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Secretary's Message

August 1, 2014

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

I am sincerely grateful for the hard work and steadfast dedication to this agency from those who work in juvenile justice across the state, and am proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice and that of our partners. I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues 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).


Christina K. Daly

FJJA Meeting

I was excited to sit down with the Florida Juvenile Justice Association’s new leadership team on Wednesday here at DJJ Headquarters.  I was joined by both Communications Director Heather DiGiacomo and Legislative Affairs Director Jon Menendez where we discussed a wide variety of topics. We had the opportunity to touch base with the new FJJA leadership and talk about their goals moving forward as well as reiterate the commitment to continue to build upon the collaborative relationship  between FJJA and our agency. Thank you to FJJA President Jim Hill (CEO, G4S Youth Services, LLC), President-Elect Pam Alvarez (CEO, Bay Area Youth Services), and Board member Babette Hankey (COO, The Center for Drug Free Living) for meeting with us this week.

Probation Transition Meeting

I had the opportunity on Wednesday to provide the opening remarks to the Chief Probation Officers here in Tallahassee for the Probation Transition meeting.  With the retirement of Assistant Secretary Joan Wimmer and the promotion of Central Region Director Tim Niermann, this meeting gave headquarters staff the opportunity to update the CPOs on agency initiatives as we transition this important leadership role.

Again, congratulations to Joni as she and her husband embark on a new chapter of their lives as well as a big welcome and congratulations to Tim as he steps into his new role as Assistant Secretary for Probation and Community Intervention!


First Lady Tours New PACE Facility in Miami

On Thursday, Assistant Secretary for Prevention Wanda Finnie and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell accompanied First Lady Ann Scott on a tour of the new PACE Center for Girls facility in Miami. The First Lady toured the new facility, which opened May 23, and took time out to visit with the girls.  PACE is a nationally recognized leader in helping keep girls out of the juvenile justice system, reducing recidivism and improving school success. The Miami PACE Center for Girls receives funding in part from DJJ.  

CCYS Street Outreach Drop-In Center

Yesterday, I along with Deputy Manager for Prevention Rhyna Jefferson attended the CCYS Street Outreach Drop-In Center Open House.  Capital City Youth Services is one of our CINS/FINS providers, and the drop-in center is made possible by a federal grant and local donations. 

The drop-in center provides everything from hygiene items to emergency shelter to legal advocacy and college admissions. Check out their website at  http://goingplaces.ccys.org/.

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee collaborated with the Gathering Women organization to create the 2014 Etiquette and Fashion Boot Camp last week at the James Weldon Johnson Public Library in St. Petersburg. The program served 35 disadvantaged youth from ages 6-17. The camp provided youth a wonderful opportunity to transform from the ‘inside out’ as the camp took them through a series of workshops and presentations.

The camp started and ended with a photo shoot to help the youth identify with the beauty of their unique characteristics, followed with a written  essay as to why they’re beautiful both inside and out as they form new relationships. The camp met each youth where they were by arming them with the basic skills for whatever profession they choose in life. Not everyone will be a professional model, but they all are winners and were encouraged to be and do their best. The highlights of the camp were ‘fashion on a budget’ (consignment shopping verses mall shopping), healthy eating for the skin and creating a fashion design using recycled goods.

Presenters included: Christin “CiCi” Battle, Youth Engagement Coordinator; Brandi Winans, Life Coach; Nancy Vaughn, Founder of Fashion Week Tampa Bay; Mayra Gomez, Founder of Model for Jesus Agency and Home Shopping Network model.

In the attached photo, Christin "Cici" Battle, Youth Engagement Coordinator presents a workshop entitled "Personal Branding," where she taught youth to match their insides with their outsides. They discussed the importance of positive personal branding and how it can directly affect life due to stereotypes and perception. The workshop concluded with a vision exercise.  

Camp Fire Gulf Wind, a youth development organization and DJJ Prevention Provider from Circuit 1, held their Camp Fire Summer Day Camp in Century, Milton and Pensacola at the respective Camp Fire Centers. This year, Camp Fire staff attended 16 hours of hands-on Project WILD training with the State of Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. To encourage the children to get outdoors and explore nature, the Camp Fire staff developed weekly schedules which included many of the fun, hands-on nature activities and games from Project WILD.  The more the staff engaged the children with these activities the more the children wanted to learn. In some cases, they researched topics online to gain additional information to share with the children, who were so excited to learn new facts about nature.

Congratulations to Dion Harding, a student from the PACE Center for Girls in Hillsborough County, who achieved her goal of graduating high school a year early.

