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Secretary's Message

June 8, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continued our work in serving Florida’s at risk youth and families.  With the official start of the 2015 Hurricane Season starting last Monday, our agency staff, facilities, and programs have been making preparations should a hurricane strike.  Preparation is key to dealing with any emergency and it important for everyone to be ready at both work and at home.  I would like to encourage each of you to ensure that you “have a plan.”  The www.FloridaDisaster.org website (with “Get a Plan” templates) is an excellent source to assist anyone in preparing a personal disaster plan.  We are not able to take care of the youth that need us if we do not take care of ourselves first.


Christina K. Daly

Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Ceremony

On Friday, I joined together with the Commissioner of K-12 Schools Hershel Lyons from the Florida Department of Education as we honored Cheryl Smith with the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award during a ceremony at the Orange County Schools Alternative Education Main Campus in Orlando. Also joining us at the ceremony to celebrate Ms. Smith’s accomplishments were Dr. Jesus Jara, Orange County Schools Deputy Superintendent; Dr. Christopher Bernier, Assistant Superintendent of School Choice Services; Ima McCray, Assistant Principal; Kerrick May, G4S Facility Administrator; and William Tovine, Alternative Education Principal.

Cheryl is an information technology and career education teacher at OYA where she teaches her students important computer and telecommunication skills in preparation for their transition back into the community after completion of their program. One of her major accomplishments is ensuring that each student creates an employment portfolio prior to their departure. The portfolio includes a cover sheet, cover letter, resume, and the certifications they have earned while at the facility. 

Cheryl works hard every day to provide a quality education to the youth at OYA and to ensure they enter into their communities ready and eager to find employment in Florida’s job market. The passion, drive, and commitment she has for teaching is helping these students achieve goals they never thought were possible.

The Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year is awarded to an individual that teaches at a juvenile justice program and that demonstrates the ability to teach using innovative and creative instructional strategies, promotes a positive school environment, helps their students reach personal and academic objectives, and works to ensure their youth have a successful transition back into the community. DJJ partnered with DOE to select the finalists and winner for the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year. 

Probation Update

Circuit 15 JPO Gregory Starling participated in a panel discussion on juvenile justice which was presented by the National Organization for Women of Palm Beach.  The panel discussed the history of the juvenile justice system in Florida, the high rates of direct file cases, the implementation of the Roadmap to System Excellence, and the involvement of community, school, and mental health stakeholders with the juvenile population.

Other panel members included: Carey Haughwout, Public Defender; Ronald Alvarez, Retired Juvenile Judge; Teisha McKoy, Southern Poverty Law Center Advocate; Jeffrey Goldman, Delray Beach Police Department Chief; Tradrick McCoy, Legislative Aide to FL Rep. Bobby Powell; and Dave Kerner, FL Rep. for District 87.

Reform Specialist Donna Clayton and SJPO Bernard Collins from Circuit 4 participated in a community discussion at the Abyssinia Baptist Church on May 28th with local clergy members and Jacksonville Sheriff Officers. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the Sheriff’s PIE (Prevention, Intervention and Enforcement) Initiative Operation.  Many of the community members shared their concerns about the increased crime and violence directed toward at-risk youth. Juvenile Circuit Judge Suzanne Bass was the featured speaker and spoke about the need for the community, church members, and mentors to get involved with the youth in their own neighborhoods. Bernard furthered those comments with information about DJJ’s faith-based initiatives.

Congratulations to Reform Specialists Randy Reynolds (Circuit 5) and Marc Gilmet (Circuit 7) who have just been certified as lead trainers for the EPICS curriculum. Three other reform specialists have also completed their training and submitted the requirements to become lead trainers as well. I am excited to announce that I will be attending the EPICS Booster Training in Orlando June 23-24. This meeting will increase the capacity for coding support needed for the EPICS Rollout to continue.

The Tallahassee SNAP Program is working on recruiting facilitators and preparing for training to begin at the end of June for SNAP facilitators from both Tallahassee and Gainesville. In addition, the Orlando SNAP Pilot Program is currently in their ninth week of group sessions as they continue to facilitate effective groups within the fidelity of the SNAP mode. 

