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Secretary's Message

April 11, 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

Youth Success Day at the Florida Capitol

I was proud to stand with distinguished guests including our 2014 Youth Ambassadors and members of the State Advisory Group

Back row (L to R): FJJA Executive Director Cathy Craig-Myers, Evan  Flynn, Reggie Burch, Juwan Vann Front row (L to R): Shadai Simmons, me, Savannah Kennison

On Tuesday, I was honored to award our 2014 Youth Ambassadors on the steps of the Florida Capitol as a part of Youth Success Day. This ceremony was a cornerstone of the Florida Children’s Week events focused on the success of the juvenile justice system in helping youth to turn their lives around and highlighted programs from around the state that are working to reduce juvenile crime. 

The 2014 Youth Ambassadors are Savannah Kennison from the Lifeline Family Center and Circuit 20, Shadai Simmons from Ready for Life, Reggie Burch from the Home Builders Institute, Juwan Vann from Eckerd Youth Alternatives and Evan Flynn from the Circuit 9 STEP group. These bright young people benefited from the services that our agency provided and gave them the opportunity to turn their lives around for the better. 

I would like to thank FJJA Executive Director Cathy Craig-Myers, FJJF Chair Dr. Dan Beeman, Representative Jason Brodeur,  Representative Ray Pilon, SAG Chairman Lucas Boyce and Gainesville Chief of Police Tony Jones for joining me in support of the important work we are doing at DJJ. In the words of Chief Jones, “We will not arrest our way out of crime.” For more information regarding our 2014 Youth Ambassadors, click here.

After the Ambassadors ceremony, I was happy to meet with the children and leaders from the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program during Youth Success Day at the Florida Capitol. During our visit we discussed our prevention programs and services as well as the services of the Department as a whole.  

DJJ Employee Wins National Award

On Wednesday, the United States Department of Justice awarded DJJ Employee, Pat Tuthill, with the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award during the National Crime Victims’ Rights Service Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Pat was honored for her leadership in strengthening notification practices for crime victims and policies for monitoring and supervising parolees and probationers who move across state lines.

Pat lost her daughter fifteen years ago to a senseless act of brutality by a convicted criminal sent for drug treatment, as an unsupervised probationer, from Maryland to Colorado, without notice to Colorado officials. After her daughter’s death, she became a legislative activist, public speaker and advocate for crime victims of unsupervised offenders.  She traveled the country to convince policymakers in each state to support new legislation for monitoring and supervising parolees and probationers who move across state lines. In 2005, she helped 

Massachusetts become the 50th state to enact Interstate Compact Adult Offender Supervision. In Aug. 2013, her work culminated in the implementation of the first National Automated Standardized Victim Notification System, ensuring that all victims and their families, no matter where they live, are notified of all significant changes when offenders move between states so they can implement a safety plan.

She also founded the Peyton Tuthill Foundation “Hearts of Hope Scholarships” in 2005 to provide college scholarships to children left behind by homicide. The foundation has awarded $30,000 in scholarships to date. President Reagan, whom the award is named after, proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, calling for renewed emphasis on, and sensitivity to, the rights of victims. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be observed this year from April 6-12, and the theme is “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.” To view Pat’s story, click here.

Pictured Right: Deputy Attorney General Cole, Pat Tuthill and Lee Kitchen, Pat’s husband)                           

Florida League of Women Voters Legislative Summit 

On Thursday, I was honored to address the Florida League of Women Voters (FLWV) during their 2014 Legislative Summit at the Florida Capitol. The annual FLWV Summit brings members from all over the state to Tallahassee to advocate on issues before state leaders, ensuring that a strong and united League voice is heard. Previously dubbed Legislative Seminar, this two-day conference during legislative session has in the past included seminars and trainings on understanding League positions and advocating with civility, briefings with legislative leaders in the Cabinet room of the Florida Capitol, lobbying legislators in person, members-only formal luncheons and dinners, and fundraising galas with Florida leaders.

Rikki Meet and Greet

Today, I had the opportunity to meet with Rikki, a therapy dog from the Animal Therapy Program at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, and her owner, Chuck Mitchell. Rikki will potentially be working with DJJ at the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center (LRJDC) and showed off her therapy skills this morning with Julia Strange, Assistant Secretary for Detention and LRJDC Superintendent Cody Wood. Rikki was a big hit with several other headquarters staff as well. Stephanie Perkins, Program Coordinator for the TMH Therapy Program, also shared with us the many benefits therapy animals provide to clients they work with through the Circuit 2 courts.