Dion is a remarkable young lady; she came to PACE in June 2013 at the age of 15. Upon entry to PACE, Dion was determined to “not be engaged.” She was not as participatory as she could have been; being very much a loner. She was referred to PACE because of several suspensions from school, being truant and being a constant run-away.

While there, Dion’s attitude and ambitions changed. With the help of her favorite teacher, Allison Graham, and the entirety of the PACE Hillsborough staff, she began to take advantage of the tutoring opportunities, vocational programming and social service groups that were part of the PACE program. Within six months of attendance, Dion grew from that unwilling, uncooperative young lady to a student leader. She became a Peer Buddy, offering assistance and guidance to new PACE girls, and was a stellar example of a determined student. Earning five academic credits in her six months while at PACE (the average high school student would earn six credits in a full academic year), Dion went on to graduate from Jefferson High School a full year early, at the age of 16!

We are proud to say that Dion will be attending the University of Houston in August and remains in touch with PACE. Once a PACE girl, always a PACE girl!

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle attended the Scrubbin’ Da ‘Burg last Thursday in St. Petersburg. Scrubbin’ Da ‘Burg is an annual community service project where Teen Arts, Sports, and Cultural Opportunities (TASCO) camp sites from the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department work to beautify St. Petersburg. TASCO works in partnership with the St. Petersburg N-Team, City of St. Petersburg Neighborhood Services, St. Petersburg Police Department, Pinellas County Schools and the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department to identify projects.

This event includes 800 TASCO summer teen camp participants from 13 TASCO camp sites. Throughout the community, teens painted houses, washed fire trucks, spread mulch, picked-up trash, cleaned, dusted, cleared debris, landscaped and more. The 13th annual Scrubbin’ Da’ Burg city-wide teen program included over 25 locations for clean-up. Following the clean-up project, teens came together at the St. Petersburg Coliseum for an awards ceremony and proclamation announcement where they were addressed by the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman.

The Prodigy Cultural Arts Program in Pasco County working with seven teens from the Runaway Alternatives Project House of New Port Richey visited the Polk Museum of Art for Innoskate, a special featured exhibition. The exhibition was a refreshing blend between the modern art scene and contemporary skate culture. By juxtaposing the artistic elements of skateboard design with the live performances of local skateboarders, the show provided a thorough representation of the cultural movement in its entirety. Innoskate was a spectacular experience for staff and youth alike. The Prodigy youth expressed great interest in the artwork and sport of skating from this adventure, so much so that a future Prodigy art class containing these components is in the works of being implemented in the curriculum!

The Office of Prevention would like to recognize Visual Arts Instructor Christine Calhoun, from the Tampa and St. Petersburg Prodigy Cultural Arts Program, a DJJ Prevention Provider. Christine has been teaching visual arts to students’ ages 7-14 at the University Area Community Development Corporation and the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg since 2008.

Christine has a degree in elementary education and is pursuing a second degree in the arts with a focus on ceramics. She is being recognized for her hard work and dedication to the Prodigy program, the youth she teaches, and her love of the arts. She currently teaches 6 Visual Arts classes that explore different techniques such as sketching and drawing, as well as informs classic and modern artists’ styles and pieces. The youth that attend her classes love the freedom of expression they get to use on each individual piece they make. Christine is a perfect example of the dedicated, self-less, and inspiring instructors working for the Prodigy Program serving community youth all across Central Florida every day.

Twelve probation and diversion youth received vocational training last Saturday at the Fifth Street Baptist Church in Key West. In order to provide more opportunities for at risk youth, ages 15-19, Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson, Circuit 16, and the Fifth Street Baptist Church provided a vocational training session with youth from diversion and probation programs. The youth worked with church members painting, and following lunch, worked on a wood- working project. The August session will include work on “My Next Move” career planning, Occupational Safety & Health Administration certification and continued work on the wood-working project utilizing power tools to further enhance their skill set. This project provides an excellent environment for team building.

Probation Update

SJPO Toni Lesher and JPOs Annette Ashcraft and Carol Moyer from Circuit 20 attended graduation ceremonies at the Southwest Florida Marine Institute last Friday. Two of our probation youth under the care of Annette and Carol served as class speakers during the ceremony. These two students shared their learning experiences and what they have accomplished throughout their tenure at the Marine Institute. 

Last Saturday, Reform Specialist Donna Clayton from Circuit 4 instructed a Dance-A-Thon fundraiser sponsored by River Region Human Services. This event raised money for a back to school campaign to ensure that our youth have the resources they need to start the school year off on the right foot. The fundraiser was widely attended by both River Region staff and community partners. Dr Esmin Shakespeare, CEO of River Region said, “It’s a pleasure to partner with the community and providers as we help children and families in need.” 

