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Secretary's Message

April 6, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter


Spring is in full force with flowers blooming and birds singing. This time of year in particular is one for many of us to celebrate new life and new beginnings finding hope in the joys of Spring, its time of renewal and feeling of optimism. I encourage each of you take a moment to reflect on the promise that new beginnings bring. New beginnings are the hope that can inspire our youth to seek out the success we know lies at the end of a sometimes difficult and tumultuous road.  

My wish and hope as we celebrate the awakening of Spring is that you and our youth find inspiration in these words spoken by Ralph Blum, “The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.”


Christina K. Daly

Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Meeting

Last Thursday, I was honored to speak with the current class of Gubernatorial Fellows at the Capitol. The current class, Class X, will be leaving next month, and I was excited to speak to them about their future plans and how the Fellows program will help them to become future leaders in their state.

The Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program was created from the belief that the best way to ensure Florida’s greatness is to actively educate and cultivate its future leaders. This non-partisan program immerses students from public and private universities in key areas of state government. During their nine-month tenure in Tallahassee, Fellows receive advanced on-the-job training as well as an invaluable front-line view of the inner workings of government. As Fellows, participants fulfill roles of critical responsibility, interact closely with the state’s top leaders and employ their skills and abilities in a highly rewarding environment.

World Autism Day 

The 8th annual World Autism Awareness Day was last Thursday April 2, 2015. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.

Educational disability alone does not cause delinquency, but learning and behavioral disorders may place youth at greater risk for involvement with the juvenile courts and for incarceration. Parents, law enforcement, the judicial system, and our own juvenile justice system all have a significant role to play in educating ourselves and how we can better address the needs of our youth who have autism.   There are many factors in the juvenile justice system we cannot control.  There are many ways, however, that we can advocate for and support children with autism, educational disabilities and learning specific disabilities in our system.

*Excerpts taken from a review written by JPO Ivana Ruiz.  We would like to thank her for dedication in raising awareness on such an important issue. 

Circuit 18, Seminole County Staff show support for National Autism Day on April 2, 2015 by wearing all shades of “Blue”. World Autism Awareness Day raises an awareness of issues surrounding people, particularly children, with autism worldwide.

Pictured in top picture from left to right: JPO David Medina, SJPO Sharon Lawrence, MRS Dicye Byrd, JPO Kistin Bentley, JPO Matthew Garboski, JPO Eric Gaela, JPO Harold Dixon, JPO JC Robinson, JPO Bonita Johnson, SJPO Sharon Washington. JPOS Jesse Schrage, and SS Yolanda Warren.

Pictured in bottom picture from left to right: JPO Kistin Bentley, RS Tracy Olsen, MRS Dicye Byrd, and JPO Bonita Johnson

Prevention Update

Recently, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady spoke to teens from My Life Tallahassee at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center. Verla, a member of the My Life Tallahassee’s Steering Committee, delivered encouraging words to all teens in attendance and volunteered throughout the evening.  My Life is in its third year in Tallahassee and is working to spread the word to youth and families about their free monthly events held at the Center.

These My Life events are hosted in partnership with numerous organizations serving youth and individuals who are dedicated to empowering Tallahassee youth. DJJ’s recent Probation Academy class also volunteered at the event.

Living Stones International facilitated visits between incarcerated parents and their children earlier last month at the Gadsden Re-Entry Facility, Wakulla Correctional Institution Work Camp, and Gadsden Correctional Institution Women’s Facility. Living Stones is a children and family outreach organization hosting quarterly special bonding visits between children and their incarcerated parents.

In 2007, Living Stones International (LSI) was established as a faith-based children and family outreach and social service organization working with "children of inmates and their families."  For the past three years, children have been reconnected to moms, dads, and grandparents in the state prison system comprising the counties of Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla. Living Stones also offers after school tutoring programs and mentoring.

