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Secretary's Message

June 6, 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

JDAI National Inter-Site Conference 

This week I traveled to Philadelphia for the 21st Annual Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) National Inter-Site Conference presented by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  JDAI is an effort to drastically reduce the reliance on local confinement of court involved youth.  As you know, one of the goals of the Roadmap to System Excellence is to eliminate the unnecessary use of secure detention and only detain those that pose a serious risk to public safety. JDAI stands at the heart of the agency’s reform initiatives. Currently, DJJ has JDAI programs in five of Florida’s 67 counties including Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach Counties. 

Over 800 JDAI Professionals were on hand this week including a rather large delegation from Florida to discuss major accomplishments and review best practices and outcomes.  I was honored to serve as a panelist on one of the breakout sessions regarding legislative strategies to bring youth back to juvenile court.

Family Engagement 

As many of you know, DJJ is committed to family engagement. That statement stands as more than just lip service. Our agency sees family engagement as an important and integral part of a youths’ journey through our services and programs.  The parents and guardians of these youth must also have the most current knowledge available to them on how our Department works as it pertains to their child, and most importantly, what they can do to help their child through this sometimes difficult process. DJJ has recently updated family engagement brochures  and have them featured prominently in our probation and field offices throughout the state. These brochures are focused on giving the parents the tools they need to help their children through the juvenile justice process.   

Circuit Advisory Board Chair Spotlight

I am pleased to recognize Marie D. Osborne as the Circuit Advisory Board Chairperson spotlight for the month of June.  Marie, who serves as the chairwoman for Circuit 11, is a seasoned indigent defense attorney with vast court room and administrative experience.  Ms. Osborne works for Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender for the 11th Judicial Circuit in Florida, as one of four Chief Assistants with whom she shares responsibility for making policy, pursuing legislation, and other administrative decisions towards the operation of a major urban office.  The office has 400 employees, handles over 70,000 cases annually and has a national reputation for excellence.  As Chief of the Juvenile Division, Ms. Osborne oversees a child specific staff of lawyers, investigators, clinical mitigation specialists, and support staff.

In 2008, the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office (PDO), Juvenile Division, won the Florida Bar’s prestigious “Honorable Hugh Glickstein Award for Outstanding Child Advocacy.” It was the first time the award went to an office and not an individual.  The award praised the Juvenile Division for five specific areas of accomplishment:

  • The successful halting of indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in courtrooms;
  • The successful halting of detaining children beyond 24 hours for their sounding;
  • The establishment of a specialized defense unit to advocate for children charged as adults;
  • Town Hall meetings aimed at eliminating the schoolhouse to jail house pipeline’
  • Public outreach re: the rights of minors, consequences of an arrest/conviction, and safe ways to interact with the police.

In 2010, as part of a MacArthur Foundation Initiative, Models for Change, the Miami-Dade PDO-Juvenile Division, together with Barry University of Law, developed a national juvenile training manual used to train lawyers according to the "best practices" standards for child representation. As a child advocate, Ms. Osborne is keenly interested in effective interventions. She has used her legal position to litigate program abuse and expose ineffective programs.

Ms. Osborne was an original member of and now Chair of, the Mayor’s Youth Crime Task Force (YCTF), which has a budget of $3.5 million used to fund and/or pilot evidence-based interventions for diverted and probation children. The YCTF has piloted such successful interventions as Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Multi-systemic Family Therapy (MST) and Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT).  These Blueprint Model Programs were first piloted in Miami via the Youth Crime Task Force and later adopted by the Florida State Legislature for statewide application.

Ms. Osborne has been a speaker/facilitator for the Vera Institute of Justice. She has presented to the Minnesota, California, Maryland, Louisiana, Virginia, and Illinois Public Defenders as well as to the Florida Association of Public Defenders on improving the political effectiveness of indigent defenders, the use of experts in preparing juvenile defenses, performance standards and management, innovative ways to represent clients in times of shrinking budgets and community outreach. She has been a trainer for the National Juvenile Defender Center, the American Bar Association and Barry University Law Center. Ms. Osborne was an Adjunct Professor for Florida International University School of Law (2004); Presenter for the National Juvenile Defender Center at its annual Juvenile Summits; Presenter for the National Judicial College; Panelist for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; Panelist for The Melissa Institute for the Prevention of Violence (TMI); Panelist for the ABA Trying Children as Adults. Are We Doing it Right?; Presenter at the Miami-Dade’s Community Relations Board (CRB) conference honoring the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education-- a conference that highlighted school failure, racial disparity in arrests, zero tolerance as well as a “what works” session to reduce arrest and increase school success; member of the Miami Juvenile Drug Court, Peace Education Foundation, and Southern Regional Juvenile Defender Center. She is also a Big Sister with Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.  She has two children of her own.

