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Secretary's Message

March 23, 2016

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Spring symbolizes new beginnings and is a time of renewal, when plants and trees sprout new leaves and flowers bloom. The beginning of this new season is also an opportunity for us to be renewed and revitalized in our own lives. I encourage each of you to take a moment to reflect on the promise that new beginnings bring.  Sometimes in our lives, especially in the lives of the young people in our care, we must travel down difficult and tumultuous paths. However, the promise and hope of a new season and new beginning can make the journey worth it.  It was said best by Anne Bradstreet, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 

As always, thank you for sharing your stories and the inspirational work you do to help turn around the lives of Florida’s youth and families. 


Christina K. Daly

JPO Academy Visit 

On Friday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I met with JPO Class 66 at the Florida Public Safety Institute.  It was great to speak with them and share the vision of the Department along with our reform efforts. We expressed to the JPOs the tremendous opportunity they will have to be a positive influence on the youth they will be working with once they return home and ultimately how they will help these youth to turn around their lives for the better. The JPO Academy is an intensive, three week long training that is mandatory prior to entering the field.  Upon graduation, these JPOs will work in probation offices around the state.

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) is partnering with Tallahassee’s Madison Social Restaurant for a fundraising event entitled Tailgate for America. The event will take place prior to Florida State University’s Garnet & Gold Spring Football Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on April 9. The tailgate party begins at 10 a.m. at the Citrus Bowl prior to kickoff and will feature a meet and greet with former Seminole players, music, and much more.

The price for admission to the tailgate is $25 dollars and includes a BBQ lunch and beverages. More importantly, the FJJF will receive $10 for each ticket sold. This is an exciting opportunity to bond with other Seminole fans prior to kickoff while supporting the work that the FJJF does for the youth in the state of Florida.

If you are interested in participating in this unique event, please click on the link above to purchase tickets. We hope to see you there! 

2016 FJJA Adolescent Conference

The 2016 Adolescent Conference  "Building Bridges: Uniting for Youth, Families and Communities” will be held on April 20th and 21st, 2016 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.  This year, FJJA will be co-hosting the 2016 Adolescent Conference with the Florida Council for Community Mental Health (FCCMH), a statewide association of community based mental health and substance abuse agencies across Florida.

The conference will continue to build on ongoing efforts to highlight the important role of local communities in meeting the needs of youth. The conference provides attendees with the opportunity to gain continuing education credits (CEU), to network with peers and experts, and to share useful tools to help youth follow a crime free path.  The conference will showcase nationally recognized presenters and dynamic workshop sessions, including DJJ and statewide experts, who will share effective models, policies, research, and information providing insights and best practices to address issues facing organizations serving troubled youth.

Probation Update

On March 9, three youth and four staff members from the Eckerd’s Project Bridge program attended the Clearwater beach cleanup community service event. The youth picked up trash on the beach, engaged in discussion on the global pollution problem, and even found some time to play a little football. They each earned four valuable community service hours for their efforts. The youth discussed the importance of keeping our beaches clean and the effects that plastic entering the oceans has on the environment, economy, and our own health as a result of consuming species from the polluted waters. The students all stated they believed it was important for them to contribute to their community and keep the environment clean. Although the group was small, their involvement and amount of debris cleanup was impactful. It was great to see them playing football and enjoying themselves as they positively interacted with staff, mentors, and one another. It was a great day for Project Bridge and the community!  

Circuit 17 JPO Janice Charlassier from the JAC Service Center has been actively involved as a volunteer with the United Way of Broward County’s ReadingPals Program since 2013. ReadingPals is an early literacy initiative for children kindergarten through third grade which focuses on ensuring children are exposed to the wonders of literature and are reading at the appropriate grade level. Janice is assigned to a first grade student, and they have spent an hour together reading books for 25 weeks.  In addition to reading there is much laughter, coloring, and learning both in the books and about each other. 

On March 11, Janice also participated in the United Way & ReadingPals book giveaway.  Volunteers went to every first grade classroom at Croissant Park Elementary in Fort Lauderdale and presented each student with a book to take home.  Students were very excited and some made posters in anticipation of the event. 

JPOS Regina Gonzalez, SJPO Amber Goodwin and JPOs Johande Serrano, Troy McGee, Nancy Harbour, Providencia Gousse, Chanel Oliver and Kenneth Tynes from Circuit 17 joined probationary youth and more than 5,000 Broward County Public School Students for the 4th annual “Above the Influence March and Rally” on March 11 at Piper High School in Fort Lauderdale. This year’s event challenged students to remain above negative influences such as peer pressure, bullying, fighting, alcohol, drugs and racism. The probationary youth in attendance helped set up for the event and were awarded community service hours for their participation. 

Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson and Circuit 9 JPO Quaneisha Scott conducted presentations to a 404 freshman success class at Evans High School in Orlando. This two day class provided students with an overview of the DJJ system, delinquency statistics, how a juvenile record can impact their future goals, and the importance of making good decisions. Melinda and Quaneisha are both alumnus of Evans High and they were excited to return to their alma mater and give back. 


JPOSs Marilyn Walker and Karin Popkowski from Circuit 6 spearheaded a community forum on March 14 entitled “A Call to Action: Making a Change.” The forum brought together multiple community partners and stakeholders from Pinellas County including: the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, Pinellas County Schools, Home Builders Institute, the Boley Center, CareerSource, AMIkids of Pinellas County, local law enforcement, judiciary members, and other youth serving agencies across the county. The event called local youth and their families out to learn about the services and resources offered by these great organizations. The event featured an ethnic dance demonstration by Artz 4 Life, raffle giveaways, a live DJ, and lunch for all in attendance.  Circuit 6 would like to thank the following DJJ staff members who made this event a smooth success:

JPOS Joyce Clay, JPOS Barbara Koppelmann, JPOS Yvonne Ortiz, Jill Gould, Nikisha Branham, Jared White, Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Dekesha Davis, Melissa Hogans, Yvette Carethers, Louise Herard, Takeria Peterson, and Isaac Espier, JPO Thomasina Johnson, JPO Randi Gomillion-Johns and JPO Tonya King.

