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Secretary's Message

June 7th, 2013

Dear DJJ team members:


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

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Governor Scott signed twelve bills into law Wednesday, chief among them was HB 617 which covers the Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Boards & Juvenile Justice Civil Councils. This bill re-designates juvenile justice circuit boards as juvenile justice circuit advisory boards and removes provisions relating to the establishment of juvenile justice county councils. This piece of legislation was one of our agency’s key bills and we thank the governor for putting his weight behind our initiative. To read the full release from Governor Scott, click here.


UPDATE ON CHANGES TO PROBATION SERVICES: As we continue to evaluate the outcomes for youth in DJJ programs, we must always be open to retooling and reengineering those programs to ensure the right services are being provided to our youth. I am proud to share news on several Probation programs that are shifting to meet youth’s changing needs.

Transition Services:  I am pleased to announce that beginning July, the Office of Probation and Community Intervention will offer a new array of transition services, originally Community-based Intervention Services (CBIS), that will address the individual needs of each youth returning home following a residential commitment and will provide a strength based approach that includes vocational, educational, professional and personal skills building. This new statewide approach will facilitate improved community partnerships, enhance communication and provide innovative methods that foster family and youth engagement.

Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP): Research has shown that over-providing services or providing youth higher levels of care than needed may actually increase the likelihood of recidivism. To match services with a youth’s individual level of need, DJJ has started using the JDAP, originally Intensive Diversion and Delinquency Services (IDDS). JDAP offers a variety of diversion services that meet the needs of the youth, families and community. Diversion services provide appropriate, swift, and less restrictive community-based sanctions and services.

Redirection Services: In our continued effort to redirect services to the front end of the juvenile justice system and ensure that resources are allocated to direct care services, Probation will be contracting for redirection services with direct-service providers as opposed to a managing entity. These direct services will provide family-focused interventions for our youth and their families and will increase the proportion of dollars allocated to direct services for youth. 

I greatly appreciate the dedication of our Probation staff who have and continue to help with the transition of the CBIS and IDDS into the Transition Services and JDAP. I want to especially thank our juvenile probation officers for their essential role in making these community-based programs work. Their hard work ensures that the youth are receiving the right services at the right time! 

EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP STAFF CHANGES: It is with great excitement that I announce the following staff changes within the executive leadership team:

  •  Steven Solomon has joined the team in the Office of the Secretary.  Steven will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, grant coordination, management of private technical assistance grants, and supporting the Office of the Secretary on strategic initiatives. Steven previously served as the Federal Grants Manager and Juvenile Justice Specialist in the Office of Prevention and Victim Services.   
  • Jon Menendez has become DJJ’s Director of Legislative Affairs.  Jon previously served as the Department’s Deputy Legislative Director where he helped manage agency issues before the Legislature.  He has experience working in the Executive Office of the Governor, on campaign related ventures, and several private sector experiences such as real estate development and management consulting.  Prior to joining the Department in January, 2013, he served in the Majority Office of the Florida House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Dean Cannon.   
  • Marcus Smith has become DJJ’s Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs.  Marcus previously served as Statewide Coordinator for the Department’s Disproportionate Minority Contact Initiative in the Office of Prevention and Victim Services.  Starting as an intern 2001, he has extensive programmatic and contractual experience serving many professional  roles throughout DJJ in Detention, Residential, Probation and Procurement Services.  Marcus also has a long history in  community planning and engagement.  He has a Bachelor’s from Florida A&M University in Public Management and completed Master’s coursework for Public Administration at Florida State University.  
  • Heather DiGiacomo has become DJJ’s Deputy Communications Director. Heather previously served as the Executive Director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation and provided oversight for grant coordination for the agency.

Please join me in congratulating Steven, Jon, Marcus, and Heather on their new roles. 

QUALITY IMPROVEMENT KUDOS: As you know, the Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts annual reviews of each state-run program. This is a collaborative process between the review team and the program, and the focus is to continue improvement in services to children and operational processes. Accordingly, the QI team conducted the annual review of the Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Panama City last week, where superintendent Heather Hart gave the following comments concerning her review to bureau chief Jennifer Rechichi:

“I wanted to thank you for the exceptional team that you sent to our facility last week. Barbara Campbell did an excellent job as lead reviewer and Dave Cornuet immediately set the tone for a very positive review, “ Hart said. “The entire team was very understanding of our vacancy rate and work load, and were focused on obtaining the maximum amount of information with as little disruption to our operations as possible. They made the process as enjoyable as it could be and made it clear they were looking to find the best ways to take care of our youth.

QI reviews can often be a stressful process, and I for one am always happy to hear when they go well. I send my gratitude to Ms. Campbell and Mr. Cornuet as well as the rest of the QI team, Davenor Brown, Amanda Matthews and Gwen Stevenson for their conscientious commitment to helping programs improve. This is just one example of how we are turning Florida into a national model for juvenile justice.      

