Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

February 7, 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

Out and About

This past weekend, I, along with Deputy Secretary Christy Daly and Director of Special Projects Brenda Posthumus, attended the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators’ (CJCA) Winter Business Meeting in Tampa. CJCA’s mission is to promote and facilitate leadership development and the exchange of knowledge and philosophies at the top administrative levels of juvenile justice and juvenile corrections in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and major metropolitan counties. Leaders identify issues and strategies to address them and form a national voice for youth corrections. It is also a forum for CJCA’s committees to meet, plan and present their work to the entire organization.

As host state, Florida’s DJJ was featured during a presentation from the Positive Youth Outcomes Committee. Michael Long, Steve Charles and Maxime N. Louis, members of AMI Kids’ Alumni Association, shared their road from delinquency to success. And, Zaki Starks and Treshawn Lovett, current program members and pictured above with me, made a presentation on the Seven Challenges. Met with a standing ovation, the youth were a motivating reminder of the potential of each child in the care of the states across the nation. Many thanks to O.B. Stander, president of AMIKids, for sharing these inspirational young men with the group. 

Also at CJCA, Director of Research Mark Greenwald, M.J.P.M and Michael Baglivio, Ph.D. presented results from a validation study of the Residential PACT (R-PACT). The study was conducted by Dr. Carter Hay of the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Results of the study show that the risk factors of youth placed in residential programs decreases throughout completion. Youth who have more positive changes such as more reduction in risk and more increase in protective factors/strengths are less likely to re-offend when they are released. The findings demonstrate the R-PACT to be a valid risk/needs assessment for residential youth. This was true for male and female youth, and across race/ethnicity subgroups, meaning the R-PACT works equally well for all youth. Mark and Michael presented these results to the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, as well as at the ACA Conference. They also presented on the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP), a justice system reform grant collaboration through Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of welcoming the attendees of the American Correctional Association’s Winter Meeting to Tampa. The ACA serves all disciplines within the corrections profession providing opportunities for professional development, networking, access to research and much more. I took this opportunity to share with them our approach and emphasis on providing the right service in the right place at the right time to best meet the needs of youth, families and communities. I also shared the great news about how this targeted approach has led to dramatic decreases in juvenile delinquency in Florida.

Youth and Families Spotlight

I am excited to share this letter from a mother I have been communicating with recently and am delighted that her son seems to be thriving. Thank you to Ms. Santana Passmore, Case Manager; Mr. William McCormick, Mental Health Therapist; and Mr. John Wright, Facility Administrator, at St. Johns Juvenile Correction Facility for their dedication and compassion for this young boy and his family!

Dear Mrs. Walters,

You asked for me to keep you updated so I wanted to let you know my son is doing well in the program. He has hit a few bumps but that’s to be expected when you have a bunch of boys together and away from their families. The staff at St. Johns Juvenile on Lewis Speedway in St. Augustine have been great. I visit my son every Saturday, and I ask him how has his week been, and he speaks very highly of the staff – how well he is treated and how he gets respect as long as he gives it. His case worker, Ms. Passmore, is great with keeping in touch with me  and working with my son. Hats off to Mr. McCormick for being my sons mental therapist and working on anger issues as well as being a mentor to my son. “J”  has told me when he has something that might be bothering him he knows Ms. Passmore or Mr. McCormick always have an open door for him. Mr. Wright, the head supervisor, hats off to him as well. My son respects him very highly as he is not only the big boss but he is the kids friend as well. I think it’s important for you to know that they’re doing a wonderful job and the program is making changes for not only my son but the youth there in the level eight program. I will keep you updated but as of now I have been very happy with the program and the staff of St. Johns Juvenile program on Lewis Speedway in St. Augustine, Florida. 

 Jacksonville Youth Initiative 

On Wednesday, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Probation and Community Intervention Joan Wimmer participated in a press conference in Jacksonville in support of the latest step in  Mayor Alvin Brown’s new Youth Initiative. Through a $1.2 million grant funded by the Department of Children and Families, juvenile offenders who are  eligible for a diversion program and in need of substance abuse counseling and mental health services will have greater access to those services.


Under this grant, the mayor’s office will partner with DJJ, Gateway Community Services and System of Care to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling to help teens deal positively with their problems and stay out of the corrections system.