In 2013, Ms. Osborne was the recipient of In the Company of Women Mayor’s Pioneer Award.

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene provided the keynote address for the Daniel Memorial National Foster Care Conference last Thursday in Daytona Beach. Tina provided a motivational speech on the topic of "Transforming Trauma Into Purpose" to assist conference attendees to better understand and to assist people undergoing traumatic experiences. Tina also presented a workshop about "Working with 'Those' Youth," a cultural competence training for professionals who work with youth served by the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Children and Families.

Two weeks ago, the PACE Center for Girls of Palm Beach County took four girls from their facility on an incentive trip for academic and behavioral excellence to our nation’s capital in Washington D.C. The objective of their trip was to bridge the gap between the academic study and actual process of government and politics.  The trip put a “real face to government” while providing valuable insights and knowledge that are not available in the classroom.

The girls were treated to a special V.I.P. tour of the U.S. Capitol, where members of House and Senate engage in spirited debates that determine the laws of the land.  While on Capitol Hill, the girls also met Congresswoman Lois Frankel and Congressman Tom Rooney.

(from left to right): PACE girls From left to right: Kathy, Amode, Emily, and Catherine pose in front of the National Air and Space Museum In Washington, D.C.

In addition to the Capitol visit, the girls took in many of Washington’s landmarks  such as the White House, Justice Department, National Air and Space Museum, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington Monument, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Lincoln Memorial, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Castle, The National Museum of Natural History and the D.C. Metro, just to name a few of the most venerable and celebrated monuments and museums, theatres and galleries in our nation’s capital.

Detention Update

This week our Mental Health team travelled to Miami attended the graduation of DJJ youth “AZ.” (Pictured are L-R: DMHA Sue Gallen, Therapist Carrie Young, Youth AZ, and teacher John Bontley) 

“Working with the youth in our custody has always been rewarding for the mental health  and educational staff, here at Southwest Regional Detention Center. Sometimes there is a youth who significantly stands out due to their life circumstances and/or abilities and potential. AZ was one of those for us at the detention center. When we received an invitation from Dade Juvenile Facility to attend his high school graduation, nothing was going to keep us away. Myself, Carrie Young, his therapist in detention and John Bontley, guidance counselor drove to Miami for the event. Mr. Bontley who retired in December was thrilled to be invited as he also saw the potential in this youth. 

The graduation ceremony was inspirational and each student wrote a small paragraph about themselves. AZ was an honor student, musician, talented writer and athlete who began a path of self-harm and extreme drug use which led to criminal behavior. AZ had lost his sense of self and felt that his life held no purpose. He struggled with family issues that further complicated his journey.  

Throughout his struggles, AZ has always valued his education, however due to his path of adversity he felt his goal of graduation was impossible. We are beyond proud to see that he has achieved his goal of gaining his high school diploma. AZ plans on enrolling in college once he is released and will study English Literature. As one of the speakers at the graduation stated, it is important to develop and utilize contacts, resources, and networks. Myself, Carrie, John, multiple probation officers as well as education staff count ourselves as his biggest fans and longstanding support system. We will be there for him as he continues his journey. 

AZ is a true testament to overcoming obstacles and altering perceived impossibility into success.” 

Susan Gallen LCSW


SW Regional Detention Center

Matt Hefelfinger with Detention Services Headquarters competed in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon on Sunday June 1, 2014.  He was selected as a part of the lottery process to be one of 2000 of the world's top athletes selected to take over the streets  and bay waters of San Francisco, California to compete in one of the most prestigious triathlons in the world.  The event sent triathletes on a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shoreline, an 18 mile bike ride through the Presidio and an eight mile trail run through Golden Gate Park.  Matt finished in 1300 place and 132 in his age group with a time of 03:50:53.  15 family members and friends supported Matt as members of Team Matt.

Congratulations Matt on a fantastic job!!

Probation Update

Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq attended the PACE Center for Girls Open House on Tuesday at their new location in Ft. Myers. The open house was held to show off the brand new building and to encourage community and business leaders to raise money for the facility by sponsoring quotes and donations.  The new facility features larger rooms including a new computer lab, a library, a new academic office and other updates.  Retired Juvenile Judge James Seals from Lee County and Dr. Sandra Pavelka from Florida Gulf Coast University, both PACE board members, were in attendance for the open house. Circuit 20 is proud to have the PACE Center for Girls in Lee County as the only school that provides opportunities to girls and young women for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. 

Also on Tuesday, Lut attended the Southwest Florida Peer Connect Meeting in Ft. Myers.  The meeting discussed the expansion of providers and resources in Lee and Collier County focusing on the issues of mental health and recovery.  The meeting had twenty-two attendees who were on hand to discuss resolving system issues, the referral process and how the community can be well-served and well-informed of the resources. 