Through DJJ’s Trauma-Informed Initiative, we welcomed our own therapy dogs, Justice and Oliver to our detention centers in South Florida. Detention Services is looking to expand this program and welcome more therapy dogs to our facilities. Partnering with Rikki and the TMH Animal Therapy program will be a great addition to our program.

Prevention Update

On Monday, 2013-14 Florida Youth Commissioner Maya King spoke at the Children’s Week Dinner at the FSU University Club in Tallahassee. Maya King, a junior honor roll student at Maclay High School in Tallahassee, gave a speech to promote the FYC and its endeavors during the past year. DJJ leadership was in attendance to support her and represent the department.

Deputy Secretary Christy Daly; Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Wanda Finnie; Florida Youth Commissioner Maya King; Secretary Wansley Walters; Chief of Staff Jason Welty at the Children's Week dinner

Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris, Administrative Assistant Yvonne Maffia, CPO Jill Wells and Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman attended the Circuit 8 Advisory Board meeting at the Gilchrist County School Board office in Trenton Wednesday. The Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Boards primarily focus on juvenile delinquency prevention programs and services such as mentoring, teen courts, neighborhood accountability boards, partnership programs, after-school programs and public forums. The Florida legislature authorizes the establishment of Circuit Advisory Boards. The Circuit Boards serve as advisors to DJJ according to their statutory responsibilities. Members of the boards work closely with DJJ staff to plan for services that meet the identified needs of juveniles and families within the local community.

This week, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) State Advisory Group (SAG) conducted its quarterly meeting in Tallahassee. The JJDP State Advisory Group currently consists of a panel of persons from across the State who have training, experience, or special knowledge of the juvenile justice system.  SAG members are appointed by the Governor and are responsible for the administration and management of federally allocated funds. During their meetings, SAG members heard presentations from members of DJJ leadership, attended Youth Success Day activities at the Florida Capital and toured the Palmer Munroe Teen Center’s Restorative Justice Program. Palmer Munroe is a Prevention provider.

Pictured above: SAG members pose with members of Palmer Munroe Teen Center’s leadership team in front of the Palmer Munroe Teen Center Tallahassee                                                                         

On April 1, the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program in Hillsborough County was showcased on WTSP Channel 10 Community Segment. The program is administered by University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC) as a DJJ Prevention Provider and operated by various other area agencies throughout Central Florida. You can view the story by clicking here.

Whether it's painting, playing the guitar, or rapping to a beat—the Prodigy program is capturing the minds and hearts of young people throughout the Tampa Bay area. Funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice, Prodigy uses the arts to teach at-risk youth life skills. For more information on Prodigy and how you can get your kids involved go to www.transformingyounglives.org.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson Grady attended the Visions of Manhood Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday at the Walker Ford Community Center in Tallahassee. All of the graduates were on probation for small infractions, and they all met the requirements set forth by the courts of attending and meeting program guidelines for 10 weeks. Their mission statement is:  To educate and assist all males and females who are in need of knowledge, support and/or encouragement to become more responsible youth and effective men and women.

(from left to right): Chief Probation Officer Minnora Bishop; Director, Joe Thomas;  Program Facilitator LaRhonda Jess; Assistant CPO Rico Cooper; Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson- Grady.

On Tuesday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle was interviewed by Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew to promote the Florida Youth Commission during their Children’s Week activities. To view the complete article, click here

The PACE Center for Girls in Polk County held their annual fundraiser entitled “Believing in Girls,” Luncheon last Thursday at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd served as the emcee for the luncheon. PACE, a prevention provider, uses a comprehensive and holistic model that integrates social services, education, and career readiness in a safe, gender-responsive environment that reflects an understanding of the lives of girls and responds to their strengths and challenges. PACE provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. 


(from left to right): Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who served as the emcee for the luncheon, poses with PACE students, Amy, Kyla and Cynthia. 

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended the Youth Success Day activities at the Florida Capitol and met with one of our 2014 Youth Ambassadors Evan Flynn. The purpose of Youth Success Day was to promote and recognize the accomplishments of young people throughout the state of Florida. 


Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson toured the Wayman Community Development Corporation in Jacksonville on last Wednesday. Wayman Community Development Corporation, a Prevention provider, is a faith based non-profit organization committed to Making a Difference by strengthening communities and improving lives. Wayman offers mentoring, child care, summer camp and counseling for youth and their families in Duval County. Wayman’s theme is: “Empowering Communities. Creating Opportunities. Supporting Success.”  