The PACE Center for Girls of Alachua County was featured in the Gainesville Guardian on March 25. The Guardian is a community supplement of the Gainesville Sun.  To celebrate March as "Believing in Girls" month, the PACE Center for Girls of Alachua County hosted the "Girls Rock Rally" with a fashion show, music, giveaways and speakers. To view the full article, click here.

Probation Update

CPO Gregory Starling, ACPO Geeta Loach-Jacobson, JPOS Althea Cameron, SJPOs Elsa Westcarth and Tiffany Patrick, JPOs Rebakah Wilson and Pektra Edgerton and Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty all from Circuit 15 teamed up with several of our probationary youth and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for another community service action with the Teens Against Graffiti Project or T.A.G. The participating youth earned community service hours by painting a local wall in West Palm Beach which faces the Palm Beach International Airport. The T.A.G. Project was formed to have youth, DJJ staff, and law enforcement officers work together to eradicate unsightly graffiti that has tainted the community walls and buildings throughout Palm Beach County. The collaboration between agencies and the youth helped to restore the value of property and help the youth gain self-respect.

JPOSs Tracie Foss and Caren Langevin, SJPO Toni Lesher, JPO Joanna Lopez and Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq from Circuit 20 attended a child welfare training in Naples last week. The training, hosted by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was designed to enhance collaboration between certified domestic violence centers and child welfare agencies. The goal of the training is to help build the capacity of child welfare and partnering agencies to assess for domestic violence, to partner with domestic violence survivors to achieve child safety, and to appropriately safety plan with families experiencing domestic violence that are involved in the child welfare system.

Ms. Susan Still provided the keynote address during this event. Susan, a domestic violence survivor herself, has gained recognition among groups that campaign against violence. Her story and mission have been featured prominently in several national news pieces including interviews with Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey. 

The Probation team in Circuit 11 is excited to announce their move into the brand new Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse during the first week of May. The Courthouse, located at 155 NW 3rd Street in Miami, is a brand new facility that will consolidate seventeen agencies that specifically work for at-risk youth and their families including the Public Defender’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, and Guardian ad Litem. This facility has already won several awards for its architecture, and features various pieces of public art including a statue by noted sculptor Tom Otterness. 

Circuit 9 Probation staff held a parent orientation on March 24 for the Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) curriculum in Orlando. The orientation, in conjunction with Wraparound Orange, provided families with information about the SNAP Program. The staff answered any questions the parents had as they enjoyed a delicious meal with these families.

SNAP is an evidenced based cognitive behavior program for children ages 6-11 and their parents that helps deal effectively with behavior issues and teaches problem-solving skills. A SNAP group is scheduled to begin in Circuit 9 on April 13. 

On March 26, Circuit 17 Juvenile Court Judge Stacy Ross held her annual “Dolphin Day” at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Each year, Judge Ross invites probationary youth to the Courthouse for a meet and greet with several players from the Miami Dolphins. This year, offensive tackle Billy Turner and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard spoke to our youth about bad decisions and what impact they might have on their future. Both Turner and Sheppard emphasized the importance of remaining focused on their goals and surpassing involvement in criminal activity. All of the youth in attendance earned community service hours and were challenged by the players with goal-centered questions where they were rewarded with signed footballs, replica helmets, and pennants for their participation.

Circuit 17 Probation staff accompanied several of our probationary youth to the 15th Annual “Youth Track and Field Extravaganza” at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach on March 28. The event, hosted by Xpress Youth Development, has received support from our agency through volunteer work for several years which helps to make the event a success. Our probationary youth earned valuable community service hours by assisting several of the staff members with the prep and closing of this event. CPO Cassandra Evans also volunteered and was recognized by the founder of Xpress.

Several of our staff members serve key roles with the event including SJPO Wanda Smith, who currently serves as its business manager. SJPO Christina Atwell coaches the participants and JPO Adrea Hightower serves as its registrar.