Management Review Specialist Coordinator Chantelle Dishman conducted Central Communications Center (CCC) training for probation staff in the Northwest Region this week.  These training sessions focused on conducting and responding to Level I and Level II reviews and also to answer any questions or concerns regarding the CCC. 

Management Review Specialist Coordinator Chantelle Dishman, CPO Paul Wallis, JPOS Reba Chavis, JPOS Martina Leverett, and JPOS Daniel Bears

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones and the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding have created their form of community conversations entitled Police-Youth Dialogues, which promote trust and understanding between DJJ Youth on Probation and the Gainesville Police Department (GPD). These discussions promote community conferencing that provide a safe, collective and effective way to resolve conflicts in crime.  Last Tuesday, Chief Jones and GPD held their second meeting with DJJ Probationary Youth and it was a huge success.  These dialogues foster relationships between officers and youth within their neighborhoods and encourages these youth to develop a new understanding of police officers and the law while enhancing the police officers’ ability to de-escalate complex interactions with these youth. The next dialogue is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24th

Chief Jones is a member of the Florida Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group as well as the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice.

Back in April, Secretary Specialist Laura Lampros from Circuit 8 started a food drive for those tornado victims in Mississippi and Arkansas. Through the help of her fellow probation co-workers Sandi Brannan and Richard Lawton, her family, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and the Union Baptist Church in Newberry, Laura was able to gather food, clothing and supplies for those families in need. Probation youth in our care were allowed to donate food and in doing so earned valuable community service hours. Laura was able to secure a U-Haul trailer for free which will be used to transport these items to Mississippi.  Laura and her daughter Mariah will begin transporting these supplies next week for distribution. 

JPO Robin Myers and Reform Specialist Bree Thaxton from Circuit 14 participated in the annual Conference By the Bay hosted by the Department of Children and Families last Wednesday on the campus of Florida State University in Panama City.  Robin and Bree presented a session entitled Suicide Awareness and Prevention as part of the SPARE (Suicide Prevention Awareness and Response Education) group which meets monthly to raise awareness concerning teen suicide and prevention in Circuit 14.

Photo:  Reform Specialist Bree Thaxton, JPO Robin Myers, Susan Sizemore from PFLAG, Teen Bay County Chelsee Cook, Pam Trompeter with Catholic Charities. S.P.A.R.E. founder Karen Abrahams

JPOs Aaron Rivas, Egnis Ortiz, Crystal Harris and James Millan from Circuit 9 participated in a community car wash on May 24 to benefit Clarita’s House Outreach Ministry in Osceola County. Our officers worked side by side with 12 youth on probation by washing cars in the community to raise money to assist in the fight to end hunger and homelessness in Osceola.  Clarita’s House Outreach Team serves the homeless in Orange and Osceola counties.  In Osceola County, the focus is on helping those children living in hotels, on the streets and in the woods. They provide groceries, clothing, personal care items, ACCESS, spiritual support, mentoring and other resources to these families with children.

There are over 3,000 registered homeless children just in Osceola County alone.  Most of these children live in unkempt, rent-by-the-week motel complexes along U.S. Highway 192 minutes away from Disney World.  Most are doubled up with friends and relatives and some are living in cars and travel trailers.

Circuit 6 JPOS Melissa Fuller facilitated a presentation entitled “Know the Law,” to three groups of high school students on Tuesday. The focus of the curriculum was to inform and educate students on laws and how crime can impact a teen’s life.  The teens were provided with a comprehensive booklet on the presentation and were encouraged to use the knowledge provided to make informed decisions in order to stay on a positive path. 

SJPO Katherine Gomez welcomed home a group of World War II Veterans last week who were traveling on an Honor Flight from Washington D.C.  Honor Flights is a non-profit organization that charters airplanes and takes veterans to our nation’s capital for the day to see the memorial dedicated to their war, with 88 WWII Vets making the trip.   Katherine is a part of the civic organization, the Treasure Islettes, which sponsored two of the veterans on this flight. 


Last Friday, Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson spoke at the Sunrise Rotary Meeting and presented on the Disproportionate Minority Contact Network including the goals and objectives of the organization and the need for new network members. Over 50 Rotarians were in attendance and there was interest from members in the DMC Network and worksites for community service hours.

Residential Update

Every month, the Brevard County Public Library System provides the Negroni Hendrick Mobile Library to the residents of the Frances Walker Halfway House (FWHH), which is a non-secure program for females, ages 13 to 18, operated by The Center for Drug-Free Living, Inc.  The bookmobile allows the girls to experience the library system and all the rewards of reading.  Participation is voluntary and the residents who are eligible to participate may check out three books a month. 

