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Secretary's Message

June 20, 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

Proclamation from Governor Scott

I was honored to attend the Florida Cabinet meeting on Tuesday with Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. My presence was requested to be on hand for the signing of the Human Trafficking Bill which I will speak in detail later in this newsletter, but was surprised when Governor Scott presented me with a proclamation for my years of service as the head of the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

It was such an honor to receive this proclamation from such a distinguished body and I was thankful that many members of the Executive Leadership Team were on hand.  While this was an individual proclamation, it represents the hard work of everyone here at DJJ and your commitment these last three and a half years in moving our agency in the right direction.  

Bill Signings

Governor Scott held his agency head meeting on Tuesday where he promptly signed HB 7055, our Florida Statute Chapter 985 revision legislation.  This was DJJ’s legislative priority during the legislative session and with Governor Scott’s signature this law will dramatically change the way we treat youth in our state. This bill places in Florida statute the importance and mission of “prevention” within DJJ. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously during session and rarely does juvenile justice issues carry that level of consensus. This bill would not have been possible without the hard work of Representative Ray Pilon and Senator Robert Bradley whose staunch support made this bill become law.

As I mentioned previously, I was on hand for the Human Trafficking bill signing during the Florida Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. This bill increases criminal penalties for human trafficking and places further protections on victims.  This bill will also help the state better identify the victims of human trafficking and puts guidelines in place for the state’s foster care system and our agency to follow when administering safe houses for human trafficking victims. 

Florida Face to Face

On Wednesday, I was honored to sit down with Executive Director of the Florida Channel Beth Switzer for an interview on her program Florida FACE to FACE. During the interview I discussed my upcoming retirement, our Chapter 985 rewrite legislation, and the human trafficking bill that will keep our agency providing the right service to the right youth at the right time. To view the full interview, click here

Residential Site Visit 

On Monday, Deputy Secretary Christy Daly and I accompanied Margie Menzel from the News Service of Florida on a site visit to two residential facilities in the Panhandle: The Walton Youth Development Center and the Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST). This site visit was to give a member of the media a birds-eye view of what goes on in our residential programs. 

One of the youth at WYDC gave us a tour of the facility and grounds and shared his experience at the program. We had the opportunity to see the recently completed koi pond and pergola; a beautiful peaceful outdoor area for the children and staff to enjoy. They also sent us home with a bag of wonderfully healthy vegetables from the on-site garden.

At JUST, staff showed off the fire pit recently completed by the boys that participate in the welding program and gave a first class tour of the program’s vocational classroom and dorms.   

Deputy Secretary Daly Appointed Interim Secretary

This week, Governor Rick Scott announced that Deputy Secretary Christy Daly will serve as the interim secretary of the agency following Secretary Walters’ retirement.

Many of you have had the pleasure of serving with Ms. Daly through her tenure at DJJ in the various leadership positions she has held including serving currently as the deputy secretary and previously as the chief of staff, legislative director, and the external affairs director. 

Christy has truly been a driving force for the reforms undertaken by the agency over the last several years. I have no doubt that she will continue to lead this agency with extraordinary vision and passion to continue the hard work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children.

Following her appointment, Deputy Secretary Daly shared, “I am honored and humbled that Gov. Scott has entrusted me to lead this agency and continue the reforms launched 3 1/2 years ago. DJJ is an agency of committed staff who work tirelessly every day to better the lives of children and families while keeping communities safe. I am proud of the significant strides we have made and look forward to continuing Sec. Walters’ vision of a national model for juvenile justice.”

Probation Update

Last Thursday, Probation staff from Circuit 19 in Martin County held their first probation orientation meeting. This meeting, which was attended by seven youth and their parents, opened with a video from the local Children’s Services Council as well as DJJ’s youth and parent orientation video. CPO Wydee’a Wilson and ACPO Dorothy Malik were both in attendance as well as local probation officers. The informational meeting gave youth and parents much needed information about being on probation and set the tone for how supervision in Martin County operates.

Last Saturday, Circuit 6 JPOS Melissa Fuller collaborated with the Healthy Start Coalition and the Boys & Girls Club in Port Richey to facilitate a CommUNITY FUNdamentals fair geared toward providing resource information to families in the local community through the efforts of providers, local businesses and volunteers. This fair had food, games, and other family friendly events including a story time that was facilitated by a youth on probation. Other youth in our care assisted in set up and clean up and earned community service hours in doing so. I would also like to thank JPOs Richard Christie, Tonya Posey, Patricia Johnston and Melanie Phelps for their hard work during the event.  

