Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

January 11, 2016

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.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care.

As always, I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich our 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. 


Christina K. Daly

Florida First Responder Appreciation Week

Governor Rick Scott proclaimed last week as Florida First Responders Appreciation Week, to honor those law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs who bravely and selflessly risk their lives every day to protect our families and communities. In his press release, Governor Scott mentioned that crime in our state is currently at a 44 year low and that decrease is due in large part to our first responders who sacrifice their own lives to protect others.

To commemorate this event, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I attended a ceremony honoring local area first responders at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. The event was hosted by the Tallahassee Community College, and was designed to honor those local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs in and around the Tallahassee area. 

Detention Update 

The youth and staff from the Bay RJDC received a special visit on December 23 from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Corporal Lee Anne Terry, who apparently has a direct line to the North Pole, facilitated a visit from the dynamic duo who spent more than an hour at the facility handing out stockings and hugs and took pictures with each of the youth. The whole experience seemed to bring out the child in each one of them. Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who normally receive compensation for their visits, made a special exception for our youth in an effort to spread some Christmas cheer. I would like to thank these community partners for doing so much for our youth and to Corporal Terry for making it happen.  

The St. Lucie RJDC hosted their annual holiday party on Christmas Eve. The youth at the facility were provided a large lunch, as well as a visit from Santa Claus who along with his elves provided plenty of gifts and stockings which were filled to the top. The party was a fantastic event that could not have happened without the support of our great community partners. I would like to thank the following people who helped out with not only this event but with other youth programs throughout the year:

Scott Van Duzer, Big Apple Pizza; Diamond Litty, Public Defender; Major Jerry Rotham, Sheils Randazzo and Margarite Morrison, St. Lucie County Sheriff Office; Miki McMurtry, Assistant Public Defender; Joan Maddy, Volunteer; Phil Hardwick; Beth and Dan Petermeir; Wyndie Willis; Debbie Butler; Dianne Johnson and Michele Hinder, St. Lucie County School Board; Christina Ouilette; Wendy and Dan Dwyer.

Prevention Update

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III attended the My Life Tallahassee Teen Rally on December 10. The event featured several inspiring speakers, including a presentation from Representative Alan Williams, District 8. He encouraged the youth to do well in school and to respect their peers.  He also spoke about staying out of trouble and recognized the positive work of DJJ.

Currently in its third year, My Life events are hosted in partnership with numerous organizations who are dedicated to empowering Tallahassee’s youth. My Life is a fun and inspiring group servicing youth between the ages of 13 to 23 who have had experiences with mental health, substance abuse, foster care and other challenges.

In the above photo, Rep. Alan Williams speaks during My Life festivities in Tallahassee.

Natalya Bannister, Executive Director of the PACE Center for Girls Alachua was named the 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate Alumni by the University of Florida’s Family, Youth and Community Services Department last month. Bannister, who has served as executive director at PACE Alachua since 2014, was honored in recognition of her leadership and service in improving the lives of youth in Alachua County. Bannister has been instrumental in creating a girl-centered movement in Alachua County that included initiating a Girls Rock Rally and Anti-Bully march to call attention to issues facing teen girls.

The PACE Center is an intervention and prevention program for girls and young women ages 12 to 18 years old. Established in 1998, PACE has helped more than 1,200 girls throughout Florida to acquire a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. The center follows the Alachua County Public Schools curriculum and girls stay at the school 12-15 months to accomplish their goals and then they return to their zoned schools.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson Grady volunteered during the Capital City Classic Basketball tournament December 21-22 on the campus of Tallahassee Community College. The Capital City Classic Scholarship Foundation has hosted a basketball classic for the past 25 years. The original goal was to develop safe and positive activities to keep youth off the streets during the holidays and to raise funds for scholarship.

Verla volunteers with the Classic, serving as the Event Coordinator and Gymnasium Administrator. The Scholarship Foundation has awarded approximately $250,000 to graduating seniors in the Big Bend area. In order to be eligible for the scholarship, students must provide a letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or principal stating why they would be a good recipient for the Graduating Seniors Scholarship. The Classic had high school teams from Georgia, the Big Bend, West Florida and South Central Florida.

