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Secretary's Message

March 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

Delaware Juvenile Justice Delegation Visits Pinellas County

This week, Circuit 6 DJJ staff hosted a delegation from Delaware who traveled down to our fair state to learn more about the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project in Pinellas County. Our team, led by Central Region Director Tim Niermann and Circuit 6 CPO Adrienne Conwell, took the delegation on a tour of the Juvenile Assessment Center, the Pinellas RJDC and the Charles Britt Academy. The delegation also attended a reception for PACE Center Ambassadors on Wednesday night and heard presentations on Data and Research from Director Mark Greenwald and Civil Citation from Statewide Coordinator Theda Roberts on Thursday.  The delegation ended their visit this morning with a tour of the Safe Place CINS/FINS shelter and a meeting with area stakeholders. I am thrilled about the opportunity to showcase our efforts to turn Florida into a National model for juvenile justice and thank the Delaware delegation for visiting. 

Legislative Update

This week marked the third week of the legislative session and our legislative priority concerning our Chapter 985 revisions, (SB 700 and HB 7055 respectively) are moving through the legislative process with relative ease. On Wednesday, I spoke in both the House and Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittees in support of both versions of the bill which provides the lasting reform that Florida’s juvenile justice system so desperately needs. Both bills passed unanimously out of committee as they make their way through each chamber. I would like to thank Senator Robert Bradley and Representative Ray Pilon for their continued sponsorship of this important piece of legislation as well as our legislative team of Jon Menendez and Marcus Smith.

Prevention Update

On February 26, the Brandon Prodigy Program held the Prodigy Showcase “A Vision for Our Community,” which is administered by University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC) as a DJJ Prevention Provider and operated by various other area agencies such as Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. February marked the annual Prodigy Cultural Arts Program Showcase Month, celebrating the talents of participating youth in visual and performing arts. Showcase Month spotlights various art forms such as dance, music production, vocal performance, painting, photography, drums, keyboard, guitar, sculpture, drawing and creative writing. The theme for this year’s event includes the different “visions” Prodigy sites have for their communities, leadership, and successes.  Brandon Prodigy’s theme was “A Vision for Our Community” in which each youth demonstrated their desired goals and hopes for themselves and their community. The youth also displayed vibrant art pieces as well as sang and performed lessons about teamwork and helping one another.  Brandon Prodigy served 40 prevention youth as well as 7 diversion youth throughout their program during the month of February.

On Monday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee accompanied Gina Gibbs from Pinellas County Justice & Consumer Services and member of the JDAI DMC subcommittee to meet with Mickie Thompson, Executive Director from 2-1-1Tampa Bay Cares, Inc. to discuss concerns heard from community members and to get a better understanding of the 2-1-1 System.  In the Tampa Bay area, 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares, Inc. provides services to Pinellas and Hernando counties. The 2-1-1 system links the following services to community: family needs, furniture, beds, bus passes, food, emergency linen uniforms, referrals, and shelters just to name a few. 2-1-1 is a free confidential 3-digit phone number available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day in 150 languages. Every Friday, the team meets to discuss issues and problems working on ways to reach the needs of the community.

On Wednesday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle attended the Florida Black Caucus Emerging Leaders’ Summit where she presented on youth engagement and community involvement at the Historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee. The Summit is held annually to provide young leaders across Florida with opportunities and access to skills and people to enhance their leadership skills.

In addition to Cici’s presentation, State Advisory Group (SAG) Chair and Director of Community Relations, Multicultural Insights and Governmental Affairs with the Orlando Magic Lucas Boyce spoke at the Emerging Leaders’ Summit. Lucas spoke on the importance of being an emerging leader and shared the story of his life’s journey of how he reached a position of leadership and influence in the business world.

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Wanda Finnie and Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle attended the PACE Center for Girls Day at the Florida Capitol last Friday to recognize PACE for the work the centers do throughout Florida to assist girls. PACE Center for Girls, Inc. is a nationally recognized and research based model that features a balanced emphasis on academics and social services with a focus on the future for middle and high-school aged girls and young women. There are 18 PACE facilities in Florida.

Kelly Otte, Executive Directive Director of PACE Center for Girls in Leon County speaks during PACE Day at the Capitol


On March 12, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle attended the PACE Center for Girls Night Out at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. This night out allowed girls attending PACE Center for Girls’ facilities around the state to meet and bond.

On Wednesday, DJJ team members from the Offices of Prevention and Probation attended a meeting at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. Our team members met with staff concerning an upcoming “lock-in” for boys that are scheduled for mid-June. 

(from left to right): Craig Swain, DMC Specialist; Officer Melissa Rios; Margaret McLaughlin, JPO; Elizabeth Phillips, Reform Specialist; Morgan Assidy, JPO; Monique Nichols, JPO; Kendra Moore, Assistant Director of the Teen Center; O'Tia Nash, Recreation Aide; Jasmine Butler, Recreation Aide; and local area youth.