SJPO Omar Bohler made a presentation during the Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS) statewide conference in Orlando. On behalf of DJJ, Omar gave the approximately 75 attendees an overview of the programs and services our agency provides. POPS provides personal and professional development to teens that face social and economic barriers that potentially impact the quality of their lives. Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson stationed an information booth at the conference where she shared information and answered questions.  DJJ is appreciative of the interest and partnership with POPS.

JPO Lawanna Curry and other representatives from Circuit 13 participated in a forum for the University of South Florida’s College Reach Out Program (CROP). The CROP program works statewide in an effort to increase the number of students to enter and complete their post-secondary education. The program's primary objective is to strengthen the educational motivation and preparation of low-income and educationally disadvantaged students in grades 8 through 12, representing various cultural backgrounds, who "otherwise would be unlikely to seek admission to a community college, state university or independent post-secondary institution without special support and recruitment efforts.”

In the summer, youths from Tampa, Sarasota and St. Petersburg CROP program get the opportunity to live on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida for one week to have the opportunity to experience college life.  Lawanna had the opportunity to speak with these kids about what our agency does and the role of Juvenile Probation Officers. 

Residential Update

Recently, the Okaloosa Borderline Developmental Disability Program (OBDD), a low- and moderate-risk program for males, ages 13 to 18, operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, had their first youth—ever—to gain unsupervised community employment while still in the program.  

The young man is from Crestview, where OBDD is located,  He was so successful at OBDD that he earned the opportunity to seek and secure employment at Wendy’s in Crestview.  This was made possible through collaboration with OBDD, this young man’s parent, community stakeholders, his juvenile probation officer, and the committing judge.  This young man completed orientation training and began working prior to his release from OBDD on June 5, 2014.

He was very excited to learn what is expected of him during his employment and was eager to begin working.  He plans to continue working at Wendy’s while he continues his education.  The staff at OBDD were very excited to have played such a significant role in this young man’s huge success!  The success of this inaugural partnership will create many more partnerships and success stories.

KJCF’s Bookworms Compete in Osceola County’s “Battle of the Books”

The seven-member team of students from the Kissimmee Juvenile Correctional Facility (KJCF), a high-risk program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, made an impressive debut in the Osceola County School Board’s (OCSB) “2014 Battle of the Books”—the Association’s “Fourth Annual 5K Running of the Books!”

This reading contest is sponsored by the Osceola County School Librarian’s Association to encourage students to read independently for personal enjoyment from a variety of genres.  The competition required that the students answer questions from 15 books from the Florida Teens Read list.  The team answering the most questions would be announced as the winners of the county-wide competition.  KJCF’s team of young men competed against other high school students within the school district.  They made it through the first and second rounds of the competition, receiving accolades and medals for their impressive performance in this year’s competition! 

2013-2014 Florida Teens Read List 

Join the fun!  Read from the list this summer and perhaps you and your teen will have a lively discussion about a book. 

  • Bick, Ilsa J. Ashes. New York: Egmont USA, 2011.
  • Dowell, Frances O'Roark. Ten miles past normal. 1st ed. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2011.
  • Gagnon, Michelle, Don't turn around. 1st ed. New York, NY: Harper, c2012.
  • Green, John, The fault in our stars. 1st ed. New York, NY: Dutton Books, c2012.
  • Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina. 1st ed. New York: Random House, c2012.
  • King, A. S., (Amy Sarig), Everybody sees the ants. 1st ed. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2011.
  • Levithan, David. Every day. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
  • Martinez, Jessica. Virtuosity. 1st Simon Pulse hardcover ed. New York: Simon Pulse, 2011.
  • Odell, Jonathan, The healing: a novel. 1st ed. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, c2012.
  • Price, Lissa. Starters. 1st ed. New York: Delacorte Press, c2012.
  • Rodriguez, Gaby. The pregnancy project: a memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, c2012.
  • St. John, Warren. Outcasts united: the story of a refugee soccer team that changed a town. 1st ed. New York: Delacorte Press, c2012.
  • Stevenson, Sarah Jamila. The Latte Rebellion. 1st ed. Woodbury, MN: Flux, c2011.
  • Stiefvater, Maggie, The Raven Boys. 1st ed. New York: Scholastic Press, 2012.
  • Vaughn, Carrie. Steel. 1st ed. New York: HarperTeen, c2011.

Martin Girls Academy Gives Back to the Community through “Reading is Fun” 

Did you know that youth in high- and maximum-risk commitment programs give back to and make a difference in local communities?  At Martin Girls Academy (MGA), a program for females, ages 13 to 18, operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, in Stuart, that is exactly what the youth are doing!  Pencil-by-pencil and crayon-by-crayon the girls are making a difference for more than 300 Head Start children.

