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Secretary's Message

February 1, 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

2016 Youth Success Day 

Last Tuesday we celebrated the 2016 DJJ Youth Success Day both in Tallahassee and around our state.  Each year, the Department (DJJ), members of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), and youth program providers celebrate the successes of not only our juvenile justice system but of our youth.  Youth Success Day is a part of the Children’s Week festivities held each year. This is the seventh year that DJJ has recognized Youth Ambassadors during its Youth Success Day. 

On Tuesday on the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol, we held our annual press event to commemorate Youth Success Day and to announce and honor our DJJ Youth Ambassadors.  I was joined by Representative Ray Pilon, FJJF Executive Director Caroline Ray, FJJA Executive Director Cathy Craig-Myers, President and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Stacy Gromatski, Executive Director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office Alan Abramowitz, State Advisory Group Chairman Dwayne Maddron, and Corporal Scott Freiburger of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.  DJJ Youth Ambassadors are youth who have turned their lives around for the better after contact with the juvenile justice system, and serve as mentors and role models for other at-risk kids throughout the state. 

This year we were proud to honor two amazing youth who despite coming from different walks of life, share the bond of overcoming challenges and standing tall in times of adversity. They have proven that success isn’t just about what you accomplish in life, but about how much you inspire those around you, and I am very pleased to share their stories below: 

Kera Greene- Kera’s involvement in the juvenile justice system began when she was 13 years old and continued until she was placed in the Okeechobee Girls Academy at the age of 17. Kera took advantage of everything the program had to offer including earning her Pre-Apprenticeship Certification in Building Construction Technologies with the Home Builders Institute and obtaining her GED. Upon leaving Okeechobee, she continued her journey while working with the transitional services provided by Project Bridge. Kera worked as a fish processer on a boat in Alaska before coming back to Florida with plans to attend college and begin her lifelong goal of working in the medical profession. I look forward to watching with great interest as Kera pursues her lifelong dreams and wish her all the best in her future endeavors; I know she will do great things!  

Ta’Riq Brown- Ta’Riq was a highly respected football player for Immokalee High School when he was arrested for a drug related charge during his junior year of high school. The arrest shocked his family, school staff and coaches. With no previous history, Ta’Riq entered the Intake Diversion Program for Substance Abuse which is a diversion program in Collier County designed to divert youth out of the court system. Ta’Riq successfully completed the substance abuse counseling, cut ties with the negative influences in his life and took responsibility for his actions. He continued to work hard in the class room and on the gridiron and last February signed his letter of intent to play football at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN. This past August Ta’Riq started his freshman year of college on a full football scholarship and made this Florida State graduate an Indiana State Sycamores fan for life. 

These Youth Ambassadors received a certificate and Youth Investment Award from the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), which is the direct support organization for DJJ. I would like to thank FJJF Director Caroline Ray and all of their board members for their continued support of our DJJ Youth Ambassadors.

To see the entire press conference, visit the Florida Channel

In conjunction with Youth Success Day, Circuit 6 held its Bump, Set, Spike to Success event last Tuesday.  Circuit 6 probation staff along with HBI, AMIkids Pinellas and Charles Britt Academy participated in a volleyball tournament at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center in St. Petersburg.  This successful event had youth playing against the adults and enjoying the day with laughter and fun.  After the volleyball game, everyone enjoyed a luncheon together.  Special thanks for participating goes out to Sr. JPO Nikisha Branham, Sr. JPO Jared White, JPOS Marilyn Walker, JPO Dekesha Davis, JPOS Karin Popkowski, JPO Cheryl Lucas, JPO Thomasina Johnson, Intern Erin McGowen, JPO Micah Taylor, JPO Scott Green, JPO Takeria Peterson, JPO Deon Wimberly, HBI Program Manager Randal Sconyers, Career Services Coordinator Kristina Hollingsworth, BTC Instructor Joe Fleish, Charles Britt Halfway House Program Director  Johnnie Downing and Transition Specialist Rhonda Rentz, AMIkids Pinellas Executive Director Robert Johnson and Transportation Specialist Jim Sellers as well as the many youth from each of the programs.

DJJ Circuit 16 probation staff hosted the Youth Success Day – Color My World Art event in Key West. This was an outdoor activity event at Indigenous Park in Key West. This event is geared towards at risk youth of the community age 11-17 and youth who are currently served by the Department. Our main goal is to inspire our youth to seek opportunities to change their lives and become responsible adults by exposing them to creative expression, career exploration, and motivational speakers. Local artists have donated their time in creating the outline of the mural. The youth in attendance painted the mural.  

