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Secretary's Message

March 28, 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

Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Ceremony

 I was pleased to join First Lady Ann Scott and Eckerd at a ceremony yesterday at the Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility in Brooksville to honor the 2012-13 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award winner Ms. Edie Flores. Ms. Flores, a teacher with Eckerd, works with youth placed at CJRF by our agency. With a background in elementary and special education, Edie is well versed in working with diverse learners and differentiated instruction and therefore always plans engaging lessons to meet the unique needs of each student. Edie also works diligently with the local school systems as an advocate for CJRF youth to ensure a successful transition as these students return to their local school system. She often works directly with the receiving schools, students, parents and agency workers in order to facilitate a smooth and successful transition and ensure that the students’ needs come first. For the complete press release, visit http://bit.ly/1pzSGF6

DJJ partnered with the Florida Department of Education to select the finalists for the 2012-2013 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award. Edie was chosen as the 2012-2013 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year from among three finalists out of the many juvenile justice educators throughout the state of Florida. Ms. Flores received an award plaque and a $700 award from the Florida Association of Alternative School Educators (FAASE). Today’s ceremony was sponsored by Pearson. All three teachers will also be recognized at the Florida Juvenile Justice Association’s Annual Conference in May.

Human Trafficking Task Force

Last Friday, Human Trafficking Director Tyson Elliot and Assistant Director Courtney McCowen facilitated the Human Trafficking Task Force Meeting in Altamonte Springs. This meeting pulled task force members together from around the state. The meeting consisted of several break out meetings between service providers and law enforcement in which Tyson and Courtney were able to identify gaps in services, law enforcement investigative needs and work to expand on the compilation of a comprehensive list of local human trafficking organizations in Florida.

Legislative Update

On Monday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed one of our legislative priority bills (SB 598) which addresses Juvenile Justice Education Programs. This bill ensures a quality education for those children within our facilities. I would like to thank Senator Aaron Bean for his sponsorship and continued support.

Yesterday, our other legislative priority took a major step in the legislative process as HB 7055, which contains our heralded Chapter 985 revisions, unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has now made all of the proper committee stops and is ready for a full vote in the House. Again I would like to express my gratitude to Representative Ray Pilon for his sponsorship of this bill.  

South Region Shared Services Pilot 

Next week, after several months of diligent planning, the Office of Program Accountability is launching the pilot of our provider management shared services. For a period of four months, the South Region will test and validate this new concept, gathering data to find out how we can further improve our contract management and program monitoring activities. After the pilot, we will gradually roll-out the shared services to other regions, completing the transition by September 2014. These changes will combine all contract management and planned program monitoring activities into a professional group, serving our program areas. Implementing a shared service function will allow us to achieve better results collaborating with our private service providers and serve Florida’s youth.

Residential Update

Friday, March 21, was the Annual World Down Syndrome Day, which is known in Florida as “Crazy Socks Day.”  In support of this awareness campaign, a senior member of the Residential Services Northwest Residential Team donned a pair of crazy socks and ensured everyone took note of the socks by rolling up her pants.  She even wore crazy shoes!

Last week, 10 residents of the Union Juvenile Residential Facility (UJRF)—a moderate-risk program for males, ages 12 to 19, that is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC—participated in the Adopt-A-Road community service project in partnership with the Union and Baker County Health Departments.  The young men cleaned up a two-mile stretch of road along Highway 301.

Also last week, UJRF held a “Family Day” event with 13 families attending.  The day started with a parent workshop, then lunch, and ended with fun and games—like this dangling donut catch.  Five different families each won $25 gift cards, too.

Last month, Billy Starke, Jr. graciously accepted the additional duties to serve as the Acting Deputy Director for the Residential Services Northeast Regional Office when the position was vacated.  I am pleased to announce his appointment as the Deputy Director.

Billy has more than 27 years of professional experience dedicated to reducing juvenile delinquency through residential programming and operations.  He has been responsible for the administration of program monitors and contract managers assigned to the Residential Services Northeast Regional Office since 2004.  He also served as a program monitor and contract manager from 2001 to 2004.  Prior to that, Billy was the superintendent of the Duval Halfway House from 1996 to 2001.  For 10 years prior to serving as superintendent, he provided direct-care services for youth at Duval Halfway House.

