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Secretary's Message

February 21, 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

Legislative Update

This week marked the last legislative committee week before the start of the Florida Legislative Session on March 4. I am thrilled to report that our two legislative priorities gained significant steam and momentum this week. On Monday, I was honored to introduce SB 700 to the House Criminal Justice committee. This bill, sponsored by Senator Robert Bradley, contains our Chapter 985 revisions which you have reading about for many months now. The bill was well received as it passed the committee unanimously.

On Wednesday HB 173, which covers our Juvenile Justice Education Programs, received unanimous passage through the House Appropriations Committee. The bill sponsored by Representative Janet Adkins has just one committee stop left before it is ready for a full vote in the House.

I would like to thank our legislative team of Jon Menendez and Marcus Smith for their tireless efforts in getting these bills heard as well as Director of Education Julie Orange for excellent work on HB 173.


Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene attended a Human Trafficking Collaborative Engagement Event last Thursday at St. Petersburg College. To increase awareness and to develop strategies to combat human trafficking, Tina joined 40 key stakeholders from agencies such as the Hillsborough County Commission, Department of Homeland Security, DJJ, DCF, law enforcement and other non-profit organizations.

The Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee has started its very own garden. In partnership with Tallahassee Community College’s Take Stock In Children Program, Tallahassee Sustainability Group, Florida A&M University and Damayan Garden Project, the Teen Center Teaching Garden is full of fresh treats. The garden boxes were assembled by teens in September 2013 and were quickly filled with compost and seeds. The Center is a DJJ provider that offers a prevention program for 75 at-risk youth and involves members of the local community to prevent youth from engaging in behavior that is detrimental to their success and the success of the community.

In order to teach the young people how to grow their own food, the art of working in a garden and the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, the garden curriculum includes hands-on learning, math, science and journaling. Carrots, spinach, cilantro, beets and radishes were planted for the winter. The teens have enjoyed the fruits of their labor and enjoy their time in the garden.

On Tuesday, Federal Grants Coordinator Juliet Westmoreland assisted with coordination for those attending Grandparent’s Week at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee. In order to highlight Grandparent’s Week at Gilchrist, Juliet assisted with signing in the seniors to the school and providing directions to help them learn their way around the school so they could provide assistance to children.

On Wednesday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle and DMC Specialist Craig Swain attended training in Jacksonville for Cross-Cultural Strategies and Urban Youth Engagement. This training was designed to work with community stakeholders to better engage at-risk youth. 

 Probation Update

Last Friday, Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq served as a guest speaker for the Theories of Criminal Behavior class at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers. Lut spoke about the decline of arrest referrals over the years and our continued efforts through the Roadmap to System Excellence. She also spoke to the behavioral risk factors that JPOs often face when dealing with delinquent youth and families as well as strengthening their protective factors while utilizing motivational interviewing. 

Last week, JPO Benjamin Overgaard and Assistant CPO Lori Bright participated in the First Annual Take Stock in Children Speed Career Dating Event in Sumter County. Benjamin and Lori represented the agency as they taught students from several area high schools about the different vocations that DJJ has to offer. 

Last Wednesday, Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman and the Circuit 8 Probation Team completed their second Juvenile Probation Orientation of 2014 at the DJJ Circuit 8 Community Center. Melanie conducted a class on Project Payback and community service work for youth recently placed in our probation system. Sargent Rob Fanelli from the Gainesville Police Department served as the guest speaker during orientation as he discussed the curfew check program. The youth involved were very interested in what they came to hear and asked many questions. 

ACPO Marcia Reightnour and JPOS Charlene Miller attended the 2014 Domestic Violence Boots and Black Tie Gala in Washington County on February 7. This event was created to raise money and awareness for a planned domestic violence shelter that would serve Holmes and Washington Counties respectively. Several community service agencies were represented including: Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Corrections, Spectrum Counseling Services, Washington Holmes Technical Center, the Council on Aging, Washington County Sheriff’s Department and numerous private businesses.   

On Wednesday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq was the guest speaker for LIFE (Lee Interface for Empowerment) in Ft. Myers. She took the time to answer twenty questions presented by LIFE members, specifically on the implementation and usage of civil citation. The success of this event led LIFE members to invite Lut to the Nehemiah Action Forum in Ft. Myers on April 7.

