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Secretary's Message

May 30, 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

Preventing Crime in the Black Community National Conference

This week I was the featured speaker at the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community in Jacksonville. This conference represents a collaborative effort to foster communication and action among practitioners through the sharing of innovative ideas and prevention strategies that have been successful in the black community.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice was a platinum sponsor of this event which is celebrating its 29th year.  Other major sponsors included the Florida Urban League, the Florida Parole Commission and the Florida Department of Corrections.

In addition to my presentation, Statewide DMC Coordinator Josh Kuch and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts presented on the Department’s DMC Strategies; also presenting a youth engagement session entitled “Blurred Lines” were Brittany Claybrooks, Cici Battle and Yvonne Moffia.


 Circuit 4 Advisory board chair Jim Clark and me

A major component of the program was directed toward alternatives to violence among our young people, and I was proud to represent our agency and the work we are doing.

(From left to right: Assistant Secretary Wanda Finnie, DMC Assistant Gloria Gatlin, Statewide DMC Coordinator Josh Kuch, and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts)

DEO Collaboration

On Thursday, Chief of Staff Jason Welty accompanied the Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and External Affairs Director Maggie Mickleron at a site visit to the JUST Program in Liberty County. The JUST Program is a  behavioral health and vocational facility for moderate risk youth and is a strong component of Project Connect. The purpose of this visit was to familiarize DEO staff with a DJJ Residential Facility in order to further spark conversation about working together. DEO is committed to assisting youth in our care find positive working opportunities after they are released and I would like to thank Jason for his efforts in getting this project off the ground.

Residential Update

“Impact of Crime” Facilitator Training Held in Okeechobee 

Last week, Director of Staff Development and Training (G4S Youth Services, LLC) Bridget Goodrich held a successful facilitator’s training at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center.  Seventeen people, representing four provider companies and 10 DJJ residential facilities, participated in the training.

Back Row, L-R:  Pamela Turner (G4S), Latoya King (G4S), Aqueela Farnel (G4S), Debbie Gillette (G4S), George Wright (G4S); Middle Row, L-R:  Danica Tyler (G4S), Teresa Barron-Gornto (G4S), Tennille Gordon (Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC), Mary Wagner (G4S), Nanette Jorge (G4S), Sarah Sandberg (Center for Drug-Free Living), Holly Barnes (Eckerd Youth Alternatives); Front Row, L-R:  MajDeidre Fields (G4S), Lakeysha Slocum (G4S), Nancy Cruz (G4S), Brittany O’Brien (CFDFL); Not Pictured:  Margot Lee (G4S).

Zoo Day at Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility

Last week, Assistant Secretary for Residential Services Laura Moneyham and North Regional Deputy Director—East Area Billy Starke, Jr., conducted a site visit of the Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility, a high-risk program for males, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc.  While they were touring the facility, they had the opportunity to sit in on a biology and ecology class that included special visitors.  The Marion County School District coordinated an on-site visit from the Jacksonville Zoo, which included an Animal Ambassador and three conservation animals: an owl, a four-year-old alligator and a snake.

Shown above, the boys in the classroom and Laura Moneyham got up close and personal with the alligator, which is held by Jacksonville Zoo Animal Ambassador Ruben Allen!

Residential Programs Keep Kids Moving 

With the rising heat index—an index that combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine how hot it feels outdoors—it may be impossible to safely maintain an outdoor recreation routine for youth in our care.  Unit Director Kristine Harshaw at the Union Juvenile Residential Facility, a moderate-risk program for boys, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, implemented an indoor exercise program for the young men.

The boys started using the indoor workout program known as P90X® or Power 90 Extreme®, which is a commercial 90-day exercise regimen that consists of cross-training, yoga and calisthenics. 

Shown left, the youth are very engaged in the video workout routine.  

Union JRF also keeps the young men in the program moving through their educational endeavors.  Last week, the program celebrated a high school graduation for one of the residents.  The young man not only successfully completed the program but he also earned his high school diploma while in the program.  He received a watch for successfully completing the program and he will receive a class ring for earning his high school diploma.

Additionally, eight of the residents performed community services by cleaning the exterior of the Union County Public Library!

