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Secretary's Message

May 2, 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

Chapter 985 Revisions Pass Full Legislature

As the 2014 Florida Legislative Session comes to a close, I am elated to report that House Bill 7055, which contains our agency’s revisions to Chapter 985 of Florida Statutes, passed the full Legislature unanimously this week. This bill has been our biggest legislative priority this session, and its full support from the Legislature marks the end of a two-year endeavor to bring much needed juvenile justice reforms to the youth and families that we serve. I would like to thank Representative Ray Pilon and Senator Robert Bradley for their unwavering support in the sponsorship of this bill as well as our legislative team of Jon Menendez and Marcus Smith for all of the hard work they have put into this year’s session. The 2014 Legislative Session is scheduled to end sometime this evening with the passage of the budget. 


Trauma Informed Care Webinar

On Wednesday Dr. Gladys Negron and Dixie Fosler, Regional Directors for Detention Services in the South and North Regions respectively, participated in the National Center for Youth in Custody (NCYC) webinar centered on Trauma Informed Care. The NCYC is a part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This webinar provided training and testimonial to the use and success of Trauma Informed Care (TIC) in juvenile confinement facilities.  Dr. Negron and Ms. Fosler discussed implementing TIC in facilities as well as what is currently being done in TIC facilities along with their observations and success rates. TIC is a vital part of how we care for our youth who are housed within our facilities, and I was grateful that we were able to share our successes with a national audience. 


Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project Update

Last week, the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project (JJSIP) was rolled out in Circuit 5, starting on Wednesday with a morning meeting for Lake County stakeholders, an afternoon meeting for stakeholders from Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties, and a staff training on Friday. At all three meetings, the theory and research behind the Comprehensive Strategy and the use of the Disposition Matrix, as well as placement and practice data, were presented by Director of Research & Planning Mark Greenwald, M.J.P.M., and Senior Research Associate Michael Baglivio, Ph.D.  Mark and Mike also trained staff on the continuum of services and the practical application of the Disposition Matrix when making a recommendation of services for a youth in the juvenile justice system. 

Shown here are Circuit 5 Chief Probation Officer Rick Bedson and Circuit 5 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Lori Bright, who took the lead in organizing the Circuit 5 meetings, are standing with Mike Baglivio and Mark Greenwald, who presented at all three meetings.

Shown here is the Disposition Matrix.  Further information about JJSIP and the Disposition Matrix can be seen online by clicking here.



Kudos to Detention Services

The weather provided quite some challenges in the Florida Panhandle earlier this week leavingEscambia Detention with severe flooding at their facility. Thanks to the staff’s quick reaction all youth were moved to dry areas of the building while maintaining safety and security.  Our dedicated staff even managed to somehow drive through the storm and find alternate routes to work to ensure the well-being of the youth  in their care. They are to be commended for their professionalism, hard work, and fast thinking. 

Our four Panhandle detention facilities – Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay and Leon- were well prepared and have remained positive throughout this crisis. Okaloosa and Bay Detention were also affected by the storm and we thank them for all their efforts in keeping their youth safe and dry. Also a big thank you to several facilities for their assistance in transporting and housing youth from Escambia that had to be transferred out because of the flooding.  And, a shout out to Escambia Boy’s Base for offering their services to do the laundry at their facility. This was a tremendous help to our staff and an exceptional example of team work!


PREA Update

DJJ Statewide PREA Coordinator Gene McMahon is in the process of traveling the state, visiting all DJJ Central Region residential and detention facilities, making sure that each one is prepared for their first Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Audit. This week, Gene visited the Hillsborough Detention Center and Pasco Juvenile Detention Center. He also spent the first part of the week with the Les Peters Academy and Youth Environmental Services residential programs, which are the first juvenile facilities in Florida to receive notice of an upcoming PREA Audit in June.


