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Secretary's Message

August 2, 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


The Governor’s Corner by Governor Rick Scott     

Rick ScottThanks to the hard work of our public servants, Floridians are experiencing the excitement of an incredible economic turnaround. Our unemployment rate is below the national average and our housing market is on the upswing.

Every day we are working together to continue Florida’s success. Some of our recent efforts include unveiling the Teacher Supply Debit Card which will provide our hard working teachers with an average of $250 to help them buy supplies for their classrooms. This card will allow teachers to buy supplies tax free all year long without reaching into their pockets.


Florida also continues to experience incredible job gains, with more than 333,000 private sector jobs created in the last two years. All across the state, families are getting jobs, teachers are being rewarded, and students who will someday make up Florida’s workforce are receiving the training they need to succeed.

It’s working in Florida, but we aren't letting up. With the help of our public servants, we are committed to being the number one state for job creation, the number one state to get a great education, and the best place for families to live their version of the American Dream.

Budget Update

It’s that time of year again – we’re preparing to submit DJJ’s Legislative Budget Request. I know this is a time-consuming task that involves each and every one DJJ employee, and I thank you.

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you some financial challenges we will soon be facing. I sent a letter yesterday to Gov. Scott and key members of the Legislature yesterday letting them know that due to two issues beyond the state’s control – a recent court ruling regarding detention cost share and a federal decision regarding Medicaid eligibility for non-secure residential youth – it will soon be more expensive for the department to operate at the same level. We are working with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Legislature to ensure services to youth are not disrupted or discontinued. By realigning funds within residential contracts to cover costs until the 2014 Legislative session, I am confident we will be able to continue providing high quality services to ensure we protect and maintain public safety and better the lives of those youth with whom we interact. The good news is that, as a result of the hard work of our employees, we are in a posture to handle this difficult financial situation. I share this information with you not to cause worry, but because I want to make sure you hear about it from me first and I want to assure you that there will not be any layoffs as a result. Each of you has contributed greatly to the successes we have celebrated in recent years, and I know that despite this setback, we will all have many reasons to celebrate in the future.

Detention Officer Graduation

I am honored to congratulate our newest class of juvenile justice detention officers who graduated today in a ceremony at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. Thanks to Senior Learning Consultant Duane Pace for leading another great group of detention officers through the process to certification for this position of critical responsibility. Congratulations to the graduates, who successfully completed 240 hours of training to become a certified officer, and will serve in the DJJ regional juvenile detention center (RJDC) listed next to his/her name.

Latina Brewer   Alachua RJDC
Teresa Cobbs  Okaloosa RJDC
Jammie Cooks  Volusia RJDC
Charonne Franisco  Volusia RJDC
Lakedra Green  Volusia RJDC
Seddrick Holloway  Leon RJDC
Charles James  Alachua RJDC
Rutherford Jean  Volusia RJDC
Brandon Jennings  Leon RJDC
Fareed Johnson  Okaloosa RJDC
Mark Macomber  Collier RJDC
Neville Parkinson  Marion RJDC
Marshaa Primm   Leon RJDC
Anthony Reyes   Monroe RJDC
Cora Smith  Alachua RJDC
Kaylan Stinson  St. Lucie RJDC
Alexandra Thomson  Monroe RJDC
Rhondonnette Tory   St. Lucie RJDC
Crystal Wade   Leon RJDC

Probation Update

Last week this article was inadvertently included as an education update, my apologies! Assistant Secretary for Probation Joan Wimmer (pictured bottom row second from the right) traveled to Broward County last week to celebrate and administer the Oath of Office and employee recognition program. Thank you Circuit 17 for all of your hard work!!


This week the new Circuit Reform Specialists and the Probation Chiefs met in Safety Harbor and were trained on effectively communicating the message of Juvenile Justice Reform. The passion for doing this work differently and doing the right thing for children was the driving force in the room. Deputy Secretary Daly welcomed the group and Assistant Secretary Wimmer was able to take part in the whole event. A special thanks to the Casey Foundation for sponsoring this event and Brenda Posthumus for making the experience fun as well as educational.

Circuit four JPOS John Eyrick  (pictured center)received a Distinguished Service Award on July 19 from the local FCCD chapter. The award was in recognition of John’s 39 years of service advocating for youth and their families – 25 of which have been spent as a juvenile probation officer. Under Eyrick’s leadership, his unit has worked with DCF, Family Support Services of North Florida and Kid’s First of Florida to establish a new way of crossover care for youth, their families and caregivers.


I would like to thank JPO Antron Woods from Circuit 5 who organized a food giveaway last Saturday. Over 50,000 pounds of food was given away to more than 2,000 families during the event, which a huge success. DJJ Staff was well represented. I want to also thank JPOs Peacena Samuels, Ashley Sears, Marcus Chambers and TiAnna Green who helped pack and distribute bags of foods to needy families.  

Our Department wholeheartedly supports community engagement, and I am very happy to report that a local community group known as the “Tyndall AFB Couponers” provided Unit 102 in Circuit 14 with a generous donation of food and supplies for a DJJ youth and his family. This group is committed to collecting coupons, food items and toiletries, and I would like to send my sincere thanks for helping a child in need. 