Dear Mr. Smith, 

Thank you so much for allowing the guys here today to clean the library building.  They all worked very hard and the library looks great! I look forward to having you all back again. Please thank all the guys for me! 

Mary C. Brown

Library Director

The residents and the staff of Frances Walker Half Way House, a moderate-risk program for females, ages 13 to 18, located in Titusville and operated by The Center for Drug-Free Living, Inc., were really moving at the Field Day!  The girls and select staff members, who were assigned to teams for the event, first created tie-dyed shirts in team colors of pink, purple, yellow and aqua.  They all participated in a day of outdoor events that included a sack race, a pie-eating contest, a combination relay race, an egg-on-a-spoon race, a limbo contest, and a water balloon toss. 

The Field Day not only got the kids moving, it promoted unity and team work among the girls and the staff members.  The event was organized by Clinical Manager Ashley MacClary and members of her clinical team: Senior Youth Counselors Sarah Sandberg, Rachel Irons and Brianne Fulton, and Case Manager Brittany O’Brien.  Also participating in this fun event were Director Wendy Whittington, Program Specialists Eugenia Washington and Ashley Drake, Lead Program Specialist Lydia Fulton, Nurse Heather Calhoun-Floyd, and Administrative Assistant Barbara Roman.


Pictured above right are Ashley MacClary (on the left in yellow), Rachel Irons in pink, Ashley Drake who was part of the 3rd team from left at the back, Sarah Sandberg on the purple team on the right, and the program girls participating in sack races

Shown above left, Field Day teams preparing for relay races. 

Detention Update

Assistant General Counsel Kim Ward spent her Memorial Day Weekend at the Leon County RJDC where she painted a mural inside the cafeteria at the facility. The mural contains cantaloupes and bamboo and an orange tree which has yet to be completed. On behalf of our agency I would like to thank Kim for all she has done and continues to do to help with our reform efforts


The Office of Detention Services has been implementing a greenhouse program at three detention facilities throughout the state. The goal of this program is to provide a nurturing and therapeutic environment for our youth while learning a valuable new skill. The youth participating in the program will learn about nutrition, well balanced meals and how to grow their own food and cook healthy. This program supports the facility’s behavior management system as well as providing nourishing meals to our youth at the lowest cost possible. 

Pictured left is the greenhouse from the Pinellas RJDC where JJDO Edith Hamm has taken the lead by teaching our youth how to plant seeds. So far they have planted tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and cabbage. All of our youth have enjoyed working with the soil and tending to the plants. 

Additionally, greenhouses at the Leon RJDC and Palm Beach RJDC are currently under construction and should be operational by this weekend.

Last week, Detention staff hosted a Regional Directors’ meeting at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. Representatives from administration, budget, finance and accounting, personnel, staff development, general counsel, education, program accountability and health services gave presentations to the regional directors about various updates going on within the agency. The Office of Detention Services would like to thank all of the presenters for their time and expertise.

Prevention Update

Bertrhude Albert and Priscilla Zelaya from the Projects for Haiti organization visited with the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County on May 7 in Gainesville. Ms. Albert and Ms. Zelaya did a fabulous job of educating our club members about the country of Haiti. They taught club members about various aspects of the people of Haiti, ranging from the struggles of the people to the culture of Haiti.  Within their short visit, they were able to teach club members about the Creole language used in Haiti and some of the more commonly used words.  They also discussed how most Haitian youth are not blessed to be able to go to school, as well as the hunger issues most Haitian youth must deal with on a daily basis. Ms. Albert and Ms. Zelaya displayed several pieces of local artwork and Haitian flags.  It was an eye opening experience for both youth and staff at the Northwest Club location.

The Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County also held an intern appreciation ceremony on April 28 in Gainesville. In an effort to highlight the hard work of their amazing interns, The Mentor Center hosted an intern award ceremony. As a result of their successes and dedication this semester, many young people in this community were able to experience a wide variety of impactful programming including tutoring, performing arts, and science club.  Boys & Girls Club Vice President of Operations, Natalya Bannister, delivered a speech at the ceremony letting the interns know how much their efforts were appreciated by the entire organization. After the ceremony, Stephanie Darilus, Program Development Specialist and Intern Coordinator, shared her gratitude and presented each intern with a certificate of appreciation. Combined, the interns worked over 2,000 hours while helping raise funds, assisting in organizing special events, community outreach and creating programs that support the Boys & Girls Club mission. 