According to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standard (28 CFR 115.402), audits shall be conducted by “(1) a member of a correctional monitoring body that is not part of, or under the authority of, the agency (but may be part of, or authorized by, the relevant State or local government); (2) a member of an auditing entity such as an inspector general’s or ombudsperson’s office that is external to the agency; or (3) other outside individuals with relevant experience.”


Probation Update

The Circuit 15 Juvenile Advisory Board toured the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility (PBJCF) on April 14. Staff and two of the facility’s aspiring youth served as the main tour guides providing the JAB a run- through of the daily activities at the facility. PBJCF currently has two programs that provide vocational studies: Microsoft Software – where a youth can earn an IT Specialist Certificate; and, Home Builders Institute – where youth learn skills in the area of electrical, plumbing, and structure building. In the near future, PBJCF will start a new culinary program which will allow the youth to become a Food Services Manager or earn their Food Handler Certificate. The Juvenile Advisory Board enjoyed the visit and expressed interest in returning for future programs and events at the facility.

Top Left- Damon Nunn- Facility Administrator, Shirlon McCarty- Reform Specialist, Kathy Demosthenes- JDAI Coordinator, Douglas Kane- Detention Superintendent; Bottom Left- Marcia Edwards- School Board, Sheila Harvey-Lawrence- Facility Principal, Dr. Angela Bess- Educational Alternatives Director, Dr. Barbara Gerlock- Juvenile Advisory Board Chairman

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton coordinated with the Duval County Courthouse staff  to collect food and supplies for the Courthouse Neighbor2Neighbor Supply Drive. The two-week supply drive concluded last Thursday and the JPOs in Circuit 4 filled two large bins with toiletry and food items which will go a long way to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Overall, approximately 1,000 pounds of food, 400 articles of clothing and generous portions of hygiene products and toys were collected and distributed to local non-profit organizations in the Jacksonville area. The Neighbor2Neighbor drive was conceived by Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper as an effort to support community neighbors, specifically families and children in need.  

Circuit 4 SJPO Bernard Collins started a basketball league in the at-risk area of Hollybrook in Duval County. The league, which plays during the spring and summer, was developed to increase community involvement in the area and will give underprivileged middle school aged children the chance to participate. The league was designed to foster positive role models by the coaches and foster sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, and a positive attitude about winning and losing. The JPOs involvement was initiated to build a more positive image for authority figures in the lives of our youth. Their involvement will also help to cultivate better relationships with the youth, families, and community. Bernard, along with JPOs Cliff Anderson and David Paden participate in the league every Tuesday night. 

The Circuit 16 Probation Office held a Poetry, Essay and Poster Contest in April. The participants received gift cards from area merchants, certificates of appreciation and lunch. Below is one of the entries:





I’m just a little girl in a world so cold,


Trying to find a place to keep me warm,


People just don’t know my pain and struggle,


Keep a smile on my face for pretend,


Nobody wants to see a pretty face frown.


So I keep my head held up high in the sky,


While my eyes cry for help.  I don’t want to see myself fall, so I have to do what,


I have to do


To see myself stand for something.


I pray to God every morning and night to heal my heart and soul.


I have to keep cool as my blessing fall into my arms.

Last Friday, Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson attended an event at Indigenous Park in Key West to honor Water Conservation Month, Earth Day and Arbor Day. Elaine and several other members of the probation team, the Drug Court and A Positive Step accompanied several of our youth to learn more about water conservation. In an effort to promote conservation, The city of Key West purchased three, three thousand gallon cisterns for the park (pictured left). Our youth participated by painting the base coat on the cisterns in preparation for an education mural that will be painted to encourage citizens to learn more about the Keys’ water supply. These youth earned valuable community service for their time. 