Circuit 17 Probation & Community Intervention Services and Eckerd Project Bridge also proudly celebrated Youth Success Day.  The event honored youth that successfully completed transitional services (pictured left).  Keynote speaker, FIU Senior Instructor and Internship Director Carleen Vincent-Robinson, shared her professional and personal experiences with the criminal justice system.  The audience consisted of staff, parents, youth, and community providers that work collaboratively to make a positive impact on the youth that we serve.  Food, certificates, and a motivational message were provided to guests.  Chief Probation Officer Cassandra Evans, Eckerd Program Manager William Henderson, Reform Specialist Tina Robinson, JPOS Rubin Smith, SJPO Adrea Hightower, JPO Dakri Lukowski, JPOS Stacey Dunkel, JPO Alfred Mendivil, and Eckerd staff members ensured that the event was a huge success.

Champion of Service Award Winner

I also attended the Children’s Week Press Conference Tuesday afternoon for a truly remarkable presentation with CEO Chester Spellman from Volunteer Florida. Dr. Sue Mahan, a professor from the Criminal Justice Department at the Daytona Beach campus of the University of Central Florida and volunteer at the Volusia RJDC, was presented with a Champion of Service Award. The Champion of Service Award was established in 2013 by Volunteer Florida to honor individuals and groups for their outstanding efforts in volunteerism and service.

Dr. Mahan began volunteering at Volusia back in 2009 and regularly comes to the facility each Friday afternoon and alternates working with a boy group and girl group.  During the past seven years she has conducted groups on parenting, she facilitated a book reading club for several years, and currently she facilitates groups on how to make good choices.  The youth enjoy spending time with Dr. Sue and she has been a huge asset to the program. 

From left to right: Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Champion of Service Award Winner Dr. Sue Mahan, Secretary Daly, and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman

On behalf of our agency, I would like to thank Dr. Mahan for her years of dedicated service to DJJ and congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition. 

Teens Only Town Hall Meeting

Following the Children’s Week Press Conference, I was thrilled to take part in the Children’s Week ‘Teens Only Town Hall’ meeting which was hosted by the YMCA’S Youth in Government Program.  This engaging discussion provided a forum for students across the state to address important issues relating to Florida’s Children. Teens asked thought provoking questions of the members of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet touching on issues such as homelessness, LGBTQ youth, closing the gap in education and service to communities as well as mental health, substance abuse and juvenile justice. It was very inspiring to see these young people highly engaged in issues that affect them every day. They were very impressive with their level of research and knowledge on complex issues facing youth today.   

Florida Faith Based Advisory Council

Also on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to address the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. I was joined by other agency heads, state legislators, and agency liaisons to discuss agency initiatives and activities to engage faith and community organizations and how the Council can advance these efforts.

Also visiting the Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council meeting were members of the DJJ Circuit 2 Faith Network. Members of both groups also took part in Children’s Week activities at the Florida Capitol.                        

Secretary Daly poses with some members of the DJJ Circuit 2 Faith Network.

Florida Women’s Hall of Fame

Wednesday evening, I was on the 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol for the induction ceremony of the 2016 class of the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.  This year three outstanding women were honored for making significant contributions to the improvement of life for women and all citizens of Florida. They included: Carol Jenkins-Burnett from Publix Super Markets Charities of Lakeland, Investigative Television Reporter Helen Aguirre Ferré from WPBT in Miami and Elmira L. Leto from Key West who founded Samuel’s House, the only emergency shelter for homeless women and children.

The Florida Women’s Hall of Fame was created to honor women who, through their lives and efforts, have made significant contributions to the improvement of life for women and for all citizens of Florida. The Florida Commission on the Status of Women maintains and facilitates the permanent Florida Women’s Hall of Fame display in the state Capitol.

All About Girls Summit 

On Thursday and Friday, I took part in  the “All About Girls” Summit in Orlando which was hosted by the PACE Center for Girls. The Summit brought together more than 1,000 leaders of girl-serving organizations, elected officials, and policy leaders from across the country. The Summit is designed to bring these stakeholders to the table to continue the dialogue on how to best serve the needs of girls across Florida and the nation. 

The Summit featured former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton as its keynote speaker as well as former United States gymnast Dominique Dawes and actress Rosario Dawson. In addition to the speakers, the summit featured strategic panels on investing in girls and leading a movement for girls featuring the CEO’s and Senior Executives of our nation’s leading philanthropic organizations and major girl-serving organizations – PACE Center for Girls, Girls, Inc., and Girl Scouts of the USA.

