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Secretary's Message

January 10, 2014

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, both DJJ employees and those who work for our contractors, and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase 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 Rick Scott

Florida’s economy continues to improve, thanks to your hard work. With the unemployment rate down to 6.4 percent, it is clear our state is moving forward. But we aren’t done yet.

We want to create an opportunity economy in Florida that will support jobs for generations to come. To do this, we’re proposing to give more money back to Florida families and job creators.

With less than two months until the beginning of the legislative session, we are committed to putting money back in the pockets of Florida families. That is why we are going to undo the 54 percent tax increase Floridians saw in 2009 to register their motor vehicles. This means around $400 million annually will be given back to Florida families, and I look forward to working with our partners in the Florida Legislature to return this money back to our families.

With your help, we will make Florida the number one state for families to get a job, a quality education, and enjoy a low cost of living. The future looks bright for Florida families and we look forward to seeing what 2014 will bring.

Legislative Update

Today marks the end of a legislative committee week, and I have good news to share regarding one of our agency’s legislative priorities. On Thursday, the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee voted unanimously to pass HB 173 which governs our juvenile justice education programs. This important piece of legislation will ensure quality education programs by adding accountability and measurement mechanisms. Additionally, it adds career and technical education opportunities for youth in residential programs. My sincere thanks to Representative Janet Adkins for all of her hard work in sponsoring this important piece of legislation, as well as our legislative team members Jon Menendez, Marcus Smith and Director of Education Julie Orange.


 Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene was a featured guest on WTIS 1110 AM in Tampa with radio host Pete O’Shea on Monday to discuss her community outreach ministry to help drug addicts. Tina’s community outreach ministry shares love, prayer and hope with people in need. Tina also discussed her book entitled, "Let your lessons become your blessings," and the work she does in detention centers with youth.

Probation Update

Last Friday, JPO Shana Feren from Circuit 20 supervised area youth during a community service clean-up project at UptheGrove Elementary School in LaBelle. These youth earned valuable community service hours as they cleaned the exterior of the building the school’s cafeteria. 

I would like to extend my thanks to JPO Nancy Masry, Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson, Guidance Care therapist Kaley Casper, Detention Administrator Vanessa Cohen and Monroe RJDC Superintendent Vinnie Vurro from Circuit 16 who participated in the sixth annual A Positive Step 5K run in Key West on December 21. The race is held by “A Positive Step of Monroe County,” a DJJ Redirection contracted provider. The fundraising event benefited the organization’s Idle Hands Summer Youth Employment Program and could not have been put together without the help of our employees.

 "A Positive Step of Monroe County ” also donated a $50 gift card to the Monroe RJDC. Items such as board games, puzzles, basketballs etc. for the youth were purchased with the gift card.

Over the holidays, Circuit 4 probation staff, including JPOs Dwayne Barton, Bob Crews, Shanyse Carr, Jon Maliah Vercelli, Rachel Hillegass and Vicki Burke, partnered with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Natural Life to distribute more than 500 gifts to girls in both our system and in foster care. The girls in our care were overwhelmed with excitement after receiving these unexpected Christmas gifts, and more importantly loved that each gift carried a very inspirational message. For those who do not know, Natural Life creates fun and inspirational products (clothing, pocketbooks, jewelry, and gifts) for girls and young women inspiring them to give, love and laugh. The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is a national model for a gender-responsive, community-specific approach to girls in the juvenile justice and foster care systems.   

Members of the Broward County Human Trafficking Coalition have partnered with the Nova Southeastern University’s College of Health Care Sciences to present a series of informative webinars in honor of National Human Trafficking Month. These webinars covered a wide variety of topics including: the role and structure of the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition, Definitions and Identification, Pathways into HT, Violence of CSEC, Impact on Young Adults and Victim Services. These dynamic presentations provided the participants with a strong fundamental understanding of human trafficking and what actions are being taken in order to combat it. Thanks to CPO Cassandra Evans for presenting at the event. 

From L to R: Dr. Sandrine Gaillard-Kenney, Roland Montes*, Brianna Black Kent, Nelson Bogren*, Jumorrow Johnson*, Cassandra Evans* (* notes  presenters) 

CPO Abby Anderson from Circuit 9 partnered with the OAKS program and HBI to hold a community service event on December 7 in Orlando. Members from Circuit 9 in attendance were JPOs Irma Melendez, Brian Wilkins, Charisse Hurdle, Krystal Osborne, Christine Daniels, Octavia Troupe, Nichole McDonald, Bonita Williams, Omar Bohler, Jerriel Lewis, and Tinya Wilkins. These staff members supervised more than 70 of our youth in attendance who earned community service hours by making greeting cards, scarves and ornaments to decorate a Christmas tree for an Assisted Living Facility. 