The Martin County School District Head Start Program is a federally-funded program that serves children, ages three to five, and their families in the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart and Indiantown.  As a restorative justice effort, MGA collaborated with the local Head Start Programs to design books for the children in the programs.  This effort supports the Head Start language and literacy initiative, as well as promoting creativity and inventiveness.

Program Manager with CareerSource Research Coast Jodi Hessing is a committed member of the MGA Community Advisory Board and the person who coordinated this effort, connecting MGA with the local community and helping the MGA girls enjoy making the booklets for the pre-school children.

Union Juvenile Residential Facility Youth Honor Local Veterans

In honor of Memorial Day, eight young men from the Union Juvenile Residential Facility—a moderate-risk program for males, ages 12 to 19, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC—visited the Robert H. Jenkins, Jr. Veterans’ Domiciliary Home of Florida that is located in Lake City.  During the visit, the youth distributed care packages to approximately 30 residents and thanked each of them for their service to our country.

Shown here is a sample of the gift packages that the young men provided  to the veterans, which each of the boys put together with great care. The young men also spent time talking with each of the men and women who served in various branches of the military and in a variety of capacities, learning about history from first-hand stories of the vets’ experiences.

The program’s goal is to visit with the residents two weekends each month to spend some recreational time with the vets.  The next visit is scheduled for the end of June.

The girls of Frances Walker Half Way House (FWHH), a moderate-risk program for ages 13 to 18, located in Titusville and operated by The Center for Drug-Free Living, Inc., enjoyed a field trip to Walt Disney World as one of many incentives they earned by making excellent progress in meeting goals and demonstrating leadership.  This opportunity was funded by donations from the FWHH Community Advisory Board and Lead Program Specialist Lydia Fulton.  Tickets were donated by a Disney employee who cares about the young women at FWHH.  This outing provided an opportunity for the girls to enjoy a theme park, which is a pro-social activity where clean fun is the main event.

Prevention Update

Yesterday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle addressed the statewide leadership team for Florida’s YMCA Youth in Government Program at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The Youth In Government program is a civics and leadership development program for middle and high school students. These students have been elected or appointed to their positions (Governor, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, etc.) and serve as the Youth Board of Directors for their program. These students are all rising juniors and seniors in high school.

These student leaders are charged with, among other things, setting the legislative agenda and priorities for the students who will serve as members of their House and Senate programs (more than 600 youth statewide), and while they must stay non-partisan they are looking to educate the students on the process of policy making and the role that departments and agencies have within that process. 

This week, Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris donated a total of 94 three-ring binders to the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School in Tallahassee for student use in summer programs. In order to assist students attending various educational programs at the developmental research school during the summer months, Eugene delivered the binders to staff for distribution to the students.

(from left to right): Ericka Mosley, Senior Secretary; Michael Joseph, Student Assistant; and Patricia R. West, Grants Manager at Florida A&M University Developmental Research School hold binders that were donated for student use in summer programs.

Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle spoke on Making Good Life Decisions and Avoiding Bad Ones at the G.R.O.W. (Great Opportunities Retail Waiting) workshop last Thursday at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. On behalf of the Florida Retail Foundation, a private non-profit charity in Tallahassee, Cici took part at their first-ever teen workshop focused on job and life preparedness. The purpose was to educate teens, ages 14-19, about finding career paths and how to prepare themselves for independent adulthood by making good decisions and being well-rounded, healthy individuals.

With a line-up of speakers from education, retail, health, and government, youth of all backgrounds were exposed to positive mentors to brighten their view of the future. Cici encouraged the youth to stay in school, find good friends, practice poise and to find a strong mentor.

On June 6, the JPM Centre Nehemiah Project Kids Off the Streets (KOTS) programs, a DJJ Prevention Provider accompanied prevention and Civil Citation youth on a tour through Miami’s International Airport Federal Aviation Administration Building. The tour involved a presentation on careers in aviation. During the field trip allowing the youth to explore careers in aviation, they toured the Air Traffic Control Tower, Terminal Radar Approach Control Room and Tower Simulator System. The students listened to pilots and air traffic control operators as they communicated. The youth also watched planes depart and arrive from the control tower. One student who plans to become a pilot was offered a paid one-year enrollment opportunity with Civil Air Patrol.

In the photo, Darrell Roberts, Technical Operations Manager, discusses careers in aviation with youth from the JPM Centre at Miami Gardens Drive, Inc.

Detention Update

The Bay County P.A.W.S. program continues to visit the Bay RJDC at least twice a month so their therapy dogs and interact with the youth while learning training and discipline techniques with the dogs from PAWS volunteers. The volunteers bring different dogs to the facility based on the number of youth. To the left you can see dogs Mimi and Louie meeting with girls in the facility’s soft room. The youth bond quickly with the dogs and owners and their time together has been very relaxing and therapeutic. This same group of volunteers and therapy dogs has come to Bay Detention for the past two years now and their dedication to our youth is priceless. 