Brevard County Public Library System employee Tammy Moon works with the girls to help them select their books.  She is enthusiastic in sharing her love of books and has a knack for finding just the right books that each youth ends up loving.  Many of the young ladies have developed a love of reading that they never had thanks to this wonderful program. 

Last week, the young ladies of FWHH had fun at prom.  This year’s event was funded by a generous donation from an anonymous member of the Frances Walker Community Advisory Board.  

The prom committee, along with Care Coordinator Brittany O’Brien, created a red carpet affair by transforming the FWHH recreation room and dining hall into an “Oscars After-Party” theme. 


All of the residents participated by dressing in gowns or tuxedos based on their personal preferences.  Tuxedos were generously donated by Beasley Tuxedo Shop in Merritt Island so that the girls who are more comfortable in menswear felt good about themselves. 

For dinner, the residents enjoyed chicken parmesan with an elaborate salad bar and beautiful cake desserts.  Following dinner, the young ladies paraded to the recreation room amid the cheers of various program staff members and DJJ Program Monitor Monica Webb, program volunteer and surrogate grandmother, Sheryl Lucas, and FWHH Director Wendy Whittington.  

FWHH Program Specialist Tramesha Demps served as the photo booth photographer.

This semi-annual event provides girls, who might not otherwise have been able to, an opportunity to participate in prom—a traditional high school rite of passage.  Program staff and visitors voted for best dancer, best dressed, best hairdo, best make up, and best motivator. 

The “celebrities” each had a photo op on the red carpet and then entered the party to the beat of contemporary music

As a finale of the event, the girls selected a prom king and queen—all of whom had run campaigns in the weeks leading up to the event.

This event helped the young ladies learn that it is possible to enjoy an event without the inclusion of drugs or alcohol.

Martin Girls Academy

Taking The Next Step-

Recently, three residents of the Martin Girls Academy (MGA), a secure commitment program for females, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, received certification from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) as SafeStaff® Employee Food Handlers.  The SafeStaff® Foodhandler Training Program is offered by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association as an online course.  The course includes the following six DBPR-mandated key safety principles: 

  1. Ensuring proper personal hygiene
  2. Preventing cross-contamination
  3. Controlling time and temperature when handling food
  4. Proper cleaning and sanitizing
  5. The causes and effects of major foodborne illnesses
  6. Ensuring proper vermin control

Florida requires all food service employees in a licensed DBPR establishment to be trained on correct food handling and hygiene practices.  Only DBPR division-approved training programs are accepted as meeting the training requirement.

Two of the girls graduated from MGA and are pursuing careers in the food industry.  Congratulations to all three girls for this wonderful achievement!  You are one step closer to securing that perfect career.  

Lake Academy, a nonsecure program for females, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently implemented the use of treatment rooms for individual and family counselling sessions.  The clinical team took pride in developing and decorating the rooms with youth and their families in mind.  Clinical Director Sierra York put together tables and Mr. Gary hung curtains to create cozier spaces.  

The residents painted canvases with motivational quotes and scenes to make the treatment rooms places where they feel connected and comfortable.  The girls have expressed pride in the rooms and now request to have their sessions there.  Therapist Ali stated, “The girls seem to open up more in treatment now that they can settle in the private space and focus.”

Therapist Brandy said, “The girls get really comfortable and love to spread out on the bean bags.  They tend to share more when they are comfortable.”

As the girls are discharged from the program, the clinical team plans to have new youth paint canvases and add them to the treatment rooms so that they, too, make the rooms spaces of their own.  

Juvenile Probation Officer Graduation

Secretary Wansley Walters delivered the welcome address to congratulate the newest class of juvenile probation officers (JPOs), which graduated today in a ceremony at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. It was a bittersweet moment, as this was her final graduation address as agency secretary. During Secretary Walters’ administration the number of JPOs throughout Florida has grown, reducing caseloads, which allows JPOS to devote more attention to each youth’s individual needs. 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): Christian Allen-St. Petersburg, Lois Van Lent-Islamorada, Willermine Pettway-Ft. Pierce, Margaret McLaughlin-Tallahassee, Marisol Castro-Orlando, Myekia Sharp-Ft. Myers

Middle row: Audrey Bandura-St. Pete, Bonita Johnson-Sanford, Kaleigh Redoutey-Sanford, Monique Nichols-Tallahassee, Michele Vadney-Naples, Meagan Pledger-Quincy, Michael Byrd, Jr.-Tallahassee, Morgan Assidy-Tallahassee

Back row: Paul Pacheco-Pensacola, Samuel Jimenez-Bartow, Aaron Kmecik-Delray, Jose Garcia Rojas-Lakeworth, Andrew Weader-Islamorada, Vanessa McNair-Ft. Myers, Janeen St. Louis-Sebring