Last Friday, youth from the Children’s Home Society, AMIKids, High School High Tech from the Escambia Boys Base and probation youth from DJJ participated in an Oil Change certification program at the George Stone Technical Center in Pensacola. The youth were provided training and hands on experience and each youth that participated received a certification as an Automotive Lubrication Technician, which they can use to gain an entry level job in an automotive shop. On behalf of the Department, I would like to thank the George Stone Technical Center and instructor Ed Sizemore for making this possible. 

CPO Paul Wallis, ACPO Carmen Lundy, JPOS Reba Chavis and JPOs Kelly Stanford and Patty Hooper from Circuit 1 participated in the Step Forward Prayer Breakfast at the Niceville United Methodist Church last Friday. The breakfast was highlighted by a very moving personal story given by a DJJ youth who credited Patty for being a stabilizing force throughout her time with DJJ. The faith community was asked to identify areas of DJJ, DCF and FFN where their church’s or organizations might assist with parenting, mentoring, or providing programs to our children and families.


C1 Chief Paul Wallis; Phyllis Gonzales-DCF-Community Development Administrator; Terri Marshall-FFN-Adoptions Recruiter; ACPO C1 Carmen Lundy;  Therese Moses Reform Specialist and Peggy Custred FFN Fostercare Recruiter

Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman, ACPO Diane Pearson and SJPO Todd Pollex facilitated a job fair for probation youth in Circuit 8 on July 19. These youth participated in employment training by Dr. Mickie Miller that included resume creation, interview attire, interview questions and soft skills. Each of the youth in attendance participated in a mock interview followed by a speech from a local employer who spoke to them about setting long term and short term goals. 

Residential Update

The Okaloosa Youth Academy (OYA), a nonsecure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, implemented initiatives in the last several months that involve the youths in the decision-making process.  The newest initiative is a committee to design and create lawn games that have regulation play rules, which the residents build and market.  The program sells the sets to support the program’s ability to enhance community involvement activities, transition activities, and other program initiatives for the residents.

OYA Program Director Mike Currie conducted the initial research, selected several design plans, and brought the information before the committee.  The committee reviewed the plan schematics and materials needed for each design.  The young men then conducted a cost analysis of the materials needed for each lawn game.  After completing the cost analysis and determining the fair market value of a quality, handmade lawn game set, the committee selected a design—known as Tailgate Toss, Bean Bag Toss or Cornhole—to build, market and sell. 

Built to the official, established standards, the game includes two sets of bags—with four bags to a set—and two platforms.  Each set must be identifiable from the other, preferably of different colors.  The bags must weigh between 15 and 16 ounces, measuring approximately six-inches by six-inches and may be filled with beans or corn, which is what the committee chose for their custom-made sets.  The platforms made by the OYA residents are constructed of plywood and 2x4 pieces of lumber.

The committee offers three finish options: primed; painted with designs and colors; and specialty design and colors like the one shown here; this was made at the request of SMA-II Lori Jernigan.  

Along with learning valuable math and carpentry skills learned by those on the committee, all of the boys on campus are learning social skills as they play one-on-one and tournaments.  In addition, program administration and other staff members model pro-social skills when they are on the winning and losing teams. 

Shown here are the members of the OYA committee who created the customized set requested by SMA-II Lori Jernigan

The Hillsborough Girls Academy (HGA), a high-and maximum-risk program for females, ages 13 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, celebrated Family Day with a “lady bug” theme.  The families of the residents were treated to a step performance and praise dance by the girls. The HGA Youth Advisory Board chose a healthy route when selecting the food options in order to encourage the young ladies and their families to be more health conscious.  The menu consisted of a lighter fare with various sandwiches and salads. 

Bingo and Scattergories™ were played and prizes were provided for game winners.  The door prize game was “Guess How Many” with families making guesses of the number of Dum Dums® lollipops in the jar.  The winning family of the game received an art piece with a family theme.

During July, Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Facility, a nonsecure program for males, ages 13 to 19, which is operated by G4S, began providing yoga classes to the residents as part of the recreation therapy program.   

The classes are facilitated by instructors from Yoga 4 Change, a non-profit organization based in Jacksonville.  The feedback from the young men has been very positive.  The majority of the young men reported feeling more focused and relaxed after participating in a yoga class.  Youth who participated in the classes also were taught breathing exercises that can be used anywhere at any time to help them relax and relieve anxiety. 

Studies have shown positive outcomes from those who practice yoga to include:  increased self-confidence, lower stress, healthier lifestyle, staying sober, more positive outlook, decreased depression as well as the ability to deal with trauma.  