In Circuit 16, DJJ joined the Monroe County Sheriff’s Juvenile Program Unit and the local United Way for the United Way’s “Stuff the Bus” school supply drive throughout the month of July. The drive benefited needy students from Monroe County and ensures that enough school supplies are available to all students at the beginning of the school year.



Circuit 17 JPOs participated in the first teen summit at Blanche Ely High School in Broward County on Monday. The summit focused on strategies to increase youth success in the coming school year, and was presented by JPOs Kimberly Bosket, Henri Holmes and SJPO/SPL Athena Peavy. These DJJ professionals highlighted the life skills group and its promotion of healthy alternatives to risky behavior while providing a safe place for youth to explore and discuss issues they are experiencing. They also conducted one-on-one sessions with youth and their families.

Last Saturday, JPOs from Circuit 6 worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Port Richey, the Stay Well Kids and the Healthy Start Coalition for a back to school event in the local community. Over 70 backpacks, bicycle helmets, books and school supplies were distributed, while local vendors were on hand to distribute information about resources available in the community. The event was a rousing success and allowed DJJ youth, JPOs, providers and the community to interact with each other. My thanks to JPOs Melissa Fuller, Tonya Posey, Michelle Reinke, Patricia Johnston, Melinda Werner, Debra Smith and Salita Algere-Mason for their help with this event. 

On June 10, JPO Celeste Chambliss (pictured left) from Circuit 18 spoke at the Gibson Youth Center Career Day in Titusville. Celeste spoke with nine young girls in the Productive Pathways mentoring program where she gave them an overview of the juvenile justice system. Productive Pathways is a mentoring program designed to ensure that young ladies develop the necessary skills to perform and excel in today’s society. 


I can’t tell you all how happy I am to receive letters from youth or their parents concerning the role of JPOs in their lives. When I speak at JPO graduations I often tell the graduates that they have the hardest jobs in our entire department, and they deserve our recognition every time it comes in. This letter was from a parent of a child in Circuit 6 praising the efforts of JPO Loretta Harvey. It reads:



I wanted to take a minute to let you know how very special I think Ms. Loretta Harvey is. She was appointed to my daughter, who has been no stranger to the DJJ system over the past 5 years. I thought Ms. Harvey would just "Do Her Job" and be finished with this child. Well to my surprise, as well as my daughter's, it turned into a great experience with DJJ.

Ms. Harvey went above and beyond our expectations in the fact that she took time to get to know my daughter and the situations that brought them together. She was a mentor as well as a Probation Officer and someone I am glad we had the opportunity to work with. Her understanding and genuinely caring attitude is more than I ever expected. Past experiences with the system have never been anything to brag about, but I think you have someone VERY special working for you. I am almost sad that my daughter's probation has come to an end as I will miss Ms. Harvey.

With all the negatives I'm sure you hear about on a daily basis, I thought it might be nice to hear the positive as well. I believe Ms. Harvey is worth her weight in gold and hope she keeps up the good work with troubled and misguided youth in the future. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Detention Update

JPO’s Celeste Chambliss, Beth Cantrell, Captain Margie McKinney JPO Susan Coufman
Captain Margie McKinney from the Brevard Regional Detention Center along with JPOs Susan Coufman and Celeste Chambliss and SJPO Beth Cantrell participated in the Weed n Seed summer youth program at the Metropolitan Church in Cocoa on June 18. The presentation included how to deter youth from getting into trouble and how to make good choices. Captain McKinney captivated the youth by discussing what happens when a child goes into a juvenile detention center. The presentation was so well received that this same group has been asked to speak at the National Night Out event on August 6 in Cocoa.

Library volunteer Debbie Koch reported that over 165 books were checked out in July at the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center library. Youth are allowed to check out one book per week at the facility. The library also held special events for the children at the facility including a discussion on the Declaration of Independence, the history of ice cream and the MRJDC Quiz show.


It's not ALL work, no play for MDRJDC’s canine companion and certified therapy dog, Justice. After a long day on the job, Justice treats himself to a well-deserved dip in his very own pool!


Employee of Interest

Last week’s edition of the DJJ Safety Source highlighted the work of Lorna Jackson who is the Workers Compensation Coordinator for the Department. While our Department strives to become an injury-free workplace, we do acknowledge that injuries can and will happen and Lorna will more than likely be the one you speak with concerning workers compensation questions.  Lorna has been with the state of Florida for twenty years now and we are very happy she is on our team here at DJJ. 

Prevention Update

Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Manager in the Office of Prevention, participated in the My Life My Fest Tallahassee youth empowerment event.  Prevention and Probation shared a display table at this event communicating with visitors throughout the day.   My Life was designed to raise awareness about mental health, substance abuse and foster care-related issues.  My Life is an empowering leadership group for youth, ages 13 to 23, who have experience with mental health issues, substance abuse, foster care, juvenile justice and other challenges and who also want to use their experiences to help others and improve the systems that serve those youth.