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Secretary's Message

February 14, 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).

Sincerely,

Wansley Walters

ACA Conference

As I shared last week, the American Correctional Association (ACA) celebrated its 2014 Winter Conference in Tampa and was remiss in not thanking Regional Director Timothy Niermann. Director Niermann, who coordinated the DJJ volunteers, reported that 33 staff members from Probation, Detention and Residential Services volunteered to work during the conference. ACA selected 18 of those staff members to work as volunteers based on the dates and/or times that they were available. We thank everyone for their support, but especially the following that were scheduled to work during the weekend:

Director of Special Projects Brenda Posthumus, Director Timothy Niermann, CPO Judy Roysden, ACPO Sandra Pinkney, Scott Buchannan, Valeree Clark-Rutt, Arilu Diaz, Gwendolyn Wright, Rosalena Mells, Kathy Cason, Jill Gould, Jesus Sosa, Latasha Brinson, Chris Barber, Marcia Island, Eris Womack, Melissa Johnson, Gloria Perez and Cynthia Caldwell. 


Probation Update

Last week, Circuit 8 Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman participated in a panel discussion on juvenile justice at the Leadership Gainesville’s justice day activities. Melanie served as a panel member with Jeffrey Weisberg of the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding and Sargent Steve Bradford of the Gainesville Police Department. Leadership Gainesville, a program of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, is a year-long community leadership program  designed to identify, educate and develop leadership skills of emerging leaders within the community. 

Last Tuesday, JPOS Cedric Pla and JPOs Keith Rudnick and Halina Wlodarczyk from Circuit 15  were shadowed for the day by students from the Riviera Beach Preparatory School. These students were shown a day in the life of our JPOs which included completing written reports and documenting contacts made. Keith was even able to take one of the interested students to court with him where the Honorable Judge Kathleen Kroll introduced herself and allowed various court personnel a chance to give these kids a description of their job duties. 

Circuit 14 JPOs Jennifer Mefford and Robin Myers collected food, toiletries and clothing for two families on their caseloads. These sundries were donated by the Tyndall AFB wives couponers and Department staff members. Jennifer distributed these items to the two families in need while the left over items will be passed out to other youth who come into the office with a need. Circuit 14 has established a storage space for these extra supplies to assist families in need. 


On Tuesday, JPOs Derrick Henderson and Clint Schweers, also of Circuit 14, met with members from the Future Farmers of America leadership team to answer questions about the Department and to explain the role of a Juvenile Probation Officer. Derrick and Clint shared career opportunities within the Department as well as our philosophy in working with youth and families and the concepts of our Roadmap to System Excellence. 

Last Saturday, Reform Specialist Crystal Brown, JPOS Korri Kellam and JPO Cynthia Streeter attended the Polk County Historically Black College and University’s (HBCU) jump off event in Lakeland. Our staff assisted youth as they completed their college and scholarship applications while serving as volunteers during the “How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay” workshop. 106 students registered and attended the event this year. Edward Waters College accepted seven students on sight  and awarded one $28,000 scholarship , Florida A&M University  accepted 18 students on sight and awarded 14 students $4,000 scholarships , one $8,000 scholarship , one $20,000 scholarship, one $24,000 scholarship , and one $66,176 scholarship. Bethune-Cookman University accepted 11 students out of the 17 who applied at the jump off.   

Circuit 18 JPOS Robyn Worlds was working with a 14 year old in her care on a conditional release. Over the Christmas holidays, she learned that this youth did not have adequate clothing to return to school at the first of the year. Fearful that his dejected attitude and inadequacy in wardrobe would result in truancy and ultimately a return to negative behavior due to unstructured time, Robyn spearheaded a fundraiser to assist this youth in obtaining appropriate school clothes which included cooking and selling hot homemade lunch plates. This fundraiser netted over one hundred dollars as well as other clothing donations by DJJ staff. Robyn went above and beyond in generating a renewed sense of self-confidence in this youth, and I would like to thank her for her dedication and commitment. 

Circuit 20 JPOS Kelli Mukaddam participated in a community service event at the Healthy Harvest Farms in Lehigh Acres last Saturday. Kelli supervised nineteen area youth who participated in the event and earned valuable community service hours for their service. These youth planted tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, aloe plants and radishes. Healthy Harvest Farms is also planning on opening a site at the Farmer’s Market in Ft. Myers sometime in March 2014.