"I learned a lot," said Nicole Gervais. "I am going to miss this place, and everyone has been like family to me."

Last Tuesday, Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis and CPO Paul Wallis conducted a Community Conversation in Pensacola. Our Prevention team joined members of law enforcement, faith network, education, and community groups to discuss issues facing youth in Escambia County.  Community Conversations provide local residents with the opportunity to discuss areas of concern involving local youth in their community in an effort to steer them away from the juvenile justice system. To date, the department has conducted 44 conversations in 28 counties that have involved close to 1,900 participants.

Assistant Secretary Wanda Finnie and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady held another Community Conversation in Fleming Island in Circuit 4’s Clay County. Assistant Secretary Finnie provided an update of DJJ’s ongoing initiatives, 2014 legislative updates and addressed community concerns with Law Enforcement, State Attorney’s Office, Dept. of Health, Clay County School Board, stakeholders, providers and community representatives regarding youth issues in Clay County. 

(From left to right:  Verla Lawson-Grady, Yvonne Maffia, Stephanie Geohagan-Clay Coalition Supervisor, Joy Curtis, Probation Officer Supervisor, AS Finnie, Donna Hetherington-Clay County School Board, Karen McNeal, Assist. Chief Probation Officer.)

Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris attended the 20th Birthday Bash for the Leon County PACE Center for Girls at the Goodwood Museum & Gardens in Tallahassee. To celebrate two decades of providing greater opportunities for girls, PACE recognized current and former students, thanked parents, teachers, supporters and other stakeholders. PACE provides girls an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. PACE is a nationally recognized and research-based model that features a balanced emphasis on academics and social service with a focus on the future for girls ages 12-17. PACE utilizes holistic, gender responsive and trauma informed services including service learning, career preparation and independent living skills. In 2012-13, a total of 134 girls were served at PACE Leon. More than 25,000 girls have been served at 18 PACE centers since 1985.

Probation Update

Last Saturday, Probation youth from Circuit 5 who received a Civil Citation participated in a community service project at the Marion RJDC. These youth assisted the Ocala Police Department by washing vans at the facility and earned valuable community service hours. Probation staff and volunteers monitored and mentored the youth while they worked. Thank you to the Detention facility for providing soap, sponges and buckets. 

Last Friday, SJPOs Heather Nowell, April Cannon and Kevin McKenzie who comprise the Circuit 14 Review Team convened to review a group of randomly selected cases. The goal of this review team is to give our SJPOs an opportunity to continue to build on their exceptional case review skills and to give constructive input to their respective units on new standards. JPOSs Michelle McCaskill and Fred Womack assisted with this activity. 

On Tuesday, Circuit 17 Probation in collaboration with Juvenile Court Judge Stacy Ross held another edition of Dolphin Day in Miami. Dolphin Day gives our youth an opportunity to hear members from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins speak about setting goals, overcoming obstacles and peer pressure. This session featured defensive tackle Jared Odrick and safety Michael Thomas who talked to a crowded courtroom of youth from varying levels of supervision including diversion programs, drug court and probation. Youth who asked pertinent questions received autographed footballs from the players. 

Jared Odrick ,Court Liaisons Reginald Williams and Albert McKenzie  and Court Unit Coordinator and organizer of the event, Janice Charlassier.

Circuit 13 JPOS Susan Snell participated in Eckerd’s Walk recently which benefited foster children in Hillsborough County. The walk takes place on behalf of Florida’s most vulnerable children. Each walker was assigned with the name of a child with the goal being to ensure that all 3,200 of Florida’s foster children were represented. The event was well attended as community stakeholders and faith based partners came out to support the foster children in Hillsborough County.

Circuit 20 JPO Shana Feren completed a two-day community service project last weekend at La Belle High School. Shana accompanied a total of 12 youth on probation over the two day event and each of the youth earned valuable community service hours. The youth spent over nine hours painting fences and making them look bright and shiny. 

The Wellness Wire

Please find a link below to the June 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 6 │ June 2014