In a press release Assistant Secretary Joan Wimmer said, “At DJJ, we work to incorporate mental health and substance abuse treatment in all of our programming, and I expect this grant to be a tremendous supplement to the department’s ongoing efforts by providing access to services to the almost 4,000 youth screened annually at the Juvenile Assessment Center. I look forward to working with our grant partners to help more area youth receive the care they need.”

To view the video from Mayor Brown’s press conference, click here. 

 Legislative Update

This week was one of three committee weeks this month in Tallahassee and our agency received some fabulous news from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday when they unanimously approved CRJS 14-01. This bill is a comprehensive general revision to juvenile justice statutes similar to SB 700 which was filed by Senator Bradley two weeks ago. Both of these bills are crucial to our Chapter 985 revisions and is our biggest legislative priority. I would like to thank Chair Matt Gaetz for his leadership and the work of his committee on the proposed committee bill, and specifically, Representative Ray Pilon for his role as lead sponsor of our priority legislative package.

Prevention Update

On February 5, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle and DMC Specialist Craig Swain met with Gadsden County school officials and law enforcement to discuss plans for the upcoming “Bridging the G.A.A.P” discussions in the community. DJJ is working to establish long-term partnerships and enhance the “Bridging the GAAP” conversations. The Office of Prevention travels to various communities hosting the “Bridging the G.A.A.P” conversations. G.A.A.P stands for Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives. The conversations give youth and law enforcement the opportunity to engage in candid dialogue to address key issues in their community.

On January 25, Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator Brittany Claybrooks took part in a Yoga Gangsters Training Session at the Florida A&M University Recreation Center in Tallahassee. Yoga Gangsters is a national non-profit organization that empowers youth by addressing the symptoms of trauma and poverty, such as limited education, addiction, violence, incarceration, teen pregnancy, and HIV through the practice of yoga. Brittany is now trained to teach yoga to at-risk youth in inner city areas.

2013 Champion of Hope Award winners Gary Montgomery and his wife Josephine from Living Stones International accompanied 33 children and their caregivers as they enjoyed a night of high-flying fun under the big top and witnessed the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee on January 18. As a result, the "children of inmates" had a memorable trip to the circus. The Montgomerys, described as “urban missionaries,” operate a prison, ex-offender and family ministry. Living Stones primarily works with 70 families and 105 children of inmates to have special bonding visits with their parents in state prisons. Many of the families rely on Living Stones for these bonding visits because it is not only a visit but reconnecting families and keeping them in contact with each other throughout the year.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Brent Musgrove visited Project Turn-Around in Bristol on January 23. Project Turn-Around (PTA) is a program operated by the Liberty County School District to provide services to identified at-risk youth, ages 8-17, to keep them from becoming further involved in the juvenile justice system. The services provided through the DJJ Invest in Children’s grant include an In & Out-of-School Suspension Prevention Program and Substance Abuse Prevention.

Residential Update

Youth from the Okaloosa Youth Development Center, a high-risk program for males that is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, spent some quality time at the North Okaloosa Fire Department in Crestview as part of their “Transition Club” activities.  The young men learned first-hand from the on-duty firemen what it takes to be a firefighter. As a part of this learning experience, the boys watched a video about the fire academy and what it takes to complete the academy and become a firefighter. The boys learned about all of the equipment and vehicles that the firefighters use on a daily basis. They also were able to try on the firefighter uniforms and equipment, as well as climb into the fire trucks and to see how the vehicles are used in an emergency situation.

The firefighters from North Okaloosa Fire Department also visited the Okaloosa Youth Development Center where they held a training class with all of the high-risk youth who were unable to attend the off-site Transition Club activity. This visit allowed all of the program’s residents an opportunity to explore the ins and outs of the fire engine, try on the uniforms, and to learn from the firemen what it takes to be a fire fighter.

Last month, the Salvation Army of Fort Lauderdale, which serves Broward County, recognized the collective efforts of the staff members from the South Region offices of Probation, Data Integrity, Quality Improvement, and Residential Services for the work done to assist in the “Angel Tree Program.”  This was the second year DJJ South Region staff participated, contributing new, unwrapped gifts for 35 children in Broward County.  This year’s participants included Jacqueline Fernander, Barbara Manakas, Kelya Osorno, Stephen Brown, Lois Salton, and Johnny Richardson (South Region Residential); Samantha Reid (Data Integrity Officer); Vanessa Hargray, Barbara Ferguson, Barbara George, Debra Jones, Gary Mogan, and Chris Edghill (South Region Probation); and Patrick Morse, Shandria Striggles, Patrice Starks, Gabriel Medina, and Thomas Mahoney (Quality Improvement, Area 5). 