Circuit 17 CPO Cassandra Evans served as a panelist during the “No More Broken Hearts- Domestic Violence Workshop,” last Saturday at the Miami-Edison Middle School. Cassandra provided insight into the direct and indirect impact of children exposed to domestic violence both from a DJJ and mental health perspective. 

On Monday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq and JPO Byron Brown from Circuit 20 attended the “Beat Human Trafficking” conference sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Naples. The conference’s presenter was Anna Rodriguez, Executive Director and Founder of the Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking. Anna is widely regarded as the “mother” of anti-human trafficking movement within the United States and she discussed ways to identify human trafficking victims and combat human trafficking.

Last Monday, Circuit 17 JPO Travisa Skinner spoke with middle school children from the Red Shoe Charter School for Girls. These girls were very inquisitive about Travisa’s career as well as ways they can avoid coming in contact with our agency. Travisa was asked by Red Shoes Principal to speak with the girls and kick off the school’s Black History Month Speaking Event.

Circuit 18 JPOS Michael Neary received an e-mail from Titusville Police Detective Jeffery Panter to commend JPO Kenneth Harrell for the assistance he provided during the investigation of a crime. The email reads:

Mr. Neary, 

I wanted to inform you that Kenneth Harrell was critical in my investigation of an armed occupied residential burglary. The city of Titusville had over 25 occupied residential burglaries since the beginning of January and we had little evidence to go on.  We caught a break and surveillance video footage captured our suspects committing a burglary.  A detective identified one of the suspects from the video which led us to Mr. Harrell.  I contacted Kenneth and informed him that it was important that I meet with him and he made time in his busy morning to meet with me.  Mr. Harrell agreed to look at the video and he positively identified the suspect in the video who he has been assigned on and off for six years.  Mr. Harrell went above and beyond his duty by offering to help us locate the juvenile once I completed a felony warrant for his arrest.  Mr. Harrell contacted me several times throughout the afternoon and the evening which kept me up to date of the location of the youth in question. Later in the evening, Mr. Harrell was able to convince the youth’s father to get his son to turn himself into the Brevard County Jail.  During that time, the Titusville Police Department had approximately 10 detectives and officers actively looking for him, and Mr. Harrell was a great teammate of ours.  Mr. Harrell also provided us with important information about other juveniles which has helped us with other important investigations.  This was the first time that I have met Mr. Harrell and I look forward to working with him again in the future.  I wanted to make sure that you were aware of Mr. Harrell’s effort and dedication and that his hard work did not go unnoticed.  Mr. Harrell played an important role that day in making the City of Titusville a safer place. 

Thank you for your time,

Detective Jeffrey Panter #774 Titusville Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division

Please join me in congratulating Circuit 15 SJPO Tahirah Jones for being awarded the Office of Probation’s Employee of the Month for February. Tahirah works for the JAC screening unit and has assumed multiple duties for both her unit and the circuit. Tahirah handles unit initiatives that include productivity analysis, domestic violence tracking and compliance with policies and follow through on areas of concern. In light of the retirement of the unit supervisor, she has taken steps to ensure that the unit process continues to operate smoothly, and recently, she was recognized by a parent in the letter below sent to CPO Greg Starling for going the 'extra mile' and being an 'angel' in her time of need.  It reads: 

Dear Mr. Starling: 

I had the unfortunate experience of having my son in the Juvenile Detention Center over the holidays. I am however, writing this letter to you to commend your employees at the center, all of whom were very professional during his time there. There is one person in particular who I would like to mention: Ms. Tahirah Jones from the assessment section.

Ms. Jones was on duty two nights in a row when my son was brought to the detention center. She is a very kind and reassuring person who knew exactly how to guide me in my time of need. As if the first night wasn’t enough, I was very distressed and worried about my son after the second arrest. I called the assessment center and was able to speak with Ms. Jones before he arrived. Again, she knew exactly how to guide me in the situation I called about. I followed her instruction and she called me back twice to update me. One of those times was 6:45 a.m. right before she went off duty! I was very glad to have this update and I was touched to hear of her support for me. It was just like having an angel on my side, and I would definitely say that she went the extra mile.