I am pleased to share with you this letter of appreciation from paralegal Tiffany Alicea about Circuit 9 JPO Sonya Matthews.  It reads:

I wanted to reach out because, in the time that I have spent with Ms. Sonya Matthews, I can only state that she has gone above and beyond, and she is amazing. I think she is if not the best one of your best and genuinely caring officers. 

Please note that she was always on time, responsive and always provided the best feedback, information and help needed. She's awesome, please make sure to provide her with praise when needed, and this is definitely one of those times.  Thank you and have a great day. :) 

Tiffany Alicea 

Best Regards,

Tiffany L. Alicea

Paralegal | Legal Assistant

Detention Update

Budget Manager Claudia Owen from the Marion RJDC held a fiscal training and work day at the Ocala Regional Office for North Region Detention Services. Claudia worked with fiscal agents from the Marion, Volusia, Duval, and Alachua Detention Centers respectively.

Pictured from left to right are: Suzanne Bartlett-Duval Detention; Trina Decker-Marion Detention; Maria Carroll-Volusia Detention; Lillian Saxon-Alachua Detention; Front row: Claudia Owen-Detention Services, North Region

Tranquil Paws Therapy Dogs, a Pasco County volunteer group of registered therapy dogs and their handlers, made their monthly visit to the Pasco RJDC on March 28. The dogs came by to socialize and interact with the youth, and their presence brings tranqulity and healing for our youth in a peaceful environment. The therapy dogs from Tranquil Pawz also visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and rehab facilities, schools, libraries, camps, and any other places where therapy dogs are welcome. Their job is to bring smiles, joy, and comfort wherever they go.

Over the last several months, the Broward RJDC has constructed a garden on the grounds of the facility with the help of our staff from Circuit 17 Probation and the Regional Detention Office as well as employees from the Public Defender’s Office. The garden area provides a relaxing therapeutic environment for youth to enjoy. They have affectionately referred to it as the “patio,” and use it as a positive outlet. Currently, the mental health staff at Broward also use the garden for both individual and group sessions. The youth at the facility currently assist in maintaining the garden.  

NBA Star Visits DJJ Facilities

Former NBA player and University of Illinois star Marcus Liberty visited with the youth from the Manatee RJDC and the Palmetto Youth Academy last week. Marcus shared his success story about overcoming obstacles during his childhood in the Chicago projects. Marcus said that he overcame street life by focusing on things that would help him rise above the streets, which for him was basketball. He encouraged our youth to find that focus that can help them rise above their problems. Marcus came to our facilities through Replay Outreach, a nonprofit organization in Circuit 12 that volunteers to impact the lives of incarcerated youth.  Replay Outreach made arrangements for this event and worked in proud partnership with the Liberty Edge youth basketball program.   

Residential Update

Last month, five youth from the Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, served the deserving citizens of Greater Miami in partnership with Farm Share, a non-profit organization dedicated to recovering, sorting, packing, and distributing nutritious food for people in need.  The Jose Mari Park Distribution, held on Feb. 27, 2014, distributed food to nearly 1,000 households and more than 2,400 individuals.  The event also was a partnership effort of the City of Miami, Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado, and Representative David Richardson (D, District 113).

From left to right: City of Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado, State Representative David Richardson, and Alfio Ferrea (Farm Share) – at Jose Marti Park Distribution event.

The boys of MYA helped sort and distribute the donated food items provided by Farm Share. Using adult inmate labor and volunteers, Farm Share collects, sorts, and packages an abundance of surplus food, which is distributed to individuals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, churches, and other organizations that feed the hungry in Florida.  All of this is done free of charge—an important distinction that makes Farm Share critical to small community groups, located in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, which cannot afford to pay for food.  By tapping into a vast supply of donated produce, Farm Share keeps its costs low, while providing fresh fruits and vegetables, and other nutritious foods to the hungry.  However, Farm Share does not require its community partners to share the burden of expenses.  That makes Farm Share more reliant on donations from the public and on volunteers to help their efforts—like the boys of MYA. 