PROBATION UPDATE: I’m ecstatic to welcome Minnora “Minnie” Bishop to the probation team as the newly appointed statewide transition coordinator. Minnie previously served as the learning consultant for staff development and training with the Juvenile Probation Officer Academy. Minnie currently serves as the agency’s master DRAI trainer where she helps to standardize policies and practices statewide. She humbly served the state of Florida for the last ten years and has devoted her career to juvenile justice and remains passionate about her work.

I would like to congratulate and welcome Rick Bedson on his appointment as the Chief Probation Officer for Circuit 5. Bedson’s career spans 35 years working in the juvenile justice and child welfare arena. In that time he has served as a Juvenile Justice manager, superintendent of a regional juvenile detention center, chief of detention services and director of North and South region detention. In his most recent role Bedson was working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a consultant in Florida and Georgia. Bedson holds a degree in social work from Florida State University.  

From Circuit 6, kudos to JPOs Charmain Cosme, Cindy Saltzman, Janet Schnering and CPO Adrienne Conwell for attending a community presentation on human trafficking in Tampa Bay last Wednesday. This presentation, sponsored by the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators, focused on forming relationships with community faith-based organizations to work together regarding commercially sexually exploited children.

Also from Circuit 6 my thanks once again to CPO Adrienne Conwell who attended the Pinellas County PACE Center for Girls 2013 graduation and celebration. Nineteen graduates were recognized and congratulated for the positive changes they made in their lives.  

CPRDETENTION UPDATE: The Bay County Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) provided training last week for their youth to become certified in CPR/First Aid and AED. Bay County District School Board Liaison Anne Martin put this training together in an effort to pursue educational opportunities that are otherwise not available to youth in our facilities. Nine students, who showed competency in life saving techniques, successfully completed the program and will receive certification cards from the American Red Cross. This was the first class of its kind to be held at the RJDC and the certified youth were excited about the opportunity to make a difference in their own communities. Due to the success of this program, another training is now scheduled for June 27.  I am very thankful for all of our partners and stakeholders who go the extra mile in providing alternative education for the youth in our facilities. 

I would like to send my congratulations to three outstanding youth in the Pinellas County RJDC whose poems were selected last month to be featured in the anthology Words Unlocked. These three poems were among the 32 selected from over a thousand entries in a nationwide competition sponsored by the Center for Education Excellence in Alternative Settings. The poems were judged by a panel which included former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. The winners were announced after a month long initiative held in honor of National Poetry Month in an effort to encourage literary exploration by young people in juvenile facilities. We are so proud of these kids for their efforts. 

JusticeAssistant Secretary for the Office of Prevention and Victim Services Wanda Finnie made a visit to the Miami-Dade RJDC on Wednesday and met with a very special resident: Justice, DJJ’s first therapy dog. I have spoken at length in these weekly letters about Justice’s role within the RJDC and how he is helping our youth at the facility. I am excited to tell you that we will have more canine-related news in the coming weeks and months.



BBBSPREVENTION KUDOS: Go to specialist Tina Levene who recently spent a day working with members from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Florida to finalize details of the 2013-14 grant. This grant will be used to support mentoring initiatives for children of incarcerated parents. Our agency would like to thank Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature for their investment in this initiative through the Florida Families First budget. Thanks to their support $1.5 million will be available to our agencies.


2013 DAVIS PRODUCTIVITY AWARD WINNERS: I continue to opine that our agency cultivates and nurtures innovation and last night that innovation was rightfully recognized as 2013 Davis Productivity Award winners. Chief of staff Alex Kelly attended on behalf of the agency to congratulate the plaque winners listed below, and I am deeply honored to work with each and every one of these outstanding individuals:

Desktop Upgrade and Support Team: Jennifer Sherlock, Nester Gonzalez, Richard Lofgren, Lee Payne, Babatunde Shofolu, Rand Smith, Marisol Valdez, Linda Matson, Cedric Rempson, Olu Oyewole, Paula Breed, Maureen Wines, Benita Smith, Mike Lucas, Don Shores, Hartley Baker, Roosevelt Morris, Jeff Jones, Jeff Koviack, Ana Ortiz, Bob Register, Orlando Powell, Jay Rios, Fresler Gaspard, Rick Maglio, Bob Shanks, Fred Lyles, Gene Sanchez, Amy Snow, Flo Doggett, Larry Lawrence and Paul Prado.  

Davis ProductivityDJJ Internet Site Implementation Team: Jackie Suttle, Sharon Long, Scott Morgan (pictured left) Jan Wright (pictured right), Sharon Arnold, Donna Gulley and Thomas Heath


Salary Overpayment Reduction Team: Vivian Chambliss and LaTavia Hobbs


SURVEY REMINDER: I would like to remind everyone to please take a few minutes to complete the Family Engagement Survey by clicking here no later than June 12th. As the department creates a unified and formalized family engagement program we would like to capture a realistic, honest and accurate picture of how DJJ staff currently feel on the topic. Your valued input will help DJJ further develop its family engagement program.  

Have a wonderful 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.