Last Saturday, Circuit 13 JPO Ardena Bosley participated in Operation Free Fall in Tampa to benefit the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Operation Free Fall is a nationwide event where participants took to the skies to participate in the Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®. At skydive facilities across the country, men and women of all ages and backgrounds jumped out of airplanes, most for the first time ever, as part of Operation Freefall®, the boldest, highest-altitude, and most daring event organized to raise awareness of sexual assault. Operation Freefall started in 2001 when on the fifth anniversary of her rape, Speaking Out About Rape, Inc.® (SOAR®) founder, Kellie Greene, made her first skydive. When Kellie did this, she took a day of tragedy and turned it into a day of triumph. She reclaimed the day that had been taken from her and turned a dreaded annual memorial into a keenly anticipated celebration.

On April 15, Reform Specialist Donna Clayton attended the Human Trafficking Art Competition in Jacksonville hosted by the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition. The student’s artwork  that was displayed was their interpretation of human trafficking. “If we can educate the community about human trafficking, then we can restore a sense of hope and help victims to become whole again,” said Michelle Thorne, victims’ specialist for the FBI. To view photos from the event, click here

I would like to share an e-mail sent to the Circuit 2 Probation Office regarding SJPO LaKisha Bush from Public Defender Michael MacNamara. It reads:



SJPO LaKisha Bush was assigned to do a Pre-Disposition Report on one of my clients, TM, a defendant in Leon County.  TM was charged in three different cases with burglaries that he committed when he was 16.  The State used its discretion to direct file TM and charge him as an adult.  When he was sentenced, April 23, at the age of 18, I subpoenaed SJPO Bush to come to court to testify on her recommendations (DJJ sanctions, high risk program). 


SJPO Bush's testimony was very helpful.  She was clearly very knowledgeable about all of the tools at DJJ's disposal, and more importantly, she was able to clearly articulate the available programs and the distinctions between the same to the court.  She also emphasized TM’s lack of family support.  Although the court did not choose to impose DJJ sanctions, the court did use its discretion to sentence TM as a Youthful Offender (taking his punishment exposure from ~45 years down to 6).  Without SJPO Bush's testimony, I don't know that TM would have gotten as good of a result as he did.  I ended up making his lack of family support a feature of my argument at his sentencing hearing.  If SJPO Bush hadn't mentioned that, then I probably would not have thought to emphasize it.  In the end, I think the argument about the lack of family support weighed heavily in the court's ultimate decision to show TM some leniency.  Additionally, JPO Bush was easy to contact and willing to help. 


Michael L. MacNamara, Assistant Public Defender

Last Sunday, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq and SJPO Toni Lesher from Circuit 20 partnered with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida for the First ‘Drive The Lane’ Celebrity Basketball Game at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. This family-fun event provided a platform of conversations between adults and youth about the dangers of underage drinking and demonstrated, through example, that there can be fun without underage drinking.  

We believe in mobilizing the entire community by involving parents, youth, community groups, other stakeholders as well as celebrities, heroes and champions to tackle this complex problem. Lut and Toni represented the Department by promoting the agency’s reform efforts and prevention through civil citation. They provided brochures on an array of issues that our young generation and families face as well as promoting the Department’s mission to reduce delinquency. Hometown champions, Earnest Graham and Jevon Kearse, as well as Jeff Dellenbach, Duante Culpepper and Antonio Freeman, all former NFL players, participated playing basketball on the court. 

JPOS Kathy D’Alessandro shared a letter she received from the parents of a youth that recently completed his term of probation under the supervision of JPO Jim Mitchell. It reads:



Ms. D’Alessandro,


Last year, due to ignorance of the law, our son found himself in trouble.  He had never been in trouble before.   He is very capable and industrious – and he bought dirt bikes, ATV’s and small boats on Craigslist and would fix them and resell them for a profit.   He was offered an item in partial payment that he should not have – and when pulled over for a routine traffic stop – he declared it to the officer thinking he was following the law.  Since he was not 18, he found himself in jail.  Of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse.


We found our son tied up in the legal system with a lot of other kids that were in trouble, but our son was not like them.  We were assigned a JPO, and we realized that we had to help our son accomplish all the requirements of the court.  We were very thankful that Jim Mitchell was the JPO that was assigned to our son. 