The Office of Detention Services would like to thank the following employees from the Volusia RJDC who achieved perfect attendance for the month of May:

7a-3p Shift: Shakendra Alexander, Tracey Brown, Patricia Copeland, Kendrickus Mackey, Ronald Patterson, Patrick Sullivan and Candis Williams

3p-11p Shift: Gary Bailes, Vernell Brown, Allison Burnett, Jammie Cooks, Sherell Dancy, Charonne Franisco, Michelle McGuirk, Christina Miles, April Shed and Terron Small

11p-7a Shift: Edgardo Alamo, Kenneth Jackson, Valerie Lewis, Preston Massaline, Benny Mitchell, Lawrence Rolle, Bessie Sloss and Robert Stevens

Leon RJDC recently completed construction of a greenhouse at the facility.  The greenhouse was constructed as a part of a JABG grant and was completed as an Eagle project for scout Caleb Wood from scout troop 120.  For the project, he designed and developed the construction plan and helped to supervise the construction.  The actual construction took place on 2 weekends (5/31/2014 & 6/6/2014) and involved 12 volunteers and approximately 72 hours of service from scouts and leaders.

Juvenile Detention Officer Graduation Ceremonies

Congratulations to the newest DJJ detention officers (JDOs), who graduated today in separate ceremonies at Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) in Miami and Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.  JDOs supervise youth in state-operated detention centers as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility. Thanks to Genise Lamar of Miami-Dade RJDC and Jon Loftheim, the central region director of detention services, for addressing the graduating classes. Kudos to learning consultants Andrea Minnis and Kiva Hagans for training the officers for this position of critical responsibility. Each graduate successfully completed 240 hours of training to become a certified officer. The graduates will work at the RJDC listed next to their names.

Hillsborough Community College Graduates

(Left to right) front row:  Karen Medina–Manatee RJDC, Latasha Manning–Pinellas RJDC, Iosha Watson–Pinellas RJDC, Thomasina Barnes–Pinellas RJDC, Janice Miller–Manatee RJDC, Latia Barber–Hillsborough RJDC, Jarah Tobler–Pinellas RJDC, Shanique Wright–Hillsborough RJDC, Jermaine O’Banner-Henry–Hillsborough RJDC

Second row:  Enrique Sanchez–Hillsborough RJDC, Sheron Cooper–Pinellas RJDC, Alexander Lubin–Hillsborough RJDC, Dominique King–Hillsborough RJDC, Luis Suarez–Pinellas RJDC, Marquita Silers–Pinellas RJDC, James Hanretty–Pinellas RJDC, Mariano Cruz-Colon–Pinellas RJDC

Rear row:  Tiffany Pestano–Manatee RJDC, Christopher Downs–Manatee RJDC, Jason Bottoms–Manatee RJDC, Jessica Worrell–Hillsborough RJDC, Travis Kelley–Manatee RJDC, Jonathan Lucero–Manatee RJDC, Larry Smith–Manatee RJDC

Miami-Dade RJDC Graduates

(Left to right) front row:  Keino Jumpp-Collier RJDC, Caleb Akers-Southwest RJDC, LaJaine Eversley-Broward RJDC, Ebony Chambers-Broward RJDC, Elizabeth Fleurmond-Palm Beach RJDC, Candida Rodriquez-Monroe RJDC, Angelina Buenano-Collier RJDC, Cindy Theriot-Escambia RJDC, Andrea Minnis-Learning Consultant

Second row:  Gary Byrnes-Monroe RJDC, David Bess-Palm Beach RJDC, Stanley Anderson-Broward RJDC, Jessica Massengill-Palm Beach RJDC, Jeralnesha Coleman-Palm Beach RJDC, Lisa Orshowitz-Palm Beach RJDC, Stefan Floyd-Leon RJDC, Michael Crutchfield-Collier RJDC

Third row:  Jomarcus Scott-Southwest RJDC, DeVon Georgia-Broward RJDC, Vikingson Dalien-Collier RJDC, Anthony Paniaqua-Miami Dade RJDC, Andra Randle-Monroe RJDC, Julius Roulhac-Escambia RJDC, Juan Santiago-Broward RJDC, Christopher Geraci-Collier RJDC

Rear row:  Kareem Crowell-Leon RJDC, Michael DeFreitas-Collier RJDC, Sanders Green-Collier RJDC, George Jones-Leon RJDC, Jacinto Javier, Jr.-Palm Beach RJDC, Aaron Thomas-Leon RJDC, Danny Burroughs-Collier RJDC