Legislative Update

Last Tuesday, Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield and I met with Senator Oscar Braynon, a member of the Senate Ethics and Elections committee to discuss the work we are doing here at DJJ.

The Department’s two priority bills, HB 7063 and SB 1394, relating to Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV) are continuing to move through the legislative process. These bills include language to allow HSMV to provide no cost identification cards to youth transitioning out of the DJJ system. HB 7063 has been heard favorably by all committees of reference and is now ready to be heard by the full House of Representatives.  SB 1394 was unanimously passed in its first committee of reference in the Senate and has two more committee stops. 

Human Trafficking Update

Human Trafficking Director, Bethany Gilot had the opportunity to speak at two human trafficking awareness events that took place in recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  On Thursday, Bethany spoke at the Stand for Hope Concert benefitting human trafficking awareness and education hosted by Barry University’s School of Social Work.  Bethany had the opportunity to speak at this event about the great things that DJJ and the State of Florida are doing to combat human trafficking.

On Saturday, Bethany also had the opportunity to speak at the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force’s 8th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day alongside DCF’s Human Trafficking Director, Kim Grabert.  Bethany and Kim both addressed the collaborative efforts the two agencies are taking to address human trafficking.

It is wonderful to see DJJ recognized for our efforts to combat human trafficking.  Please continue to look for opportunities to attend human trafficking awareness events in your local community.

JJSIP Update 

Last week, in Circuit 14 (Panama City), the Department rolled out the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP) through a series of three meetings held at the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.  Approximately 20 DJJ probation and residential staff members attended a training on Thursday afternoon and 20 people attended the judiciary meeting on Friday morning, including representatives from the states’ attorney’s and public defender’s offices.  Hosted by the Circuit 14 Advisory Board (CAB), 50 community stakeholders then attended an educational meeting that afternoon.  We appreciate the participation of Judge Shonna Gay and Judge Elijah Smiley from Circuit 14 at the judiciary meeting.  Many thanks go to CAB 14 Chairman and Director of Community Development Panama City Mike Johnson for arranging the afternoon meeting.

Above: (L-R): Mark Greenwald, Laura Moneyham, Paul Hatcher, and Wanda Jackson 

Shown below: Mark Greenwald, Wanda Jackson, and Michael “Mike” Johnson

Thank you to Circuit 14 Chief Probation Officer Wanda Jackson for organizing the three meetings (shown in the photo to the right).  The meetings featured speakers Assistant Secretary for Residential Services Laura Moneyham, Assistant Secretary for Probation & Community Intervention Paul Hatcher, and Director of Research & Data Integrity Mark Greenwald.  After presenting the national perspective and research foundations of JJSIP, the speakers presented specifics about implementation in Florida and data relative to Circuit 14.  In total, approximately 90 people were educated about JJSIP through these interactive question and answer presentations.

Probation Update

Two youth in the north region’s transition program, Project Connect, were accompanied by their mentor, Gregory Turner, to a Florida State University basketball game against Virginia in Tallahassee.  The youth got to see the game from special guest seats and meet some of the players afterwards including FSU freshman sensation Dwayne Bacon who is pictured here. Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. and Project Connect have partnered with FSU and the University of Florida to provide sporting event opportunities for youth and their mentors in their transition program.  The events are a big hit for youth as they get to see top-notch college basketball up close and meet the student-athletes who star on those teams.  The student-athletes pass along their words of encouragement to the youth in how to work very hard to achieve success on the court and in the classroom and how that work ethic translates to success in life.  

On January 15, Juvenile Circuit 17 Judge Stacy Ross and Broward Sheriff Lieutenant Ozzy Tianga hosted youth and their families from Circuit 17 probation for a presentation on the synthetic drug known as Flakka. Lieutenant Tianga spoke about the dangers of Flakka and other street drugs and how they inflict a negative impact on our youth. Tianga also shared his own story of personal growth in overcoming obstacles himself after being arrested and how it has turned him into the man he is today.  Videos shown during the presentation displayed the shocking reality of what the term, "excited delirium" refers to and how dangerous this drug can be to the individual and surrounding people in the community. 

Pictured above are BSO Lt. Tianga, Honorable Stacy Ross and ASA Josiah Graham.

ACPO Tim Denton, Reform Specialist Donna Clayton and JPO Valentina Wiltshire from Circuit 4 represented DJJ during the annual gathering of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition at the local City Rescue Mission. The event featured a news conference with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and a panel discussion on human trafficking. 

In the photo Valentina Wiltshire and Donna Clayton.