(from left to right): T'Lana Russell, Executive Director of Wayman Community Development Corporation and Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson

Residential Update

The Okeechobee Youth Development Center (OYDC), Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center (OYTC), Okeechobee Youth Correctional Center (OYCC), and Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House (OIHH) programs, which are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, spent Spring Break engaged in several recreational activities.  The main event was the March Madness Basketball Tournament.

The young men engaged in basketball competitions by cottage, complete with playoff brackets.  The final Championship Game (OYTC Koger vs. OIHH Panthers) was held on April 4, 2014, complete with an official scoreboard, fans, food, and two volunteer referees from the local community.  The March Madness Basketball Tournament was a complete success and everyone had a great time.  The boys from OYTC Koger are this year’s basketball champions!


The residents of OYTC, OYDC, and OYCC also enjoyed the music and inspirational testimony of rock musician Pontus J. Back whose musical accomplishments include tours with bands like Whitesnake, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Status Quo and Cinderella.  After living a lifestyle of 150+ shows a year around the world, he nearly died from drug and alcohol abuse.  

His final stop on a 20-day tour of the USA was in Okeechobee where he talked to about 50 boys.  He spoke about the potential destruction of a rock star lifestyle and the dangers of the abuse of drugs and alcohol.  He also played guitar and sang both secular and gospel music.  The boys were riveted by his words, his music, and being able to interact with him after his presentation.

At the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a moderate-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, the staff and residents enjoyed hearing from former program resident David Lester.

David spoke to current Dade JRF residents, sharing his story of success and providing guidance to the boys about some of the obstacles they may face upon being discharged from the program.  The following is the narrative from the program’s submission for David to be considered for the 2014 Youth Ambassador for Florida’s Youth Success Day:

David Lester is a self-motivator.  Knowing the struggles that were ahead of him upon release from the program and knowing that he had to successfully complete aftercare via one of the AMI programs while still living in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Florida City, David utilized the mentoring network he connected with while in commitment to help him overcome the obstacles he would face.

David knew he had a lot of catching up to do academically if he was to achieve his goal of playing high school athletics.  Immediately upon release, he invested the majority of his time in focusing on academics.  While at AMI, David approached his aftercare counselor about the possibility of enrolling at South Dade Senior High School in hopes of fulfilling his dream of playing high school football.  With the blessing of his aftercare provider and the coaches at South Dade, David was able to enroll at South Dade and became a member of the football team. 

This past November, David accomplished the unimaginable as he and his teammates stood on the field of the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando and were presented medals for having completed an undefeated season and winning the first FHSAA State Championship Football trophy in the history of South Dade High School. 

Upon completion of the football season, David was approached by the coach of the wrestling team and asked if he would like to become a member.  David joined and went on to win several athletic accolades as a member of the South Dade wrestling team that happens to be one of the most storied programs here in the Dade County area.  While accomplishing a lot as a student athlete, David never lost sight of what was most important to him, his academics. 

While juggling practice with attending study hall and completing his course work, David found the time to enroll in virtual school, in order to get caught up with his credits, and has been attending weekly tutoring sessions in preparation for the ACT and SAT exams he has scheduled himself to take.  David once said that attending college was a dream of his that he never thought would be a reality.  Through his hard work, devotion and perseverance this dream of his is now in sight and he has been successful in removing any obstacle that would deter him from reaching it.

Probation Update

On Monday, CPO Peg Lamarca, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq from Circuit 20 and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts attended the Nehemiah LIFE Forum at the Harborside Event Center in Ft. Myers. Peg and Theda discussed the importance of civil citation utilization within the community. The forum brought to the forefront the issue of increasing the use of civil citations with an ultimate goal of at least 80% of eligible youth receiving civil citations within the next two years. 

North Region Probation Director Jill Clemens and former North Region Director Paula Pohill participated in the 8.5 mile March of Dimes March for Babies on March 22. The money raised during this walk supports programs in the local community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. And, it funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies. The March for Babies started in 1970 and has raised an incredible $2.3 billion to benefit all babies.

A youth returning from a residential commitment was having transportation issues , but demonstrated a sincere commitment to attend all of his appointment – even walking to one of them in the rain. Accordingly, SJPO Samantha Jones and JPOs Jennifer Mefford and Robin Myers from Circuit 14 collected donations of hygiene items, clothing and a bicycle he could use to get to and from his court-mandated appointments. The youth was very thankful for the generosity of our probation staff. 

DJJ Circuit 4 Probation staff in Clay County assisted in the Cinderella Project that provided twenty prom dresses for this year’s Ridgeview High School Prom so that those youth less fortunate had the opportunity to feel beautiful for the prom. The prom was a huge success thanks to the generous donations allowing those girls to attend their high school prom. This community project was great for the girls’ self-esteem and also gave them an opportunity to participate in an important pro-social activity that they may have otherwise missed.