The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program brightens the lives of thousands of children each year who otherwise would have no gifts to open during the holidays.  Angel Tree is a volunteer-driven program—with people from all over Broward County donating toys, time and expertise—and is a testament to the power of people coming together to help their neighbors in need. The program involves “Angel Trees” that are placed in four local malls and in businesses that volunteer to participate. Generous people then choose an angel and buy a gift for the child whose wishes and needs are written on the angel. Many of the participating businesses, like DJJ, also have employees who volunteer their personal time to help sort the toys and in the distribution process. The gifts are given to the parents a few days before Christmas and the children believe that the gifts are from their parents or Santa Claus, which helps to preserve the magic of Christmas.

Juvenile Probation Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the newest class of juvenile justice probation officers, which graduated today in a ceremony at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. I was honored to offer remarks to the class, and it was a pleasure to see their happy faces and meet their friends and family members who joined them for today’s celebration. JPOs provide a formal recommendation for each youth who is arrested, and advise the court regarding appropriate sanctions and services. They work with youth in judicial circuits throughout Florida at every point in the juvenile justice continuum, from initial intake screening through the supervision of services. JPOs ensure youth comply with court requirements and assist teens and their families in accessing services that support their success in building a brighter future, such as counseling and skills development. Thanks to learning consultant Christina Ash for leading the class through the certification process for this position of critical responsibility. Each graduate successfully completed 403 hours of training to become a certified officer and will serve in the city listed next to his or her name, below: 

Front row (right to left): Joaquin Lorenzo-Miami, Cassandra Thomas-Clearwater, Krista Cochran-Naples, Jennifer Young-New Port Richey, Rhonda Taylor-Tampa, Jill Fields-Bartow

Middle row: Isis Vertus-Bartow, Amanda Nelson-Clearwater, Nadiege Bernadin-Miami, Kareemia Swaby-Daytona Beach, Lola LaFleur-Daytona Beach, Teresa Starrs-Daytona Beach, Antwan Barnes-Miami

Back row: Kayshala Swain-Quincy, Jazmine Toomer-Miami, Peter Sainz-Tampa, Kizzy Thomas-Miami, Darryn Wilkes-Panama City, John Hile-Tampa, Seth Yates-Naples, Robert Odum-Bartow 

Detention Update

On Tuesday, Detention Chief for Policy Development and Planning Jeff Wenhold took a visit to the Miami-Dade RJDC for their annual internal review. During his visit he was able to spend some time with our resident pet therapy dog Justice. According to Superintendent Daryl Wolf, Jeff and Justice are starting to look alike. 

We are excited to continue to obtain the use of therapy dogs within our detention facilities. Last Friday, Superintendent Cody Wood from the Leon RJDC in Tallahassee welcomed their visiting pet therapy dog to meet with the kids in his facility. The dog went right to work as he helped many of the kids featured in the pictures above.

The Brevard RJDC wanted to expand the therapy dog program at their facility. They currently have a program in place with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in which representative Veronica LaVista-Trotter came to the facility once a week with a therapy dog, but the facility wanted more. Accordingly, representatives from the RJDC met with the SPCA of North Brevard with a proposal for fostering puppies. With the help of teaching assistant Diane Keeling, the kids at Brevard came up with the name TAP (Teens Assisting Puppies). The group of young people created a list of what the program would need and how it would work. Each youth will be responsible for keeping a journal which will document the puppy’s likes and dislikes as well as pictures and stories about their experience with the TAP program. These journals will be copied and given to the new family once the puppy is adopted. 

The Escambia RJDC scheduled some fun in the form of sugar Wednesday as they held their first ever co-ed cake decorating class. According to Superintendent Jeanette Lee, the kids had a blast as they decorated their individual cakes just as the professionals would do it. 

Probation Update

On January 25, JPOs Timorya Ware and LeAndrea Darden from Circuit 19 organized a Fitness Expo for area youth in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties. The event was well attended and featured games and exercises set to music provided by SJPO George Connolly. I would like to thank JPOSs Nathan Peterson and Daniel Holland for being there to chaperone, help set up games and equipment and for handling the cleanup detail; and to St. Lucie RJDC Superintendent Kevin Housel for allowing the use of a detention van to transport clients to the event. These youth had a wonderful time while learning about fitness and working up a sweat. 

