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Secretary's Message

December 9, 2011

Wansley Walters

Dear DJJ Employees:

This week, I was honored to stand with other state agency heads as Gov. Rick Scott announced his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012-13 budget proposal to the Legislature. The Governor listened to Floridians to find out what issues were most important to them. Education and jobs are the core of his budget because these are the two issues Floridians care about most.

Highlights of the $66.4 billion proposed budget include:

• Over $1 billion in new state K-12 funding
• New tax relief measures totaling nearly $35 million in taxpayer savings next year, and over $86 million in FY 2013-14
• Injecting $300 million in the Florida Retirement System pension fund
• Reducing state spending by 4.6 percent - close to FY 2005-06 levels
• Adjusting Medicaid reimbursement methodologies to control soaring costs
• Efficiencies and savings for Florida taxpayers as a result of 40 year low crime rates
To view the Governor’s full budget proposal, visit http://letsgettowork.state.fl.us

How does this affect DJJ? The Governor’s recommendations expand on his first year’s budget which dramatically shifted the focus of Florida’s juvenile justice efforts from the deep end of the system to diversion and prevention programs. This not only saved the state money in the current year but also greatly improved outcomes for Florida’s youth. In Fiscal Year 2012-13, the Governor is realizing a $6.9 million savings through policy decisions that have resulted in reduced demand for residential services while redirecting $4.4 million to support diversion and prevention programs where needed throughout the state. $1.6 million is provided to redirect youth involved with domestic violence disputes at home into a respite bed (a short-term temporary shelter bed) when secure detention is not appropriate. The Governor’s juvenile justice reforms have taken hold and by providing further improvements at less cost they will ensure the success of Florida’s most important resource – our children.

SAFETY FIRST: The current issue of Safety Outlook, the newsletter of the Department of Financial Services, Division of Risk Management, spotlights DJJ’s Tommy Blankenship. From the profile: Mr. Blankenship is the Safety Coordinator for DJJ. As the Safety Coordinator, Mr. Blankenship is responsible for developing and implementing the department’s loss prevention program and inspecting facilities to ensure safety to both the staff and the youth DJJ serves. In addition, he works with Beth Davis, DJJ risk manager, at headquarters to coordinate safety efforts and communicate those efforts to executive management. “Four years of reduced workers compensation claims and costs along with being recognized as Safety Program of Distinction this past year, has been very rewarding for our program,” said Mr. Blankenship. With the services provided to their youth and the varied risks in everyday activities, the safety program for DJJ is unique. DJJ operates over 95 facilities, both state run and through private contractor, and serves 4,500 youth 24 hours a day. The cooperation among DJJ’s employees has “created teamwork needed to create an award-winning safety program.” He also credits a close relationship with the Alternate Safety Coordinator of DJJ, John Criswell, for being an integral part of accomplishing their goals. Mr. Blankenship received his B.S. degree from the University of Florida. He is a Florida Certified Building Contractor, Florida Certified Home Inspector, and continues professional development in safety and OSHA training.

BEST WISHES: Clyde Benedix will be leaving state government next month and his last day at DJJ was yesterday, Dec. 8. Clyde has worked with DJJ for as long as most of us can remember and he has probably been involved with each office and bureau at some time during his tenure. He has worked in various areas throughout the agency and has made a significant impact on DJJ and those who work here. In his most recent capacity Clyde served as the Forms, Policy, and Procedure Coordinator for the agency. His attention to detail, his patience and perseverance made him a joy to work with and we were lucky to have him on our team. We celebrate with Clyde as he leaves us to enjoy time with his family and friends. Thank you, Clyde, for you all you have done for DJJ and the State of Florida. Please accept my best wishes for a happy and joyous holiday season and retirement.

THE FUTURE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE: This week, I was invited to brief the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on various agency initiatives. One of these is the proposed revision of the state’s laws governing the juvenile justice system, which have not been reviewed in nearly 20 years. We intend to comprehensively review and revise these laws, and any revision will be submitted to the Legislature for the 2013 legislative session. It is through this process that we will codify into law best practices for the juvenile justice system. We will establish a Juvenile Justice Workgroup Committee to review existing laws that will consist of DJJ staff, legislative partners and stakeholders in the juvenile justice system. This is a work in progress that will continue to evolve and grow throughout next year. We will funnel input for potential changes through the committee. In the meantime, your opinions and views are wanted and welcome (after all, you have to work within the system every day). Please submit any comments, opinions or questions about this process to Brian McManus in the DJJ Legislative Affairs Office at brian.mcmanus@djj.state.fl.us. Remember, emails sent to that address become public record.

Thank you for all you do for the youth in our care.


Wansley Walters

PS: Thank you for responding to my request for good news to share in my weekly letter. Sometimes I don’t have room for all of them in one letter and must save them for a future edition. Please continue sharing any announcements or news with Communications Director C.J. Drake at cj.drake@djj.state.fl.us or at 850.921.5905. Thank you for your cooperation.