On Wednesday, Central Region Probation Director Tim Niermann, Central Region Detention Director Jon Loftheim, CPO Virginia Donavan, Manatee RJDC Superintendent Bruce Kelly and JDAI Coordinator Scott Buchanan met with the Juvenile Justice Task force of Manatee County to give a presentation on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI); this in response to the task force requesting more information about the initiative. After the presentation our staff stayed for an informative question and answer session. 

Last Saturday, JPOs Tonya Mathis and Lawanta Stewart attended the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Omicron Beta Lambda chapter’s Black and Gold Scholarship Gala in Clearwater. This event supports the Alpha Institute which is a program within the Youth Development Initiatives. The gala offers continuing support in providing young men with the services, experiences and scholarships they will need to further their dreams, goals and aspirations. 

On Monday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq spoke to the League of Woman Voters in Naples during their monthly meeting. Lut discussed the importance and continued success of civil citation, which was well received. Members of the League of Woman Voters expressed their appreciation in writing below: 

It was an invigorating informational meeting that you presented ... Some very good conversation ensued afterwards.  All of us were in favor of the Florida civil citation process and we support you and this very positive prevention program...thank you again for all you do for us.   

 From Ellen Taylor 

Dear Lut,

It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday and hear your excellent presentation on Civil Citations. I would greatly appreciate any data you have on Marco Island. Once again, thank you for all your efforts on educating and informing me about your important work on behalf of juveniles. 


Linda Hyde

Member, LWV of Collier County 

Hi Lut,

My, how we all liked your presentation yesterday morning at the committee meeting.  You were so informative, giving us information we desperately need as we seek to learn all we can about the Juvenile Justice System.  As you may have noticed, we are all quite passionate about doing what we can to help the youth of Collier County become productive, contributing members of society. Thank you again and thank you for what you do. I look forward to working with you in the future. 


Charlotte Nycklemoe

LWV Justice Chair


Residential Update 

 At Hillsborough Girls Academy (HGA), a high- and maximum-risk program that is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, in the Central Region, there is a new supplement to the treatment programming.  In an effort to enhance structured, leisure activities that are focused on fostering each youth’s insight based upon her own experiences, former Facility Administrator Marci Sutherland implemented a therapeutic approach to movies that includes an essay contest. 

A movie is selected based upon its applicability in helping the young women move forward in their lives in a positive direction.  All youths who participate watch the chosen movie and write an essay.  Each resident who participates receives a prize and there are first, second and third place winners. 

To date, there have been three essay contests based upon the movies “Born Free,” “From Homeless to Harvard,” and “Gracie’s Choice.”  The youths have embraced the concept and “Their essays have been phenomenal,” according to Marci.  “We applaud the girls for their efforts!”

“Gracie's Choice” is based on a real story and a real family, living in California in the early 1990s.  It is the story of a 16-year-old girl who will do anything to keep her siblings together as a family, when the state takes the children into custody.  Their mother was a drug user who was unstable and often missing from the home.  As a result, the children’s lives were chaotic.  The oldest sister was not yet 18 when she asked the judge for custody of her siblings.  The judge was impressed with the teenager and encouraged her to try for custody once she was legally an adult.  The movie is called “Gracie’s Choice” because the young girl made many personal sacrifices to keep her siblings together, choosing them over her boyfriend who gave her an ultimatum when he realized that he could not take the problems associated with raising children.

The first place winning essay, which can be seen by clicking here, is based upon the youth’s life and how the movie “Gracie’s Choice” applies to the HGA resident’s life.  Please take the time to read her essay to see how closely her experiences relate to the plot of the movie.  The HGA student also won a specialty meal and a special recognition presentation within the program.

The young men at Walton Youth Development Center, a high-risk program in the Northwest Region that is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, participated in an art contest titled “The History that Shapes Our Future” as a part of Black History Month activities.  All of the residents participated and submitted entries.