On Tuesday, CPO Judy Roysden, OMC Fred Thomas, Reform Specialist Khalilah Daniels and JDAI Coordinator Scott Buchanan from Circuit 13 attended a community event hosted by the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE). This organization, advocates around the nation for affordable and safe housing and jobs for people with criminal and juvenile justice histories. One area that was addressed at the meeting was reducing juvenile arrests by increasing the use of civil citations. In Hillsborough County, a youth charged with Domestic Violence Battery or Possession of Marijuana is not eligible for civil citation. Including these offenses in the civil citation program will help reduce arrests and offer an alternative to secure detention. 

JPOS Harold Garves and SJPO Kim Myers from Circuit 6 made a presentation to a Juvenile Delinquency Class at St. Leo University on March 27. These officers spoke to the students about our agency including what services we provide and how cases move through the delinquency system. The students were especially interested in Civil Citation and Electronic Monitoring.  The students were provided with a copy of the Roadmap and several other pamphlets outlining DJJ programs.  

Members from the Circuit 6 Probation Office in Pinellas County visited the HOPE Youth Ranch last Friday in honor of the Day of the Young Child. Staff members participated in an activity with the youth in foster care who take residence at the home. The girls, who are often placed at the home for counseling and education, were almost as excited as the JPO’s to work together to make cards for the Easter Holidays.  During the activity, the JPOs were able to serve as mentors to the girls and the girls loved sharing their stories.  


Last Wednesday, SJPO Dionne Anderson, and JPOs Dwayne Smith, Debbie Blass, Egnis Ortiz and Aaron Rivas from Circuit 9 participated in events centered on National Autism Awareness Day. These events helped raise awareness for Autism which effects one out of every 88 children. 

Detention Update

In observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Bay RJDC is supporting the local Child Advocacy Center in Panama City to help raise awareness and educate the community regarding child abuse. The RJDC purchased blue ribbons and pinwheels to post around the facility to be sold, with the proceeds going directly back into the community to assist with child abuse prevention services. Many of the youth we serve come from abusive or neglectful backgrounds. Partnering with these other agencies is a very effective way to pool resources and ensure we are all working together for the best care of all youth. The staff at Bay challenges all DJJ employees to find a way to support Child Abuse Prevention Month!

This week, Maureen Honan from Detention Services and Jeannie Becker-Powell from Probation presented Trauma-Informed Care training at the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council meeting at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. DJJ’s faith-based community partners and volunteers play such an important role in the lives of youth and families receiving our services. 


The Duval RJDC held their annual Spring Festival last Friday and provided educational services and fun booths for all of the youth in attendance. Youth also participated in a poster contest during the event and played many games. One of which was a game called "Drug Jeopardy". The questions focused on increasing youth's awareness of the effects that substance use can have on one's body and brain and withdrawal symptoms from different substances. 


Juvenile Probation Officer Graduation Ceremony

Today, I was pleased to provide the welcome address to congratulate the newest class of DJJ probation officers, which graduated today in a ceremony at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. JPOs ensure youths comply with court requirements and assist teens and their families in accessing services, such as counseling and skills development that support the youths’ success. 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. They provide a formal recommendation for each youth who is arrested, and advise the court regarding appropriate sanctions and services. 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. Thanks to learning consultant Christina Ash for leading the class through the certification process for this position of critical responsibility.

Front row (left to right): Charmaine Duverne (Tampa), Heather LaVerne (Daytona Beach), Melanie Ross-Martinez (Ft. Meyers), Holly Sharp (Daytona), Elaine Thompson (Key West). 

Middle row: Roberto Pinero (Bartow), Reginia Galery (Deland), Jennifer Santana (Sebring), Arkesha Stevens (Daytona Beach), Tiffany Witter (Bartow), Brandy Carroll (Daytona Beach), Francisco Rivera (Deland), Ivana Ruiz (Bradenton), Sandie Bowlin (Bartow). 

Back row: James McCoy (Bartow), Norman Nichols (Bradenton), Isaac Espier (Tampa), Michael Magulick (Bartow), Rachael Pierre-Louis (Bartow), Bruce Beumel (Sebring), Greg Parker (Panama City), Michael Conville (Flagler), Derreck Wellington (Ft. Lauderdale).

FJJA Award 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.

Awards will be handed out for each of the following categories: Public Service Award, Creativity/Innovation Award, Client Service Award, Unsung Hero Award, Leadership Award and the Youth Leadership Award.

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.