Dancers perform during a break in the action at the Capital City Classic.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell and members from the Probation and Community Intervention team conducted six community conversations over the last two months. These conversations educate residents on prevention initiatives undertaken by DJJ and those initiatives implemented by our juvenile justice stakeholders, including the Public Defender’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, judiciary, law enforcement, Juvenile Services Department, and school districts.  

These conversations were held in Hollywood, Pompano, Pahokee, Lake Worth, Miami Gardens and Miami respectively.  The attendees were also provided an overview of the Juvenile Case Flow Process. The panelists in each circuit consisted of the Chief Probation Officers, Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Reform Specialist, Delinquency Prevention Specialist and representatives of the Juvenile Justice Stakeholders. In addition, the attendees were provided with a brief overview of the Judicial Circuit Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Boards (CAB). The Chair of each of the CABs attended each conversation.

Providers in all circuits delivered information on services available to youth and families. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office provided the mobile expungement unit for the sites in Circuit 11 and the Career Source of South Florida provided their mobile unit for community members seeking employment. Feedback from those in attendance was that they now have a better understanding of the juvenile justice system and the roles of the juvenile justice stakeholders.  It was suggested that more of these type of discussions be done.

Probation Update

On December 15, Men2Boys mentoring program and Circuit 17 Probation hosted the program’s final group mentoring session of 2015. The Men2Boys Group mentoring program is designed to empower male youth that are involved with Circuit 17 Probation and Intervention Services to understand the importance of maturity, accountability, responsibility and discipline through their choices and decisions.  Youth that participated in the several sessions throughout the year were invited to attend.  The event was held at the North Service Center and the theme was “Rise Up”.  It consisted of several guest speakers that included a few retired NFL players.  Towards the end of the event, the youth received Certificates for Participation. It was a huge success.

Residential Update

Last week, Bartow Youth Academy (BYA), a non-secure residential commitment program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, announced its community partnership with Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  The staff and students of BYA had the privilege of delivering Star Wars® toys to various children at the hospital.  

Three BYA residents and two staff members—BYA Facility Administrator Sumpter James and CCM Samont Washington—delivered approximately 30 boxes of Star Wars® toys to the Nemours Children’s Hospital.  The Child Life Department staff of the Nemours Children’s Hospital welcomed the BYA visitors with open arms and complimented the program on their level of commitment and charity.

With the recent success of the film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the gifts created an exciting atmosphere in the children’s unit.  BYA will continue working with Nemours Children’s Hospital to provide clothing and undergarments for children in need.  

The following is a poem written by a resident of Frances Walker Half Way House (FWHH), a non-secure program for females, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Aspire Health Partners. This young lady has gone through a lot and just recently opened up to her mother who was released from prison not long ago.  The youth has had a long journey and still has a long way to go in treatment.  Part of her therapy was to try to put it into words.

Not Every Disease Has a Cure

By Youth P.C.

I tried to write a poem about my pain

So you could feel what I feel; but

Not every star has a name

Not every cell in the body is known

Not every depth of the ocean has been seen

And not every disease has a cure.

I tried to write a poem about my pain;

I want you to know how I feel.

But as hard as I try,

I can't give it a name ...

This pain that I feel.

I can't explain this feeling; but if I could,

You would never know how deep it is.

And if you could know, you would never understand the depths.

And if you felt, and saw, and understood this pain

You would try to heal me.

But not every disease has a cure.

Last month, nine students of the Home Builders Institute (HBI) programs at Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy completed an eight-hour course in First Aid and CPR.  HBI CPR Instructor Dean Smith coordinated the class with HBI Instructor Oliver Rodriquez who stated that he believes CPR and basic first aid are two things that everyone needs to know.  Medical situations can happen no matter where you are.  You never know when you may need CPR or first aid to save someone’s life. 

The program’s instructors taught the group of young men how to perform manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).  An AED can automatically diagnose life-threatening arrhythmias of the heart and, by applying electrical therapy, can reestablish the heart’s effective rhythm. 

The students passed the course and received their certifications, making them ready to save lives, including their own.  CPR and basic first aid certification also gives HBI students an advantage in some jobs. 

The youth stated that they were excited to participate in the class and learn CPR.  However, each one said that they hope they never have to use the skills they learned.  

The Wellness Wire

Please find a link below to the January 2016 edition of “The Wellness Wire.” This monthly publication provides calendars of events hosted by providers of Florida State Group Insurance and tips to improve health and emotional well-being. 

Volume 4 | Issue 12 |  January 2016