Recently, Circuit 2 probation staff kicked- off our 1st session of the regional transition trainings in Fort Lauderdale, followed by Orlando (January 13), Alachua (January 19), and Chipley (January 21).  The trainings included participants from the residential programs and probation staff.  Shauntrai Bruton, Statewide Transition Coordinator, started the training by welcoming everyone and sharing the purpose of the training.  The purpose was to help strengthen the communication between each program area to improve outcomes for successfully transitioning our youth back into the community. 

Through collaborative efforts of staff from Education Services , Residential Services, DJJ providers – Twin Oaks Project Connect and Eckerd Project Connect, and Probation and Community Intervention, we were able to achieve this goal.  Kudos for such an awesome job and sharing the vision for transition services to Candy Seifert, Residential Services; Cindy Jones, Julie Orange, and Renette Crosby, Education Services; Tony Read, Project Connect; Ana Albrecht, Claudia Laos, Laurie Stern, Project Bridge; Sanshell Bussey, Probation HQ; and Alyssa Hernandez, Probation HQ. 

These trainings have given us insight on the next steps moving forward to reinforce communication efforts and the transition process.  Again, thanks for giving us this tremendous milestone in transition service delivery.  Extra big kudos to Sanshell Bussey for overseeing and ensuring the success of the trainings.  Much planning and preparation took place and I am glad you were there as an awesome guide.  

From left to right: Tony Read, Twin Oaks Project Connect, Melvin Guzman, Eckerd Project Bridge, Alyssa Hernandez, Probation HQ, Shauntrai Bruton, Probation HQ,  Ana Albrecht, Eckerd Project Bridge, Laurie Stern, Eckerd Project Bridge, Cindy Jones, Educational Services HQ Sanshell Bussey, Probation HQ.  

Circuit 9 Administrative Assistant Connie Coffey, SJPO Aaron Rivas, and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson participated at the State of Florida Law Enforcement Career Fair. The fair was held at Ferncreek National Guard Armory and sponsored by the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Highway Patrol Troop D.

Connie, Aaron, and Melinda set up a booth and answered questions pertaining to careers with the Department, volunteer and internship opportunities and provided information regarding the Department’s reform initiatives.

Probation staff in Circuit 13 – JPOS Jesus Sosa, JPOS ShaaKira Williams and Reform Specialist Khalilah Daniels – participated in a human trafficking awareness event at the University of Tampa entitled “The 4 P’s Panel Discussion-Prosecution, Prevention, Protection and Partnership”.  Mr. Sosa and Ms. Daniels were a part of the panel discussion providing insight on the local partnerships DJJ has with the community to address the issue of human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area.  Others on the panel included representation from Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Miracles Outreach, law enforcement and representatives from the Sexual Violence Task Force of Tampa Bay.  This panel discussion was organized by the state outreach coordinator for the Florida Coalition of Human Trafficking, Ms. Giselle Rodriguez, who thanked DJJ for participation and reported receiving positive feedback from participants who attended this event.

Prevention Update

It is my great pleasure to announce that Patrice Richardson will serve as our new DJJ Statewide Circuit Advisory Board Liaison.

Patrice has worked in both the public and the private sector assisting and encouraging troubled youth to get back on the right track. Patrice’s expertise includes residential and community case management, mentoring, and transition services.  She previously served as a senior juvenile probation officer (JPO) with the Office of Probation and Community Intervention for Circuit 2. Prior to her role as a Senior JPO, Patrice served as a JPO and as the Department’s drug court liaison. Before joining DJJ, Patrice served as a residential case manager at a DJJ residential commitment program. She graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with a minor in juvenile delinquency. Patrice’s dedication for the youth she serves and her strong partnership with our community providers and judicial stakeholders makes her an incredible benefit to our team. Please join me in congratulating Patrice on her new role!


The Gainesville Police Department under the leadership of State Advisory Group member and GPD Police Chief Tony Jones released a video of GPD officer Bobby White playing basketball with area youth that became a viral sensation and convinced basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal to make a surprise visit to Gainesville where he played ball with cops and kids.

What started as a noise complaint from residents to the Gainesville Police ended with the police posting a video of Officer White playing basketball with a small group of Gainesville youth. According to CNN.com, it was viewed more than 14 million times and ultimately led to O’Neal making the drive from his Orlando home to play ball and encourage the youth to follow their dreams.

"We're going to let kids be kids. We are going to focus on the ones that commit crimes. #HoopsNotCrime," the police department said in the Facebook post accompanying the video.

For more information on this incredible story, read the full article from the Gainesville Sun.