Circuit 11 SJPO Michelle Washington-Johnson participated last Wednesday in the Palm Glades Preparatory Academy’s Annual Expo Night for new incoming students and their parents. Michelle, who currently serves as a weekly mentor at the Academy, was invited by Assistant Principal Archalena Coats to provide a presentation of the services offered by our agency and our community partners. This expo proved to be a huge success as parents were informed of our prevention services that are available to students prior to their involvement in the legal system. 

ACPO Dorothy Malik, SJPO Sonja Washington and Reform Specialist Michelle Simpson from Circuit 19 manned the DJJ booth at the Okeechobee Health & Safety Expo on January 25. This amazing event had more than 100 contributors who helped raise awareness of the many services offered within the community. Our table gave away pens as well as resource materials on the Roadmap to System Excellence, Civil Citation and tips for parents. 

The Okeechobee County Juvenile Justice Council took a moment to thank Prevention Specialist Paula Friedrich for her years of dedication to the County Council and Circuit Board during their meeting in January. Paula recently accepted a position with the Office of Residential Services. 

Last Saturday, Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson participated in the Annual Florida Keys Health Fair in Key West. Elaine distributed more than 400 ‘Lock Your Meds’ flyers, 200 youth pledge cards, 200 parent pledge cards and a number of Roadmap to System Excellence brochures. This health fair was run entirely by students and volunteer physicians who offered screening and services to patients at no cost. 

On January 21, the probation family from Circuit 11 learned of the passing of one of their own, Senior Clerk Barbara McQueen. Barbara served with our agency since November of 2007 until her illness forced her to stop working two years ago. Throughout this difficult time, she remained a positive and professional person who continued to be a good friend to those close to her at DJJ. Barbara is survived by her mother, two sisters and a brother, a son and a fiancé. She will be greatly missed by her DJJ Friends and Family and our prayers are with those close to her during this difficult time. 

Circuit 15 JPO Halina Wlodarczyk has been a volunteer at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for several years. She has instructed many adults and children on archery and the safety of the sport. On February 2, she had  youth under her supervision assist her with the Annual Youth Day. The purpose of the event was to introduce children of all ages to many different outdoor activities associated with conservation and management of the ecosystem. The Youth Day attracted nearly 800 youth from 10:00am- 4:00pm. The probation youth were instrumental in setting up the range, talking with younger participants and cleaning up. Probation youth who participated enjoyed the experience and earned community service hours for all of their hard work.

Quality Improvement Update

Recently, Bureau Chief Jennifer Rechichi, Master Trainer, Girls Moving…On (GMO), conducted training for seven Department and Provider staff in the gender-specific Girls Moving…On curriculum. Girls Moving…On is a gender-informed cognitive-behavioral program for at-risk girls between the ages of 12 to 21 years that uses a number of complementary approaches such as relational theory, motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral intervention. The program was designed to provide girls and young women with alternatives to criminal activity by assisting them to identify and mobilize both personal and community resources. The trained facilitators will deliver all seven modules, two of which are delivered on an individual basis and five delivered in a group setting. 

The SkillPro Launch was Successful!

The Office of Staff Development and Training (SD&T) reports that user feedback has been very enthusiastic about the new SkillPro learning management system. People find the system easy to use and like the new format and enhanced functions.

Since SkillPro went live on January 27:

  • more than 5,700 users have registered,
  • staff has taken 1,775 online courses, and
  • 683 people have registered for more than 130 instructor-led classes.

As is to be expected with any new system, there have been some minor issues. SkillPro Team members in SD&T and MIS are working diligently to reach a quick resolution.

Prevent Log-in Problems
The most frequent request has come from users needing their password reset. Preventing this is easy! When logging in for the first time, be sure to set up your personal security questions at the same time that you re-set your password. Doing so will enable the convenient re-set links on the login screen titled “I forgot my User ID/Password.”


Enter Your Email and/or Telephone Number

To ensure you get urgent system messages, such as certification deadlines, be sure to enter your email address on your Position Details page. To get there, click on My Account, scroll down to your position at the bottom of the page, and click on the edit position icon at the end of the row. You can also enter a telephone number for the Get Help! support team. If you need help entering your email address or telephone number, your training coordinator can assist.

PAR Instructors

Please be sure to take the “Proctor Qualification” e-learning course and follow the directions.

Kudos to the entire SkillPro Team, which includes staff from SD&T, MIS, and the data integrity officers in Research and Planning!