit to the prevention staff meeting yesterday and was greeted with hugs and handshakes all around. Washington said that he is glad to be home and plans to return to work after some well-deserved rest and relaxation.


Have a wonderful holiday weekend!


Wansley Walters



PS: Please send any noteworthy or newsworthy items for consideration in my weekly letter to the Communications Office at News@djj.state.fl.us or call 850.921.5900. Submissions are considered on a space-available basis and may be edited for clarity and length. Thank you for your cooperation.