Some people treat their job like a true calling in life. That is the impression I got from my observations and from the stories that my son told me. As I visited, I was comforted and impressed with the volunteers who I would see come and go. I appreciate these people taking the time to bring hope and enrichment into the lives of others and also that it is permitted by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Though I was upset in this situation, I at least had the sense that my son was being supervised and cared for and was perhaps receiving the hope that we all need to get by. I want to thank you for all of the kindnesses that were shown to me and my son during that time. While I certainly hope and pray this is not an experience that will be repeated, I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.


 Prevention Update

Last Thursday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell attended the dedication ceremony for the newly constructed Children’s Courthouse in Miami. The Miami-Dade County Children’s Courthouse is the result of more than 10 years of collaboration between the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida and Miami-Dade County. The ceremony celebrated the lifelong contributions of two extraordinary judges who have devoted their careers to the improvement of the court system for children. The courthouse will be named Judge Seymour Gelber and Judge William E. Gladstone Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse.

On Wednesday, prevention team members attended the Seventh Annual Black History Month Celebration hosted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) at the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee. In order to celebrate Black History and to honor 11 local African-American leaders for their dedication to improving communities, exceptional leadership and supporting safe and sustainable families, DCF held its annual Black History observance. The Reverend O. Jermaine Simmons, pastor of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church of Tallahassee, was the keynote speaker. The program featured a performance by the Florida State University Gospel Choir Ensemble and a special dedication to Nelson Mandela. The theme was “Strengthening Families and Communities: One family at a time.”  In 2012, Wanda Finnie, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services, was honored at the DCF Black History program.

On Tuesday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene joined Christian comedian Juanita Lolita Williams as she performed a clean Christian comedy routine for the youth at the Hillsborough West Detention Center in Tampa. In order to motivate and encourage youth, Tina joined Juanita who entertained the youth and brought smiles to their faces.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Statewide Advisory Board Coordinator Dani Delvento, DMC Coordinator Craig Swain, Regional Manager Tim Niermann, Circuit 6 CPO Adrienne Conwell and Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson took part in the Circuit 6 Advisory Board meeting last Thursday at the Tarpon Springs Police Department. These Circuit Boards serve as advisors to the department. Board members work closely with Delinquency Prevention Specialists and other DJJ staff to plan for services that meet the identified needs of juveniles and families within the local communities.

Pat McGhee also attended a retirement celebration for Jane Harper last Thursday at the Seafood and Tap House in St. Petersburg. Jane was the former President and CEO of Family Resources, a CINS/FINS provider and served the community and our agency for over 33 years. Her leadership, hard work and caring heart will be missed. Ms. Harper was a strong advocate for collaboration and she impacted the lives of countless numbers of young people in the community. Many people came out to wish her well in her new adventures.  







Residential Update

On Jan. 29, two of the young ladies from Lake Academy, a low- and moderate-risk program operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, reached a milestone in their lives: they earned their high school diplomas while residents of the program.  The young ladies made tremendous progress while in the program and both wore big smiles with their caps and gowns for the program’s graduation ceremony.  They each are committed to continue their educations and attend college.  One of the young ladies aspires to be an FBI profiler and the other wants to major in childhood development.  A total of five young ladies at Lake Academy have earned their high school diplomas since the beginning of this school year. 

A review of the Protective Action Response (PAR) rates in residential programs revealed that the PAR rate for the second quarter of FY 2013-14 is the lowest quarterly rate recorded in the past 12 months.  Further, there was a 30% decrease in the PAR rate from the first quarter of FY 2013-14 to the second quarter of FY 2013-14.  The first quarter rate was 2.45 PARs per 1,000 youth and the second quarter rate was 1.72 PARs per 1,000 youth.

We support the creation and maintenance of restraint-free environments through effective behavior management that includes positive, respectful relationships along with vigilant, proactive supervision of the youth in our care.  Staff is encouraged to intervene before an argument or fight occurs—using verbal interventions to resolve disagreements rather than physical PAR techniques or mechanical restraints.

By reducing the use of physical PAR interventions, programs experience fewer injuries to youth and staff; improved outcomes for youth; higher morale among staff members and youth within a residential program; and the avoidance of medical and worker’s compensation costs.