Youth from the Panama City Marine Institute, operated by AMIkids, recently partnered with the local Kiwanis Club to collect books for school libraries in each school across Bay County. These donations will allow students to take a book and keep it or return it and take another. Project Director Arthur Hooks from the Kiwanis Club said, “Thank you to Keith and Todd from Kiwanis for coming out and supporting the bookshelf building effort! Additionally thank you to Ron, BJ and AMIkids PCMI for allowing us to store the books. We were able to cut all the wood and put one book rack together. Looking forward to the next build as it will be easy and quick! Announcement for next build will be forthcoming!”

Probation staff members from Circuit 9 participated in the Orange County Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives community event on May 16th.   The event was held in conjunction with the Orange County Wraparound, Federation of Families, and other stakeholders. This marks the fifth year that DJJ has participated in this event which is geared toward keeping youth and their families on a healthy track. Several probationary youth were on hand to help set up and clean up after the event.  The youth all earned valuable community service hours for their efforts.

Circuit 6 SJPO Patricia Johnson in Pasco County received a thank you letter from one of her probationary youth whom she worked with to help complete her diversionary sanctions. It reads:

Dear Ms. Patricia, 

I just want to thank you for everything you have done to help me not only finish this program but for helping me open my eyes. Thank you for working with me. I am currently employed and they just closed my child protective case.  I will be 18 on June 23rd so I’m trying to recognize your hard work and thank you. I can start my life and stay out of the system. I guess you say you turned out be a Hero undercover. Thank you! 




I am pleased to share this letter of appreciation that was sent to JPO Charmaine Duverne from a parent of a probationary youth. It reads:

When my son was placed on juvenile probation I thought my world and his was over but when we walked into DJJ and met with Charmaine Duverne I saw a light at the end of a dark tunnel. She wasn’t the typical probation officer that you see in TV shows or hear horror stories about. Charmaine talked to my son and ensured him this was not the end of the world he made a mistake and he should learn from this mistake so he doesn’t make it again. She told him the length of his probation was up to him. During his probation she did her required check ins but her visits were much more than just a job she actually cared. It takes a very special person to go over and beyond what the job requires. She asked Jordan about Jordan what was going on in his life, how was he doing and feeling. She encouraged him to stay focus in school, work hard, graduate and have a plan for life. She believed in him when others doubted him because of his troubles. I will always remember her willingness to help us during this time of probation. Charmaine is much more than a probation officer she is a life changing motivator. I want to express my deepest gratitude for believing in my son. You have been an excellent friend, teacher, mentor and a great inspiration for him. You have inspired him to pursue his goals with hard work and dedication. Unlike what many people think, your probation officer is not your enemy. Probation officers want you to succeed.  After his probation ended Jordan remained in touch with Charmaine to give updates on how he was doing. As a mother who once thought her world was over I am proud to say that on June 4th Jordan will walk across the stage with the graduating class of 2015 from Bloomingdale High School and it is because of great people like Charmaine who encouraged him and believed in him and never gave up on him or allowed him to give up on himself. DJJ I thank you for having such a great person on your staff and I commend Charmaine for a job well done. My family thanks you from the bottom of our heart.  

Belief, founded or unfounded, is incredibly powerful--and when someone else believes in you, it's unforgettable.  

Thank you so much for believing 

Prevention Update

Federal Assistant Gloria Gatlin coordinated a Girls Court presentation for Prevention Headquarters staff members in Tallahassee. Rachel Hillegass, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer, Circuit 4, delivered an educational presentation on Girls Court for Prevention HQ team members. Gloria moderated the presentation. Currently, Girls Court is located in Jacksonville and it is designed to reduce recidivism, detention, and commitments among girls. It also aims to identify and address the risk factors of criminal behavior among girls.

Girls Court is a specialized form of juvenile court that assists in linking young “at-risk” females to community resources, social service agencies, mentors, and offering a holistic team approach. The voluntary program offers young ladies a team of adults that can assist with developing trust and empowerment. It also gives girls access to therapy, programs, and mentors.

As the Gender-Specific Liaison, Gloria has been attending Girls Court sessions to observe proceedings addressing the needs of delinquent female teens. Within her role as the Disproportionate Minority Contact assistant, attending Girls Court allowed her to focus on the role of race in the justice system as it relates to sentencing and reducing overrepresentation. Girls Court is collaboration between several agencies including the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.  

