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Secretary's Message

June 28, 2013

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase DJJ employees and the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on than what I report here, so I would like to encourage each of you to keep the weekly letter in mind and remember to share your good news. It’s easy – email news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters

Budget Kudos

The Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, Chapter 2, has selected Vickie Harris, DJJ’s Budget Bureau Chief, as the recipient of the 2013 Annual Distinguished Service Award in the area of Juvenile Justice. Vickie will receive the award Thursday, July 11, at the Annual Distinguished Service Awards Banquet in Tallahassee. Well deserved, Vickie – thank you for all that you do!

Membership is not required to attend the banquet; tickets are available for purchase online. (link expired) 

Probation Kudos

On June 25, 2013, staff from the Circuit 6 Offices of Prevention, Probation and Residential held its fourth quarterly YOUTH/LEO Focus Group at the Boys & Girls Club of Pinellas Park. The focus group panel was made up of law enforcement officers from the St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Largo, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Campus Police and the Pinellas County Sheriff Department. SJPO Jared White was recognized by a youth on the panel as the person who “helped me out” and “turned me around.” JPO Cindy Saltzman was also recognized by a youth on the panel as the person who changed their life and “helped me to realize how important school is.”  


On Saturday, June 6, 2013, Circuit 14 Probation partnered with the Clerk of Court’s office to hold a community carwash.  The event was designed to give youth an opportunity to earn community service hours and also impact their court costs and restitution. The Clerk’s office assisted and volunteered by collecting funds from those interested in contributing and then equally divided the receipts among the youth that participated. These donations were applied to the amount of their court-related/restitution costs. Ten youth participated in the project and the group washed over 30 cars, including a tow truck.


From Circuit 16, DJJ provider A Positive Step began its Idle Hands Summer Work Program at Key West High School. This program gives our youth, most of whom have never held a job before, the tools they need to become productive members of the workforce. Under the direction of Billy Davis, A Positive Step provides a job coach that instructs the youth on filling out job applications and the proper attire for job interviews. Upon completion of the program, each youth will be placed in a full time job earning $8.00 per hour and provided with a bus pass. A Positive Step was just given $20,000 from Monroe County for juvenile rehabilitation.

Deputy Chief Denise Devlin from Circuit 18 was recently invited to be a member of the Brevard Family Partnership Trauma Informed Care Team, a group of community stakeholders that focuses on a Trauma Informed Care Initiative. On June 20, 2013,  she participated in a kick-off summit that addressed the principles of Trauma Informed Care before a group of more than 100 community members and crossover youth. Guest speakers and presenters included Lucas Boyce, Director of Community Relations, Multicultural Insights and Government Affairs for the Orlando Magic;  Lydia Joyner, Filmmaker, Writer and Child Advocate; Mark Anthony Garrett, Radio talk show host, Actor and Author; and Dr. Andrew Schneider-Munoz with the Jim Casey Foundation. 

Community Conversations

Office of Prevention Assistant Secretary Wanda Finnie, along with staff members from Prevention, Probation, Detention and Residential brought their Community Conversation tour to Northeast Florida this week. Meetings were held in McClenney on Tuesday, Jacksonville on Wednesday and Lake City on Thursday and were all well attended. The goal of these public meetings is to offer parents, youths, community advocates and juvenile justice officials the opportunity to let us know what services and resources are most needed in local communities. We know that family and community engagement is critical to preventing kids from making contact with the juvenile justice system, and I am proud that we have agency-wide representation to send a strong message that we are fully committed to helping Florida’s families and communities thrive.

Detention Kudos

Kudos to Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Monica Gray and Assistant Superintendents Charles Pitts and Cordell Nelson for their unwavering commitment to the agency’s vision. JJDO Erica Sanford wrote a letter expressing her gratitude for the strong leadership at her facility. Erica said Major Gray and her assistants have such a big responsibility running the RJDC, which covers several counties, with professionalism and integrity. She said she is proud to work under such great leaders.

Thanks to Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Heather Hart for representing the Department beautifully in her interview with the Panama City News Herald about the center’s garden, which features a butterfly sanctuary and a hydroponic section. These “non-traditional” efforts have made a world of difference for the youth who have come through the juvenile justice system and I want to thank all of you who have embraced each and every  opportunity to help Florida’s youth develop and improve while in our care.  


Quality Improvement Kudos

As you know, the Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts annual reviews of Detention Centers, Residential and Probation and Community Intervention Services. 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 Area 3 QI team (Orlando) conducted the annual review of the Oaks Community Intervention - Circuit 9 program, , where program director Julian Robb gave the following comments concerning her review to Bureau Chief, Jennifer Rechichi:

“I've worked with DJJ as an employee of State government and as a contracted provider working with County government, and as a result, I've been reviewed ,and been a peer reviewer, I would have to say that this experience was one of the best reviews that I've been involved in (from either perspective). The day was non-intrusive and conducted professionally. Donna Connors contacted me by phone to ensure that I received proper notification (in addition to e-mails ) and she walked me through what to expect. Donna and Kristen Richardson maintained communication leading up to the review itself, and I was able to provide Kristen what she needed prior to her arrival (per her request ). Donna and her team should be commended for their professionalism and I appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback Ms. Rechichi.”

The Area 4 QI team (Tampa) conducted the annual review of Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  Supervisor Edwin Clarke gave the following comments concerning his review to Bureau Chief, Jennifer Rechichi:


“I believe we have found a team of reviewers who are knowledgeable, objective, who go about their duties with a great demeanor.  They are professionals whose imprint on the facilities leave a better place by enhancing their ability to effectively provide for the safety and security of our kids.”

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 members both the Orlando and Tampa QI staff as well as the peer reviewers on these two reviews, Carldernett Davis, Katanga Perkins, and Canitha Taylor 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.    

Staff Development and Training Kudos

I am proud of the work that our dedicated employees from the Office of Staff Development and Training are doing to give our staff the resources and proper training that they need to do their jobs more effectively. That said I wanted to share a letter sent from JJDO II Chris Tipton from St. Lucie County to Field Training Officer Duane Pace. It reads:

Mr. Pace,


I just wanted to thank you for teaching a wonderful FTO class last week.  I feel like I really learned a lot from the class and from you as an instructor.  You made the class fun and the material very easy to comprehend.  I really had a good time in your class as did the rest of my fellow St. Lucie Officers!   I look forward to having more trainings with you in the future.


Thanks again,

Chris Tipton, JJDO II 

Education Update

Principal Belinda Hope from the Pine Ridge Education Center in Broward County sent her praises for the school’s new JPO Christopher Hamel this week. Hope said that Hamel has made a great addition to the school this year by counseling and advising students on probation to make better decisions. As a result of Christopher’s efforts, critical incidents at the school declined more than 65 percent in the last year. In addition to Hamel’s efforts, Hope gave high praise to Virgil Dixon for his diligent commitment to one 11th grader at the school. This youth was on the verge of dropping out of school, but due to weekly contact with Virgil, the student completed the program and was promoted to the 12th grade. Principal Hope praised our partnership with her school saying that the data has proven that a probation officer on campus improves student success.