Billy earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Richmond, Va.  He is certified as an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) negotiator and Florida Certified Public Manager who has a strong background in the Quality Improvement process, as well as program investigations and the corrective actions process.  Additionally, he has created positive working relationships with the residential services providers and facility administrators within the Northeast Region, as well as the area’s detention directors and the circuit probation officers.

Prevention Update

Last Saturday, Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris took part in the Sixth Annual Diabetes 2-mile Walk presented by Ahmed Temple #37 & Ahmed Court #134. The theme of the event was “Stepping for Diabetes 2014.” More than $3,000 was raised for diabetes research. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate diabetes affects more than 25 million people in the U.S. Additionally, more than one third of U.S. adults have blood glucose levels just below the threshold to be considered full-blown diabetes.

Following the Diabetes Walk, Eugene Morris (right) poses with a member of the Ahmed Temple Shriners' award-winning clown unit called "Deez Crazy Nutzz." They are known for visiting the hospitals, schools and appearing in parades and festivals in the Big Bend

On Wednesday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson from Circuit 6 attended a Bridging the G.A.A.P. discussion at the Verizon Center in New Port Richey. G.A.A.P. Conversations are designed to provide a foundation for youth to foster positive relationships with law enforcement officers and create a well-balanced understanding by law enforcement of today’s youth. Twelve youth and 12 law enforcement officers took part. G.A.A.P. is an acronym that stands for Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives.

Pat McGhee speaks with youth and law enforcement officers at the New Port Richey G.A.A.P. discussion.

DMC Specialist Craig Swain participated in the Wakulla One meeting last Thursday at the First Baptist Church in Crawfordville. Wakulla One is a unified group of believers that represents multiple faith partners throughout Wakulla County. Craig participated in the meeting to inform the group of the Circuit 2 Faith Network and the statewide Faith Network and to encourage their participation in the Faith Network to enhance the services we provide to the youth and families we serve.

On Wednesday, 2013 Champion of Hope Award Winner Josephine Gamoba-Montgomery was one of 16 women honored by Tallahassee Community College during Women’s History Month as Women of Character, Courage & Commitment.  The Champion of Hope Award was presented by the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council at the2013 National Faith Symposium recognizing organizations that work with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Children and Families. Ms. Gamboa-Montgomery and her husband, Pastor Gary Montgomery, operate a non-denominational community ministry in Tallahassee, called Living Stones International. Ms. Gamboa-Montgomery serves as Chief Operating Officer of Living Stones. She founded the organization to support Big Bend families offering instructional services to help parents and children to overcome life’s obstacles to lead fulfilling lives. Living Stones primarily works with 70 families and 105 children of inmates to have 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.

On Monday, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended a “Be Out Day” at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. The event was designed to be a safe haven for youth who were out of school as a result of teachers’ planning day. The day included seminars and activities for the 135 teens who registered for the activities. The workshops consisted of the following: college preparation discussion; learning about money management, saving and check writing from bank representatives; how to make money and discussions of the music industry.  The teens also played kickball, volleyball, flag football, basketball, dodge ball and worked with crafts and jewelry.

(from left to right): Palmer Munroe Team staff member, O’Tia Nash; DJJ’s Verla Lawson-Grady; Tomica Smith, Palmer Munroe Teen Center Director; and Jasmine Butler, Palmer Munroe staff member.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee attended the 20th Anniversary Kidfirst Awards Luncheon presented by Copperman-Bouge last Thursday in Clearwater. For 20 years, Cooperman-Bogue KidsFirst awards have been recognizing outstanding social services professionals from across Pinellas County. These individuals have passionately carried out the legacy of Attorney Leonard Cooperman and Judge Lincoln C. Bogue, who in 1945, joined other Pinellas County citizens to create the Juvenile Welfare Board.  Through the years, 80 professionals with varying resumes and agency affiliations have received this honor. Four recipients were recognized for this award – Scott  Smith, Lindsay Parete, Lucie Malinski, and Summer Perez.