In the above photo (from left to right): JohMeliah Verdell, Juvenile Probation Officer Circuit 4, Gloria Gatlin and Rachel Hillegass, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Circuit 4

Recently, our Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris spoke at a girls empowerment rally entitled ‘Girls Rock!’ at the Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville. In light of recent teen violence in Duval County, Eugene was invited to address female students from Raines, Ribault, and Jackson High Schools in Jacksonville. His presentation topic was “Violence Prevention through Community Intervention: Opening the Lines of Communication.” Eugene encouraged the teens to study hard, set goals, and to choose wisely when picking their friends.

Other presentations dealt with “Surviving College,” “Dating Violence,” “Human Trafficking,” “Know Your Brand,” “Cyberbullying” and “Inner and Outer Beauty.” Last December, Duval school administrators, faith leaders and law enforcement officers held “Stop the Violence” rallies for male students at the schools. 

Recently, Circuit Advisory Board Chairwoman Sandra Pavelka from Circuit 20 was featured in an article on juvenile crime in the Fort Myers News Press titled “Board keeps juveniles from reoffending and out of court.” The Neighborhood Accountability Board, like the use of civil citations, are a form of restorative justice which seeks to repair the harm done instead of just punishing, Pavelka told the newspaper.

One June 2nd, Faith Coordinator and DMC Specialist Craig Swain attended a meeting of the local faith community that was convened in response to a rash of recent shootings that took place around Tallahassee.   The meeting which was convened by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was organized to develop a plan to address at least six shootings that took place since May. 

In addition, the Mayor launched “Operation Safe Neighborhoods.” The neighborhood plan would put more police on the streets, add activities for young people, and start a community crime watch in key neighborhoods. The meeting involved members of the faith community and others from government, law enforcement, and community agencies.

Recently, The Prodigy Cultural Arts Program in Circuit 9, a DJJ Prevention Provider, established a partnership with the Education Foundation of Osceola County in Kissimmee. This partnership is expected to grow the opportunities for youth ages 7-17 to participate and benefit from the Prodigy offerings of cultural arts activities infused with life skills. This expansion has kicked off with a photography and theatre class at Neptune Middle School. This is a great opportunity to impact the lives of youth within this community.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene and Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris attended the Bridging the Bay Luncheon for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.  Brian Auld, President of the Tampa Bay Rays professional baseball team was the keynote speaker at the luncheon. Auld, a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, spoke of the importance of mentoring youth. He spoke of the benefits of working with youth to help their growth and development.

For many of the children, the program offers an opportunity to be paired with a strong role model who can help them succeed in school and avoid temptations. That goal has become more urgent due to recent gun-related violence among youth in Tampa’s poorest neighborhoods. More than 3,100 “littles” got a “big” last year in the Tampa Bay area, with about half of them located in Hillsborough County.  But that still left more than 1,100 children waiting to be matched with a big brother or big sister - a wait that can take months or years because of a shortage of adult mentors in the system.  If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay Page here.

Residential Update

A Letter of Appreciation to the Director of the JUST* Program 

May 26, 2015

Good morning, Mr. Lasseter.

My name is Cheryl and I am the mother of JY.  I just want to personally thank you for allowing my family to see my son an extra day this past weekend.  We really enjoyed our weekend there, and the tour of your facility.  Mr. Mitchell is a fantastic human being.  He is the most caring person there is.  Your whole staff is amazing.  Tell them all for me “Thank you for helping my son and also being so kind to us.”  God really knows who to place in my boy’s life.  JY has matured into a very fine young man.  I really wish the family could have met you, but I know you are a very, very busy individual.  Mr. Lasseter, I will be so happy when JY is released soon.  As a parent, you should know the feeling that will just come over me when that day comes.  It is count down time now for my baby.  He’s excited and I’m excited and the family’s excited.  His sister serves in the US Marine Corps and she has so many different things lined up for her little brother to do when he gets out.  He will be spending most of his days with her on Parris Island in South Carolina.  She is going to show him what Boot Camp was really like for her.

His grandmother cries every night for her grandson.  She is 81 years old and usually nothing breaks her down, but for her last few years on this Earth she wants to spend them with her grandson.  She thanks God and you for sending JY home soon.  The staff was just praising him for his 180-degree turn around.  They say he has shown them great progress and that he is on his way out soon. 