Upon meeting him, Jim was very firm in explaining to our son the severity of the situation and that he needed to comply with all the requirements imposed upon him by the court.   Over time, I believe Jim learned that our son was a very good kid who made a mistake. 


Jim was extremely helpful in working with our son to help him get his community volunteer hours, helping him find the right place(s) to get his mandatory drug tests, explaining to him how important it was that he adhere to all the rules – but while he did it in a firm manner, he was very compassionate towards our son and let him know that he felt he was a good kid.  Our son respected Jim very much.


Needless to say, we were very happy when we recently learned that he completed all of his requirements and we received a letter from the courts saying that he was “done”.  We were very happy to receive the call from Jim Mitchell (and I believe that Jim was happy to deliver that call).


No parent wants to find their child in the juvenile court system, but having Jim Mitchell as our son’s JPO was a bright point during a dark time.  He is set to graduate from high school, with good grades, and is working part time for a commercial a/c company that wants to send him to school to get his license. 


My wife and I just wanted to take the time to express our appreciation for Jim’s professionalism and helpfulness – and the caring and mentoring approach he provided our son while he was in the system.  Jim kept his spirits high and provided him encouragement, and he was excellent at keeping us (as parents) informed and providing us guidance during the entire process. 

Last Saturday, members from the Circuit 5 probation team attended a successful cemetery clean-up in Ocala. Twelve of the youth in our care showed up to help clean up the grounds and in doing so earned valuable community service hours. In appreciation for their hard work, the City of Ocala provided the youth with a free lunch.  Everyone was pleased with what the team was able to accomplish. 

Last Saturday, JPOSs Robyn Worlds, Kathy D’Alessandro, Reform Specialist Tracy Olson and JPOs Antonio Henry, Jonathan Darby, Ebonie Henderson, Julia Rogers and Kristin Bentley from Circuit 18 attended the Let’s Move Walk for Youth Mental Health Awareness. Several probation youth received community service hours for their participation. These youth helped in the Kids Zone area, painting faces and supervising various games, as well as helping with the set up and break down of the event. This event was sponsored by Youth Moves. They were very appreciative for all of our youth and staff that volunteered to help make this event a success.

I would like to commend SJPOs Donny Yow and Pam Parenti as well as JPOs Nancy Holland and Dennis Chandler from Circuit 12 for mentoring young children during the school year. Each week, these officers would read and mentor these children in an effort to help improve their school performance. The staff really enjoyed working with the younger children. 


Detention Update

The Okaloosa County RJDC received a special visit last Friday from representatives of Pet Partners, a nation-wide organization that provides therapy dogs to persons across the country who are dealing with some form of trauma. The kids at the facility had a great time playing with Boomer and Mattie; a labradoodle and white terrier.  Both of these dogs are pictured left.

Last week, Jeff Wenhold, Chief of Policy and Planning for Detention Services, received notification from the National PREA Resource Center (PRC) of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) that he passed the PREA Auditor Examination for the Juvenile Facility Standards administered on January 17, 2014.  Currently, Jeff is one of only six Florida Certified Auditors for Juvenile Facilities.  All auditors are certified by the U.S. Department of Justice.


The qualifications to apply for the PREA Auditor Certification are stringent and defined under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standard 28 CFR 115.402.  Applicants must pass a criminal background records check; complete a rigorous 40-hour PREA Auditor Certification Training provided by the PRC; and must pass an examination at the end of the 40-hour training. 



Prevention Update

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, GOC III Onazina Washington and Reform Specialist Elizabeth Phillips attended the 2014 Spring Social Services Bazaar last Friday at the Leon Social Services Center in Tallahassee. This event served to increase awareness of services offered for children and families in various North Florida communities and to promote unity and strengthen collaborative relationships among professionals and partners. There were approximately 100 attendees. 