(from left to right): Audrey "Pat" McGhee; April Putzulu, Public Information Officer for the Juvenile Welfare Board; and Retired Pinellas County Commissioner Sallie Park at the Kidsfirst Awards Luncheon.

Last Thursday, Prevention Specialist Brent Musgrove and Procurement Manager Cheryl Beasley held a solicitation conference call to discuss gender specific services for girls. DJJ, with grant funds made available through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention is seeking proposals for the gender specific needs of at-risk and delinquent girls between the ages of 5-17.  DJJ seeks proposals to address the issue of gender-specific needs by offering program services that support mentoring, civil citation, family engagement, educational enhancement, life skills building, employment placement, parent and child relationship building, after school artistic programs and other services that will support prevention and diversion of youth from the juvenile justice system.

(from left to right): Procurement Manager Cheryl Beasley and Prevention Specialist Brent Musgrove review paperwork for the gender-specific proposals.

DJJ Prevention Provider G4S Youth Services held a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Training on March 17 at Headquarters in Tallahassee. G4S conducted the training in order to provide better assistance to DJJ staff and all law enforcement agencies in understanding the JJDP Act of 2002.

(from left to right): Kevin Maurer, JJDPA Compliance Specialist; G. Pete Zeegers, JJDPA Compliance Specialist; Bobbi Pohlman-Rodgers, JJDPA/PREA Compliance Director

Detention Update

On March 14, youth and staff at the Leon RJDC received a visit from a pet therapy dog named Scooter.  The youth at the facility were immediately energized upon Scooter’s arrival. As one youth explained, “My experience with Scooter yesterday was great and so life changing. I was a little sad at first but seeing scooter made my day a lot better. It was a good experience and reminded me of my dog at home. She made it very exciting as if I was at home again.”

This week, Natasha A. Martinez, Esq., Program Associate with the OJJDP National Center for Youth in Custody toured the Miami Dade and Marion RJDC’s, respectively. As a result of the tour, representatives from Detention Services were asked to present Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Juvenile Detention Centers during an upcoming webinar in April. Both tours went extremely well and many accolades were given for the innovative trauma-informed environments at both centers.

Probation Update

SJPO Jared White and JPOs Jon Justison, Melissa Hogans and Kim Dandeneau from Circuit 6 accompanied seven youth during a community service event at the Pinellas County Science Technology Education and Innovation Center last Saturday. Each month the Science Center hosts a community service project for delinquent youth, focusing on improving the non-profit museum. This month, the youth took part in helping to restock the urban agriculture garden. The youth planted corn, onions, collard greens, tomato plants and more, and will be able to monitor the progress of their efforts at future.

Kathy Demosthenes DJJ C15 JDAI Coordinator and Meshach St. Amour President and Founder of Habitat for Children Ministries

JDAI Coordinator Kathy Demosthenes from Circuit 15 made a presentation at the Habitat for Children’s Ministries fundraiser on Tuesday in West Palm Beach. The event raised money and awareness for the Haitian children who are less fortunate. The audience was compromised of numerous advocates and nonprofit organizations associated with children in the Haitian community within and outside of Palm Beach County. Kathy discussed various prevention and intervention services available within the community prior to involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Last Sunday, SJPO Michelle Johnson, JPOS Shelia Miller, Reform Specialist Maria Gilhooley and Secretary Specialist Nikita Pottinger from Circuit 11 participated in an anti-bullying rally organized by an eighth grade student who was committed to take action to stop bullying in her community. Accordingly, she organized a rally to bring awareness on bullying and how to stop it in the local community. The event featured presenters from No Place for Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and Youth Crime Watch.

SkillPro Kudos

Stanley Martin at Paxen-Polk Community Corrections sent this email to thank SD&T SkillPro Team members Artavia Parrish and Karimah Wright for their assistance.  It reads:

Good morning,


 On behalf of Team Paxen, we would like to extend a sincere THANK YOU to both Artavia and Karimah. I am very appreciative and thankful for the overwhelming assistance that you have provided to me/Paxen over the last couple of weeks.

The on-Line Exams were facilitated yesterday without a glitch!! 


Again, THANK YOU all very much and have a blessed weekend.....

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.