Detention Update

The staff at the Okaloosa RJDC are getting ready for Saint Valentine’s Day. Captain Regina Berry recently completed this creative display that hangs in the main hallway of the facility. Youth at the facility are prominently featured giving the hallway a warm feel in anticipation for the holiday.  

Kudos to Facility Training Coordinator JJDO II Cortez Bell from Okaloosa who recently went out of his way to help several of his newly named fellow officers who were on their way to the Detention Academy training in Midway. These new officers did not have the opportunity to get their uniforms altered, and Corporal Bell was insistent that his officers represented team Okaloosa well. Accordingly, he took it upon himself to fit and tailor several uniforms for the new staff and even brought his iron to ensure that they were pressed and ready to impress the first week of class. Thank you Corporal Bell for going above and beyond for your fellow officers.

I have brought you many stories over the years about our friend Tonier Cain who is founder of Heeling Neen and a world-renowned advocate for the implementation of trauma-informed care (TIC) practices in detention centers across the country. On Tuesday, Tonier was in nearby Gadsden County where she was making a presentation on TIC and touring Gadsden Correctional Institution for Women.

Since she was so close, Maureen Honan from Detention Services and Cina Wilson-Johnson from Staff Development and Training arranged an impromptu visit with the current class of JJDO recruits who are stationed at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. The young officers were excited to speak with Tonier who told her stories of her travels from book, movies and even a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama. After the meeting, the trainees felt pretty good about picking DJJ for a career. 

I’m happy to share that Gina Graham-Clark, a middle school teacher who works with the Miami-Dade RJDC, was a finalist for the Dade County Teacher of the Year award. Gina is a 16-year veteran of the Dade County school system and her hard work and dedication to our troubled youth is the reason why she is in the running. Three other Dade County teachers have also been named finalists and the winner was chosen on January 28. To learn more on this story, read the full article from the Miami Herald

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest DJJ detention officers who graduated Friday, January 29, 2016, in a ceremony at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.  The Juvenile Justice Detention Officers supervise youth in detention centers as they await an appearance before the court, or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  Thanks to Frank Gargett, director of detention services for the central region, for delivering the graduation address. Kudos to learning consultant Kiva Hagans for training the officers for this position of critical responsibility. The graduates will work at the Regional Juvenile Detention Centers (RJDC) listed next to their names.

Top Row (Left to right):  Jose Silva – Pinellas RJDC, Tyronda Adams- Manatee RJDC, Cynthia Garcia-Caetano – Pinellas RJDC, Dana Ketter – Manatee RJDC, Rebecca Rodriguez- Pinellas RJDC, Heather Coy- Manatee RJDC

Second Row:  Dimitry Zheleznyak – Pinellas RJDC, Breanna Stockwell  - Pinellas RJDC, Clinton Harris – Pinellas RJDC, James Pierce – Pinellas RJDC, Nicolas Vidal - Pinelllas RJDC

PREA Update

Congratulations to the following programs for passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Audit:

  • Monroe Regional Juvenile Detention Center;
  • Miami Youth Academy;
  • Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center; and
  • St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Completed PREA audit reports are posted on the Department’s Web site at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/partners/prison-rape-elimination-act-(prea)/completed-prea-audit-reports.

Residential Update

In a follow-up to the recent Walton Youth Development Center (WYDC) site visit, the following DJJ staff were also in attendance Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Residential Services Policy and Programs Coordinator Meg Bates, Northwest Residential Services Program Monitor Lori Jernigan, Northwest Residential Services Regional Director Mary Mills, and Northwest Residential Services GOC-II Neil Stier.  Also in attendance were CEO of Gulf Coast Treatment Center Jeanette Jackson, WYDC Program Director Nestor “Joey” Cruz, and the Designated Mental Health Clinician Authority of Gulf Coast Treatment Center Howland Ellis.  The tour was conducted by two youth from WYDC.  As a part of the court approved transition phase, these two young men had the honor of meeting with the mayor of De Funiak Springs, Bob Campbell, the following day. 

WYDC is a high-risk program for males ages 13-18 and is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center

Over the holiday season, Saint John’s Youth Academy, a high-risk facility operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, for young men ages 14 to 18, participated in Operation Angel Tree, which involved sponsoring the St. Francis House, a homeless shelter in St. Augustine.  Angel ornaments were hung from a decorated tree at the program, which contained information about the wish of a homeless child who resides in the shelter.  The boys at Saint John’s Youth Academy chose to donate some funds from their student activity money towards the gifts.  Over 30 gifts, along with gift cards and food items, were donated to the St. Francis House.