(from left to right): Verla Lawson-Grady and Onazina Washington pose with DJJ table display at the 2014 Spring Social Services Bazaar.

All agencies that serve children and families were invited to attend and learn about local resources. Some of the participating providers were: Big Bend Community Based Care, Department of Children & Families, Children’s Home Society, DISC Village, Inc.,  Leon PACE Center for Girls, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Tallahassee Urban League, Office of State Courts Administrator – 2nd Judicial Circuit, Second Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, Florida A&M University College of Social Work, Florida State University & Big Bend Hospice.

Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle spoke at the Third Annual Young Women’s Leadership Symposium last Saturday at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. Cici conducted a workshop entitled, “Girls Go! Run! Lead!’ that provided an opportunity for young women to discuss the importance of taking leadership positions and staying on the right track to reach their full potential. She also promoted the Florida Youth Commission.


The Symposium was designed for high school girls between the ages of 14-18. Its goal was to promote the development of future women leaders by providing access to influential business women. The Symposium focused on leadership, personal brand management, and career/college planning. This event was supported by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Secretary Walters joined Assistant Secretary of Prevention Wanda Finnie and the rest of the Prevention team at a luncheon to celebrate Community Engagement Assistant Coordinator Brittany Claybrooks’ graduation from Florida A& M University. Brittany received cards, gifts and plenty of well wishes.


Circuit Board Advisory Spotlight

This week I am pleased to honor Circuit 9 Advisory Board Chairman Captain Warren Shepard from the Kissimmee Police Department Support Services Division as this month’s Circuit Advisory Board Spotlight. Captain Warren Shepard began his law enforcement career with the Town of Dracut, Massachusetts Police Department. He joined the Kissimmee Police Department in 1989.  In 1996, he became the Osceola County Juvenile Justice Council chairman and served as the chairman of Circuit 9 Juvenile Justice Board since its establishment.  Captain Shepard was appointed to the Circuit 9 Advisory Board by DJJ Secretary Walters in October 2013.

Captain Shepard has worked with community members, providers, and DJJ staff on the Invest In Children Grants for new juvenile programs, truancies issues, juvenile curfew, and the civil citation program.  He has focused his efforts on making Kissimmee, Osceola County, and Florida a safe place to live, work and visit.


Shepard possesses a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 232, and serves on the American Law Enforcement Export Advisory Board as part of the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security.  During his career with the Kissimmee Police Department, he has received numerous awards to include Employee of the Year, Staff Officer of the Year, Award of Administrative Excellence, Community Service Award, and Law Enforcement Intelligence Liaison Officer of the Year.


Residential Update

What Came First – the Chicken or the Egg?

The Okaloosa Youth Academy and Crestview Sex Offender Program (OYA/CSOP), which are both operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, Inc., recently started a poultry program.  The boys are raising chickens that will produce eggs.  Program Maintenance Manager John Herman and several youths built the chicken coop and provided a very fancy roosting spot for Lord John Snow, the rooster.  They developed partnerships with a local business, Flower Basket, to purchase the starter hens, the rooster and the feed at a reduced rate.  

OYA/CSOP is fortunate to have a staff member who has a degree from Auburn University in Agriculture Economics who is teaching the boys and the staff about incubating fertilized eggs, raising the biddies, laying times, egg production and egg gathering.  The boys will develop a business plan that will identify real costs of the coop, feed supplies and overhead.  They also will learn financial management, supply and demand.  

As a part of this program a Poultry Management Committee has been developed and is comprised of the boys in the program.  The committee will establish a price for the eggs and the boys will harvest and sell the eggs, using cartons donated by program staff members.  They expect to start gathering eggs in mid-June.


The Wellness Wire

Please find a link below to the May edition of The Wellness Wire. This monthly publication provides calendars of events hosted by providers of Florida State Group Insurance and tips to improve health and emotional well-being.  Take a minute to read and please share it with your employees.



Volume 2 │ Issue 5 │ May 2014