Kudos to the following programs for exemplifying our goal of creating and maintaining restraint-free environments:

  • Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Corrections Center (JOCC) Sex Offender program, a maximum-risk program for males, had no PARs in FY 2012-13 and continued that practice for the first two quarters of FY 2013-14.
  • Other programs with no PARs for the first half of the fiscal year include: 
    • Polk Halfway House (moderate-risk);
    • Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility Substance Abuse program (low/moderate-risk);
    • Gulf Academy (low/moderate-risk intensive mental health);
    • Union Juvenile Residential Facility (moderate-risk sex offender); and
    • Okeechobee JOCC Sex Offender (high- and maximum-risk).
  • Sixty-seven (67%) percent of all residential programs were under the statewide six-month PAR rate of 2.09, for the first half of FY 2013-14.

However, a review of the combined PAR rate for the first six months of FY 2013-14 revealed an 18.75% increase from the final FY 2012-13 averages. The rate increased from 1.76 PARs per 1,000 youth to 2.09 PARs per 1,000 youth.  Four programs in the first quarter significantly contributed to the increased six-month statewide PAR rate. However, three of the four programs’ PAR rates decreased considerably in the second quarter.  The fourth program closed in November. 


Detention Update

On Tuesday, Statewide Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Coordinator Gene McMahon conducted PREA Audit training for Detention Superintendents from the Central Region. This training was a part of a regular monthly meeting conducted by PREA staff to better inform DJJ staff on the dangers of Prison Rape. 

Last Friday, the Hillsborough RJDC welcomed its new Superintendent Fernando Crespo during an appointment ceremony in Tampa. Fernando holds a Master’s Degree in Mental Health and has over fourteen years’ experience working with juveniles.  He comes to DJJ from the New Jersey State Juvenile Justice Commission where he worked with delinquent youth. He was also a gang intelligence liaison and conducted gang crisis intervention. We look forward to having Mr. Crespo as part of the Central Region Team and being able to improve our ability to meet the expectations of the Roadmap by taking advantage of his extensive experience and skills.


Juvenile Detention Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the following juvenile detention officers (JDOs) who graduated today in a ceremony at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The graduates successfully completed 240 hours of training to become certified officers. They will work in the DJJ facility listed next to their name. Congratulations also to the JDO class graduating today at Broward College. Kudos to learning consultants Duane Pace and Andrea Minnis, who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility. 

Front Row Left: Danielle Dillard-Collier, Danielle Herring-Bay, Latoya Sands-Collier                                                                                                                                                                              

Front Row Right: Iris Carrero-SWF, Binasia Paulin-Collier, Gary Travali-St. Lucie                                                              

Back Row:

Robert Coyne-St. Lucie, Melissa Hernandez-St. Lucie, Hirrie Luckett-St. Lucie, Christopher Hatch-Escambia, Jensen Everhart-Volusia, Darius Williams-St. Lucie, Charnette Butler-Valdez-Monroe, Rexford Sirmans-Leon, Rhonda Gard-Escambia, Marco Robles-SWF, Christopher Brown-SWF, Micheal  Fowler-SWF, Shakelah McShane-Bay, Tiffany Cootware-SWF, Le’Brunt Medders-Leon


SkillPro Kudos

 

Staff Development and Training recently received the below kudos email. Thanks to the SkillPro team for their dedication to above and beyond customer service!

Good Morning,

 

I just wanted to take the time to give a special thanks to the SkillPro Team for being courteous and prompt when it comes to helping users resolve issues. This transition has been tedious for us all, but I can definitely appreciate the hard work, dedication, and services they have rendered. No matter how many times I’ve called, emailed, etc. they have always made it a point to get me the help I needed and answer any additional questions that I may have.

 

I would like to personally thank Chris Recinella for his “how to technique”. In the several times I have spoken with Chris via email or phone, he has always provided remarkable customer service!  Chris listens first to understand the problem, and then provides a brief but necessary overview to help me understand the underlying dynamics of why something may or may not be functioning. His solutions are accurate and timely, and he never hangs up the phone without asking, “How is everything else going?” This instructional method has proven to be such a big help to me as I learn to navigate through SkillPro, and assist others.

 

Please let them know that I am thankful for their assistance…and how great it is to work with such WONDERFUL people!

 

Thanks  

 

Tiffany M. Greene

Data Integrity Officer C4















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