1st Place Winner                                                                                        2nd Place Winner

3rd Place Winner                                                                                          4th Place Winner

Last Thursday, Escambia Boys Base (EBB), a moderate-risk residential halfway house program that is operated by AMIkids, Inc., hosted Derrick “Smoke” Gainer as a guest speaker to provide inspiration from the community.  Gainer is the founder of Fit Nation Inc. in Pensacola, which is a non-profit corporation that focuses on childhood obesity.  The 12-week wellness program helps young people learn about nutrition and fitness and how to incorporate those practices into everyday life.

Born in Pensacola in August 1972, Gainer is a title-holding US boxer who started out in the featherweight division and moved up to the lightweight division.  In 2000, he defeated Freddie Norwood to win the World Boxing Association featherweight title, earning the nickname “Smoke.” 

In 1999, he started a charter high school for at-risk kids that he named after his late grandmother, Dr. Ruby J Gainer.  He founded Fit Nation in the year 2000. While at EBB, “Smoke” spoke to the boys about establishing positive goals and reaching them.

 Juvenile Justice Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the newest class of juvenile justice probation and detention officers (JPOs and JDOs) that graduated today in a ceremony at Valencia College in Orlando. Thanks to Assistant Secretary for Probation Joan Wimmer for delivering the graduation address to the probation class, and to Central Region Director for Detention Services Jon Loftheim for addressing the detention graduates. Kudos to Tanesha Blackmon and Khalilah Daniels for leading the officers through the certification process for these positions of critical responsibility. The JPOs will serve in Circuit 9, which consists of Orange and Osceola counties. The JDOs will serve in the DJJ regional juvenile detention center (RJDC) or county facility listed next to their names, below.

Juvenile Probation Officer Graduating Class

(Left to right) bottom row: Aaron Rivas, Enrique de la Paz, James Millan and Ognol Lys

Middle row: Tinisha Robinson, Quaneisha Scott, Katrina Philpot, Elizabeth Wynn and Brian Wilkins.

Top row: Crystal Harris, Sharala Barnes, Krystle Osborn, Christie Daniels, Dwayne Smith, Angel Rivera and Octavia Troupe.  

Juvenile Detention Officer Graduating Class

(Left to right) bottom row: Resa Ragland – Brevard RJDC, Zandria Nixon – Orange RJDC, Amber Brown – Orange RJDC, Yessica Gomez – Orange RJDC, Johanna Benitez – Orange RJDC.

Middle row: Mark Loiseau – Brevard RJDC, Michael Cole – Orange RJDC, April Hippelheuser – Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center

Top row: Ikea Smith – Orange RJDC, Tianna Beecham - Brevard RJDC, Glenda Forde – Orange RJDC, Julia Hillery – Orange RJDC, Johanna Diaz – Orange RJDC and Ian Cruz (not pictured)

Congratulations also to the following JDOs, who graduated on February 14 from a DJJ Academy held at Broward College. (Although they were mentioned in last week’s letter, a photo was not available at the time of publication.)

Quality Improvement Update 

The Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts an annual review of each state-run and contracted provider program. This is a highly interactive process between the review team and the program, and the focus of these reviews is continuous improvement in services to children and operational processes. Upon completion of each QI review, the program has an opportunity to evaluate their overall QI review experience, including individual QI team members. The feedback DJJ receives ensures fairness and fidelity to the purpose of the review, and allows for the continuous improvement of the QI process. Recently, the QI team in Orlando conducted the annual review of Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House a residential program located in Okeechobee. Program Director Darius Poitier offered the following comments:  

“Overall, the review process was great. The team was fair and consistent. They were not intrusive at all throughout the process. All the team members were courteous and respectful. They asked questions when needed and provided adequate and relevant feedback when appropriate.


All the team members maintained their objectivity. They appeared to work very well together. I've been a part of many reviews prior to this review and this was quite possibly the best team that I had the pleasure of being reviewed by.”

Thanks to the Orlando QI team and peer reviewers: Donna Connors, Pam Graves, Mary Johnson, Kristen Richardson, Freda Smith and Wendy Whittington. Your conscientious commitment to helping programs improve is one example of DJJ’s reform efforts to make Florida a leader in the effective administration of juvenile justice.