Detention Update

The Teens Assisting Puppies or TAPS Program has been growing by leaps and bounds at the Brevard RJDC. I am pleased to announce that the youth, staff and volunteers at the facility have successfully fostered their 20th puppy to date. The TAPS Program along with the SPCA and the Pixel Fund provide care and socialization opportunities for puppies that would have otherwise been sheltered.

The youth at Brevard are allowed to play with the puppies in the evening and those youth on the higher levels of the behavior management system are awarded additional time and responsibilities with the puppies as an incentive for positive behavior. Puppies are also used to help youth during difficult times as they break down barriers, comfort and have a remarkable way of making a young person feel special. The RJDC receives puppies when they are three to four weeks old and foster them for five to six weeks. 

The Office of Detention Services received a big boost this week as six new cameras were installed in vans which provide transports as part of the Interstate Transportation Network.  These vans are utilized by the Duval, Okaloosa, Manatee, Orange and Broward Detention Centers. 

The girl’s mod at the Hillsborough RJDC has received a tremendous upgrade over the last couple of months. Detention Supervisor April Walker and her staff have worked hard to create a network of artists and college volunteers to help with the project. The changes made at Hillsborough are a positive reflection of our Trauma-Informed Care program. The mod serves as a place that builds self-esteem, promotes positive behaviors, allows for peace of mind and stands as a reminder to each of our girls that we care about them. 

South Regional Director Dr. Gladys Negron facilitated the South Region’s Superintendent’s meeting this week in Palm Beach County. The Superintendents discussed reform efforts, training, PREA, behavior management and talent development. The conclusion of the meeting was highlighted by the official opening of the gardening project at the Palm Beach RJDC.

Juvenile Detention Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the newest class of juvenile justice detention officers (JDOs) that graduated today in a ceremony at Hillsborough College in Tampa. Thanks to Diana Perreault, assistant superintendent of Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) for delivering the graduation address. Kudos to DJJ learning consultant Kiva Hagans for leading the officers through the certification process for this position of critical responsibility. JDOs supervise youth in detention facilities as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a residential treatment program. The graduates will serve in the DJJ regional juvenile detention center (RJDC) listed next to their names, below.

Front row (left to right):  Desmond Pierson-Hillsborough RJDC, Lesheria Stevens-Pinellas RJDC, Miracle Odom-Pinellas RJDC, Sandra Lloyd-Pinellas RJDC, Adelita Garza-Hillsborough RJDC, Katherine Hiers-Hillsborough RJDC and Jodi Cupp-Pasco RJDC.

Second row:  Wakeisha Girtman-Manatee RJDC, Christopher VanWhy-Pinellas RJDC, Anthony Wilson II-Manatee RJDC, Gilnita Jones-Pinellas RJDC and Cynthia Bartley- Pasco RJDC.

Third row:  Cameron Dittmer-Pasco RJDC, Elvin Kerry-Pinellas RJDC, Briana Thompson-Pinellas RJDC and Boris Wooden-Pinellas RJDC

Fourth row:  Jason Creech- Pasco RJDC, Melvin Halsey- Hillsborough RJDC, Dominique Kilpatrick- Pinellas RJDC and Joshua Velez-Hillsborough RJDC.

Back row:  James Jones II- Manatee RJDC.

Staff Development and Training Update

DJJ learning consultant Andrea “A.J.” Minnis recently received the email below from her former student, Cindy Theriot.  A.J., who has served DJJ for more than 24 years, is widely recognized as a devoted and inspiring juvenile justice professional who makes the learning experience fun while helping staff gain critical skills. Kudos and thanks to A.J. for her dedication and caring professionalism!

I just want to take a minute of your time to let you know how much I enjoyed the Academy. You made learning fun and enjoyable. Upon my return I was able to go on a mod and work with the confidence I gained under your direction. You are truly a remarkable instructor and it shows how much you care with the time you take to answer all questions. I really appreciate the extra work you put in on the last day when it appeared I may not be allowed to take my final. You took the lead and helped clear up all the confusion. I hope to one day be able to meet up with you again and share laughs about DJJ 64.  

Thank You,

Cindy Theriot

Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday

I would like to remind everyone preparing for the upcoming school year to take advantage of the 2014 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday beginning today and ending on Sunday.  This year’s sales tax holiday includes an increase in the sales tax exemption for clothing items to $100 or less per item from last year’s amount of $75 or less per item.  In addition, the sales tax exemption for personal computers and certain computer-related accessories will be in the first $750 of the sales price rather than $750 or less per item last year.

For more information, including a complete list of items that qualify for the sales tax holiday please, visit the Florida Department of Revenue’s website, here.