Residential Update

Last Friday, the Residential Services Central Regional Office hosted its quarterly meeting of residential program directors and staff in the Mike Rippe Auditorium of the Florida Department of Transportation Building in Bartow.  The meeting was led by Central Regional Director Tom McFadyen.  The day’s presentations included a review of the Department’s goals for normalization in residential commitment settings, an update on the Incident Operations Center (IOC) and Management Reviews, and a training by Statewide PREA Coordinator Gene McMahon on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), shown in the photo to the left.

Approximately 45 representatives of residential providers and DJJ offices attended the daylong meeting:  Elma Adame, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Freddie Anderson, Program Director, Tampa Residential Facility & Les Peters Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Dave Bassler, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Meg Bates, DJJ-HQ, Residential Programs & Policy Coordinator; Adam Bazini, Facility Administrator, Bartow Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Joseph Chestnut, Executive Director, Youth Environmental Services (AMIkids, Inc.); Novell Chestnut, Program Director, Charles Britt Academy (Youth Services International, Inc.); Cedric Cliatt, Program Director, Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (AMIkids, Inc.); Shaurice Darling, Facility Administrator, Hillsborough Girls Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Ginny Donovan, DJJ-Circuit 12, Chief Probation Officer; Frank Gargett, DJJ-Detention Central Region, Operations & Program Manager; Melinda Gouldsbury, DJJ-Central Region, Administrative Review Specialist; Robert Holland, DJJ-Central Region, General Services, OMC II; Ken Houk, DJJ-Statewide Management Review Supervisor; Melissa Johnson, DJJ-Central Region, Program Monitor; Todd Johnson, Facility Administrator, Orange Youth Academy/Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Teresa Kyser, DJJ-Central Region, Administrative Assistant II; Nick LeFrançois, DJJ-Residential Central Regional SMA-II; Denise Lovett, Facility Administrator, Polk Halfway House (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Kerrick May, Program Administrator, Kissimmee Juvenile Correctional Facility (Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC); Tom McFadyen, DJJ-Residential Central Regional Director; Mack McLeod, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Gene McMahon, DJJ-HQ, Statewide PREA Coordinator; Bill Mecklenburg, DJJ-Circuit 6, Pasco JAC; Kirstie Naoom, Program Administrator, Central Pasco Girls Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Tim Niermann, DJJ-Central Region, Lead Chief Probation Officer; Joseph Nixon, Facility Administrator, Brevard Group Treatment Home, (Center for Drug-Free Living); Kenneth Owens, Assistant Facility Administrator, Palmetto Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Gloria Perez, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Vernon Pryer, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Willie Queen, Facility Administrator, Les Peters Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Demetria Refoure, Facility Administrator, Lake Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Jarrid Robinson, Facility Administrator, Spring Lake Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Brian Rogers, Facility Administrator, Riverside Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Ramona Salazar, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Laurie Stern, Eckerd – Project Bridge; Joseph Shuler, Facility Administrator, Palmetto Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC); Debbie Sowder, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Staff Assistant; Debbie Sutton, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Classification & Placement Supervisor; Monica Webb, DJJ-Residential Central Region, Program Monitor; Wendy Whittington, Facility Administrator, Frances Walker Halfway House (Center for Drug-Free Living); Kim Wiles, Sarasota County JAC, Circuit 12; Ken Wint, Regional Director, Gulf Region (G4S Youth Services, LLC); and Norma Wynn, Facility Administrator, Avon Park Youth Academy (G4S Youth Services, LLC).

Shown above are Debbie Sutton, Nick LeFrancois and Tom McFadyen

Probation Update

Last Friday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq from Circuit 20 attended an initial subcommittee meeting hosted by Naples Regions Bank Vice President Jessie Metohu and Goodwill Coordinator Estrella Rodriguez with the goal of gathering vital information on the barriers that face our youth today. The subcommittee, which does not have a name just yet, also discussed issues pertaining to youth who are transitioning to the workforce and providing financial literacy to schools and afterschool programs. Also in attendance were representatives from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and DJJ partner Henkels & McCoy whose involvement in the community is working to turn the lives of our young people around. The subcommittee is planning another meeting in April. 

JPOS Yvonne Ortiz and JPOs Gregory Wade and Pierre Conner from Circuit 6 took part in the continuation of the Gulfport Community Service Project on March 8. These officers accompanied youth in their care in this project who earned valuable community service hours.

Circuit 6 JPOS Jim Lane attended the Black History Program sponsored by the Wildwood Parks and Recreation Center in Wildwood on February 28. This event featured local youth as they performed performances related to Black History. 

JPO Lawanta Stewart, also from Circuit 6, participated in the spring semester student orientation at St. Petersburg College on Tuesday. Lawanta is a member of the Human Services Advisory Committee at  the college and spoke with registered students about various careers in the human services field. 