Circuit 15 Probation and Community Intervention recognized Erika Ray as their Employee of the Month for January 2014. Ms. Ray is a Senior Juvenile Probation Officer in our  Belle Glade Office. She has been employed with the DJJ for more than 15 years.

Erika’s nominator noted that she promptly completes tasks; travels frequently for training to ensure she remains informed; and is always very punctual. Erika serves as the liaison between DJJ and Glades Central High School, which enables her to  be a vital link to school administration regarding the youth under our supervision. During the holiday season, she demonstrated her commitment to community youth by proposing that instead of exchanging gifts in the office, she and her colleagues make donations to help one male and one female youth currently being supervised. She also collaborated with her coworkers to prepare a holiday luncheon for the youth and their immediate family members. Congratulations, Erika!

On Thursday, JPOS Geoff Peattie spoke to a group of Monroe County Sheriff’s Explorers about juvenile justice while leading these young men on a tour through the Monroe RJDC. The Explorers were accompanied by Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy and Supervisor of School Resource Officers, Glen Test.  The Explorers learned a lot from the discussion and the tour. 

JPO Kimberly Bosket (far right) stand nexts to the youth and her mother

I would like to share a letter from a youth in the care of JPO Kimberly Bosket from Circuit 17. This youth initially made contact with our Department, however then decided to voluntarily enroll at the Florida Youth Challenge Academy. Soon after Kimberly set her on the right track, this young lady was able to obtain her GED and now is looking ahead to a brighter future. She wrote a letter describing her accomplishments, and it reads:

Before the Florida Youth Challenge Academy I was heading in the wrong direction. Fighting, running away and having the mind setup of negativity. I avoided the Florida Youth Challenge Academy for so long but I had finally realized that I needed a change and didn't want my little sisters following my step of being negative. I didn't want them thinking that's how I was choosing to live. I felt that it was kind of selfish of me to continue on with what I was doing and not even look back at the youth that's watching me. For them to follow that lifestyle and that pattern would hurt me and themselves it would be my entire fault because before Florida Youth Challenge Academy, I was letting my own personal issues take over me and I chose to deal with that issue in a terrible manner. While at the academy I wasn't distracted by any outside contact. I actually got a chance to figure myself out I now know where I want to be and how am going to get there. I also learned that helping others is what I love. So the medical field is the career I am looking into. I also learned that discipline is needed in life and the program helped me a lot with that. I learned a lot in the residential phase of the Florida Youth Challenge Academy. I truly believe that it brought out my personality in a positive way. Dawn Batten, Rodney Killian, Sophia Jeffries and Jocelyn Jameson are the entire cadre at the academy who helped me has the right mind set as a young lady. I am caring, very creative, dedicated, determined and these people didn't judge me, they helped pick me up and push me to the positive rode of success. I completed my GED in the program which was a great accomplishment for me. I also had an opportunity to meet Governor Rick Scott during A Student Government Field Trip as I served as the Senator for that board. I even made the Governor coffee!! I feel very independent as a young woman. I am currently looking for work and using my techniques with different hairstyles. I am   planning on joining the navy as a hospital corpsman or the air force. 

Residential Update

The DOVE Academy, a low- and moderate-risk 24-bed residential program for females, ages 15 to 18, that is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., held its Holiday Family Day on Dec. 20.  The program, which uses a unique way of referring to its residents as “giRls,” uses this graphic image to help create a sense of camaraderie.  Not only did the giRls celebrate the holidays with their families on that day, they also celebrated one of their own who graduated!

Multiple family members of the residents attended the Holiday Family Day where they joined the giRls and staff to enjoy a special indoor picnic of hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, baked beans, special holiday desserts and punch.  They also enjoyed skits performed by the giRls and a praise dance performed by a staff member’s daughter. In addition, the residents were visited by members of the Circuit 14 probation staff including JPOs Donna Smith, Shaneka Gardner, Jennifer Mefford, Robin Myers and CPO Wanda Jackson who delivered bags specifically created by probation youths for the DOVE Academy residents to open on Christmas morning.

In addition, a graduation ceremony was held in conjunction with the Holiday Family Day, which was attended by all the residents, visiting family members, and the graduate’s parents.  During the ceremony, the graduate donned a gown and was presented with certificates for all her accomplishments while at DOVE.  Her accomplishments encompassed performance, treatment, academic and vocational.  Not only did she complete her treatment program at the DOVE Academy, she earned her GED® and Occupational Completion Points in Culinary Arts, as well as earning a certificate in the course Safe Serve Food Handler.