The five MYA Champions (in blue sweatshirts, foreground) receive early morning instructions about the operations of the distribution event. One of the boys helped a community member negotiate the terrain in her wheelchair.

Shown above and right, the MYA boys helped unpack bulk items and bag individual items needed by those served.

The participation of the MYA Champions in this community service project was made possible by MYA staff members Mr. Alvarez, Mr. McInnis, Mr. Fletcher, and staff members from Dade Juvenile Residential Facility

Shown left is the City of Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado with four of the MYA boys and State Representative David Richardson (center).  

As February ended, the students and staff members of the Orange Youth Academy (OYA) and the Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (OIYA), which are both programs for males that are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, helped feed and clothe the homeless in the surrounding community.  They assisted “Serenity of Love,” a non-profit organization that helps feed and clothe homeless people throughout the Orlando community.

The event took place on a rainy Saturday and recurs the fourth Saturday of the month.  The students helped serve plates of food and helped people in the clothing area where more than 5,000 donated items were available to those in need. 

After the community members were served lunch (Noon to 2 p.m.), the boys continued distributing food to other homeless people in another part of the city.  One of the young men said that he had never felt so good helping others and will continue to be a positive part of his community when he returns home.  After the event, the youth took all of the remaining clothes to a local Goodwill donation center.

The students also assisted The New Image Center located in the Paramore district of Orlando.  The students were involved in feeding and clothing homeless people in an event sponsored by the Islamic Center of Orlando, which holds the event on a quarterly basis.

The youth helped sign up people who were in need of assistance, escorted them to their seats, and served them food throughout the evening.  They also helped the community members navigate the clothing donations made available that day.

For the young men who participated in the event at The New Image Center, their community service was part of the Impact of Crime class, which requires the youth to pick a project to do that gives back to the community.  Many of the youth involved said that this was the first time they ever did something for people less fortunate than they were.

Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for females, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by the North American Family Institute, held a Valentine’s Day “Sweethearts Dance” for the residents. 

The young ladies had the opportunity to dress up in pretty gowns and heels, curl their hair, and dance the night away. 

They enjoyed appetizers of meatballs, chicken, dips and chips, and a special dessert of chocolate hearts.  The youth and the staff members had a ball at the Sweethearts Dance.

On March 25, all residents of the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility (PBJCF), a high-risk program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., attended a presentation by Angela Williams.  Ms. Williams founded the Mothers Against Murderers Association (MAMA) after her nephew, Torrey Manuel, was killed by a senseless act of violence.  MAMA’s mission is to positively impact the community by providing support for the families of victims, informing the community about the long-term effects of violence, and voicing the need for change to lawmakers. 

Ms. Williams visited PBJCF with four other members of MAMA who are victims and speakers.  Their presentation was very moving.  The powerful and emotional messages they shared had an immediate impact on the boys in the program.  While they spoke, it was so silent that one could have heard a pin drop in the room.  The women talked about the incidents that took the lives of their children and explained in detail how that one act of violence impacted their lives and the lives of their families. 

What was most astonishing and impactful to the young men was the women’s abilities to openly share their capacity to forgive those who committed the hideous murders of their children and the strength they possess to come out and openly talk about the incidents.  More importantly, they explained the work they do to positively impact the lives of others. 

After the presentation, all of the visitors enjoyed a special luncheon with the program’s management team.  During that time, they discussed ways for PBJCF and MAMA to be partners and to explore additional speaking opportunities.

MAMA provides a multitude of services that include supporting mothers and family members who have lost a child to murder, advocating on their behalf, speaking out against violence, advocating on behalf of children who have committed law violations, and ensuring that these children get the help they need and a second chance.  The MAMA members are available to meet with community groups, sharing their personal testimonials in hopes that their messages will deter others from committing acts of violence.