On Wednesday, JPOS’ Robyn Worlds, Pearl McKahan, JPOs Eric Gaela and Julia Rogers and Reform Specialist Tracy Olson hosted an open house at the Seminole County Probation Office in partnership with Youth Moves, the Federation of Families and Wrap around Seminole. Both youth and their families were invited to attend. The parents were provided information about valuable resources while the youth met in a separate room to take park in a project entitled “What Helps, What Harms.” The purpose of this project was to gather input from youth who are considered veterans of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems in order to organize and present their ideas and then determine what is needed to implement positive change. 

left to right, Dana Giblock, Wraparound Seminole, Crystal Lilly, Federation of Families, Dawn Wadle, Family Partner, Verlese Pender, Youth Moves, Robyn Worlds, JPOS, Tracy Olson, reform specialist, Pearl Mckahan, JPO.

Following the event, Tracy received an e-mail from a parent who attended the meeting with his daughter. It reads:  

Tracy- I really thought it offered benefits for both the youth and the parents. It was interesting to hear the questions and remarks from the parents/grandparents on how they have dealt with their individual circumstances offering advice and solutions to others that maybe going through similar situations.  For the youth I think initially they were afraid to speak freely at first but my Daughter reacted after we left that it was good to hear about others going through situations like hers and it prompted an opportunity to discuss learning alternative ways to deal with these situations that the young people are facing today at home, school and the community.

CPO Adrienne Conwell and SJPO Sharronah Scott from Circuit 6 were invited on Monday by Professor Henry to provide students at Eckerd College an overview of the juvenile justice system. Adrienne and Sharronah discussed a wide variety of topics including prevention services, the Roadmap to System Excellence, DMC, and Civil Citation to a class of 27 students studying juvenile justice. 

Last Friday, Circuit 4 CPO Gwen Steverson, Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts, JDAI Coordinator Colleene Scott and North Regional Director for Detention Dixie Fosler attended a meeting at the Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville. This collaborative meeting focused on JDAI expansion. 

From left to right: Gwen Steverson, Theda Roberts, Colleene Scott, and  Dixie Fosler

Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson visited several Orange County high schools during the month of March to conduct presentations about our agency to the Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS). The POPS program provides personal and professional development for those students that face social and economic barriers that impact the quality of their lives. Melinda spoke to the students about her job duties and provided an overview and direction about DJJ while answering questions about the juvenile justice system. 

I would like to congratulate JPOS Caren Langevin, JPO Shelly-Ann Wilson and Projects Liaison Rick Wetherell from Circuit 20 who graduated and received their certificate of completion for the Instructor Techniques Workshop and the Suicide Prevention Train the Trainer Sessions on Wednesday. 

Detention Update

Last Friday, Miami-Dade RJDC Superintendent Daryl Wolf and the facility’s resident pet-therapy dog Justice were invited to address a group of Miami Dade College students during a class entitled “Contemporary Issues in Corrections.”   Justice was so excited to go to college and see so many prospective employees that he tried to kiss all of them.  He greeted each class member with love and excitement and exemplified the creative and caring manner in which the Department works with the most troubled youth. Daryl discussed the numbers ways in which Justice has successfully softened the approach in working with children, and how he continues to melt the hearts of all who come in contact with him. 

Last week I mentioned that the first group of puppies graduated from the TAP (Teens Adopting Puppies) program at the Brevard RJDC. Well just like the circle of life, the new group of baby canines which were born in January has made their arrival to the facility. The TAP Program continues to provide therapy to our youth at Brevard while giving the puppies a place to stay until they can find an adoptive family. 

This week, a second group consisting of twenty-two detention employees and two persons from the Office of Staff Development and Training attended MK Mueller’s 8 Step Process for Change training at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Quincy. “8 to Great” is an 8-step process for young adults and adults who are facing challenges and teaches processes for forgiving the past, rebuilding self-confidence, taking full responsibility, communicating more effectively, and making better decisions. An additional training will be held in Tampa on May 8 as a part of our continued efforts to reform Detention Services by providing trauma-informed environments within our centers.

FJJA 2014 Awards Nominations

Each year, FJJA recognizes excellence with awards presented at the annual FJJA Adolescent Conference. The awards are given to deserving individuals who work in member or state agencies, and who show youth the “way forward” -- giving much of themselves to enrich the lives of our at-risk youth. 

FJJA is excited to launch the application process for the 2014 Adolescent Conference “The Way Forward: Our Communities, Our Youth, Our Future.” 

To nominate someone and to find awards criteria, click here. Nominations will be accepted online through Friday, April 18, 2014.

The top winners will receive a complimentary registration to the 2014 Adolescent Conference and will be honored at the awards banquet on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - opening day of the 2014 Adolescent Conference.   I am thrilled that FJJA has asked that I present the awards.