I know you made that possible for him.  And he has to believe in himself that he will make it out here in this hard world of work.  That’s because you never gave up on him.  Again, that’s why I want to end this email by saying THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for believing in my son.

Have a great rest of the week. 


Youth’s Mother

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

JUST (Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment) is a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 17, located in Liberty County and operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.

On May 13th, five residents of JoAnn Bridges Academy (JBA), a non-secure program for females, ages 12 to 18, which is located in Madison County and operated by Youth Services International, Inc., participated in a field trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna.  

The park's caves have a long and interesting geologic history, beginning about 38 million years ago when sea levels were much higher and the southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged.  Shells, coral, and sediments gradually accumulated on the sea floor.  As sea levels fell, these materials hardened into limestone.  The Florida Caverns State Park is one of the few state parks with dry or air-filled caves.  It is the only Florida State Park that offers cave tours to the public.

The girls were excited about the amphitheater where they watched movies about the caves, which provided information about the caves and interior formations.  

Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Projects Administration created the park’s many features.  President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” established both groups in 1933 to provide jobs to men during the Great Depression.  Progress continued on the park until 1942, when the United States joined World War II and funding was cut to the CCC and Works Progress Administration programs.  At that time, the Florida Caverns State Park was officially opened to the public.  Shown right are the JBA youth standing with the statue that commemorates the tireless efforts and countless hours of the CCC.

The girls also enjoyed bird watching and wildlife viewing up close and personal.  Inside the museum, the girls learned about different aspects of life in the wild and about the origin of the park.  They also had the opportunity to touch the cave formations on display in the museum.

Last month, five students of the Orange Youth Academy and the Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (OYA/OIYA), non-secure commitment programs for males, ages 12 to 18, which are located in Orange County and operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, spent a day at Ventura Country Club & Golf Course located in Orlando. 

The youth helped the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity raise more than $5,000 toward college scholarships for high school seniors in the Orlando area at the fraternity’s Annual Golf Tournament.  The boys helped set up the event, carried golf clubs for the participants, and learned about developing positive relationships during the activities.  The OYA/OIYA students also learned about the game of golf while gaining an understanding of the importance of men contributing positively to their communities. 

Each of the young men who participated said that they had never been on a golf course and did not know that one could give back to the community while having fun at the same time.  The men of Omega Psi Phi used this opportunity to teach the OYA/OIYA youth about golf and took the time to give them words of encouragement.  

Also in May, a youth’s parent donated 14 tickets to Universal Studios Orlando©.  As a reward for positive behavior and achievements, 10 OYA/OIYA students and 4 staff members enjoyed a fun-filled day.  For most of the students, this was the first time they experienced a theme park.  The staff members who supervised the outing reported that the boys rode every ride in the park and that they had a blast.  It is always a pleasure when parents are part of the team in rewarding positive behaviors!

Another exciting new project of OYA/OIYA was the first edition publication of the facility’s newsletter.  A product of the facility’s collaboration with the Orange County School Board, the first edition of the Orange Youth Academy Exclusive came off the press in April 2015.  The Exclusive includes a welcome page, stories of students and staff success for the quarter, photos of events that occurred, and community projects.  The students and staff had a grand time completing this project to highlight the events at OYA/OIYA and the programs’ partnership with the Orange County School Board.

On May 16, five OYA/OIYA boys participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life® in Eatonville at the Robert Hungerford Preparatory High School.  This event involved multiple communities joining together to honor cancer survivors, to remember loved ones lost to cancer, and to raise research funding to fight against this terrible disease.  The young men helped set up tents for the onsite fundraisers, sold hotdogs and hamburgers to raise money for cancer research, and walked the track to show solidarity during the event.  Those involved expressed how they felt that their efforts helped play a role in the fight against cancer.

Detention Update

Over the last several weeks, many DJJ staff members have been involved in Career Days at local schools in their communities and I am delighted to hear about the positive impact these visits have made on our youth. On May 29th, Facility Training Coordinator Cpl. Johnny Young from the Southwest RJDC participated in career day activities at the Tortuga Preserve Elementary School in Lehigh Acres. Johnny talked to an eager group of students about the qualifications needed to become a Juvenile Detention Officer as well as the importance of education and continued training needed in life.