We are pleased to welcome several new Reform Specialists to DJJ! We are very excited about all the amazing contributions they will make to the youth and families served by our agency.

Circuit 2: Samuel Lyons originally hails from the Tallahassee area and is a graduate of the Florida State University with a major in Criminology.  Prior to returning to the Circuit 2 area, he was a JPO in Circuit 19 and acted as court liaison for his unit. He is very excited about fostering positive relationships within this community and making an impact with our youth and families. He attributes much of what he has gleaned from his mentor, JPOS Robert Fino.

Circuit 6: Adrienne Conwell began her career with the Department in 1986. Prior to taking on the role of Reform Specialist in February 2016, her experience included positions of Chief Probation Officer, Senior Management Analyst II, Contract Manager/Program Monitor, Commitment Manager, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer and Juvenile Probation Officer.  Mrs. Conwell is also a past recipient of the Davis Productivity Award.  She has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and is a Certified Public Manager.

Circuit 12: Jarrett Ballo brings a wealth of knowledge with him into the new role as Reform Specialist and has served as a JPO and SJPO for the last ten years. The circuit is very excited to see all of the fantastic things he will accomplish in this new position.  

Circuit 20: John Vertrees has been with the Department since 1994.  Prior to working for DJJ, he worked for DCF as a Child Protective Investigator and Child Protective Investigator Supervisor.  Within DJJ he has been a JPO, SJPO, and JPOS. He is originally from Indiana and has three adult kids, three grandchildren and two more on the way.  He is very excited to have the opportunity to be the Reform Specialist for Circuit 20.  

Prevention Update

Last week, Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris and Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) Liaison Patrice Richardson attended CAB meetings in Kissimmee and Jacksonville. Eugene introduced Patrice as the new statewide CAB Liaison. Eugene also spoke with CAB members in both meetings about membership packets that are being distributed to ensure that all new members are aware of the statutory responsibilities of CAB members and how the CABs operate. DJJ staff also urged CAB members to concentrate on one or two community service projects that will allow them to conduct community service efforts to help youth in their local communities. At the Circuit 9 CAB meeting, Dionne Anderson, Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 9, 18 & 19 was also introduced as the newest Prevention team member.

In the above photo (from left to right): Patrice Richardson, Statewide CAB Liaison; Lt. Fred McCrimon, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and Vice-Chair of Circuit 9 CAB; Melinda Wesley-Nelson, Circuit 9 Reform Specialist, Dionne Anderson, Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 9, 18 & 19 and Jill Wells, Chief Probation Officer for Circuit 9 at the Circuit 9 CAB meeting.

A former resident of Miami Bridge a DJJ Prevention provider, recently wrote a testimonial about how Miami Bridge helped her in her transition. She said, "There isn't too much I can say about my life because I'm still young. However, despite my age, I have stumbled on many problems. With family, I can say that my mother and I never got along. We eventually decided I should live with my grandmother. At first, my grandmother and I got along,” she wrote.

“Then, we got into altercations and some of them resulted in fights. We both agreed it was better for me to go to Miami Bridge,” she wrote. “Honestly, I am glad we made that decision. I know, coming out of the Bridge, I will be a better person."

Miami Bridge is a not-for-profit organization that provides emergency shelter, food and, counseling for troubled youths and their families. The Bridge works to rescue kids from lives of victimization and crime, and in so doing, helps the South Florida community ensure that these kids have the opportunity to become productive members of society.

Recently, Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris had the opportunity to speak with elementary school students from the St. Clair Evans Academy in Jacksonville about the dangers of bullying and the importance of making good decisions in life. In order to assist young people in their early educational experiences and to explain the consequences of taking part in any form of bullying, Eugene encouraged the students to report any bullying activity they should witness and also to discourage them from taking part in bullying themselves. In addition, Eugene reminded the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders about the importance of making good choices in school, concentrating on their school work, and following the advice of parents and teachers.

Detention Update 

Our detention facilities are always trying to find innovative ways to teach our youth skills that will help them once they return to their communities. Volunteer Joan Maddy, who has been working with our youth at the St. Lucie RJDC since 2008, taught a gracious living class on March 11 at the facility. The topic for this class was proper table manners. Joan taught twelve young men about how to set a place setting, how to properly sit at a dinner table, and which utensils to use for each course. The youth enjoyed the etiquette lesson and the class was an overwhelming success. 

On March 8, the Broward RJDC held a well-deserved behavior management party for those youth who have successfully reached level three status.  The youth reached level three by participating in school, displaying respect for detention staff members as well as their fellow youth, adhering to facility rules, volunteering for extra duties, and exhibiting positive behaviors throughout the week. The honored youth were given a feast of boneless chicken wings, a soda and a bag of chips. Each of the youth thanked the staff for this recognition.     

PREA Update 

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

  • Big Cypress Wilderness Institute;
  • Broward Girls Academy;
  • Broward Juvenile Detention Center;
  • Broward Youth Treatment Center;
  • Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center;
  • Dade Juvenile Residential Facility;
  • Fort Myers Youth Academy;
  • Miami Dade Juvenile Detention Center;
  • Pompano Youth Treatment Center;
  • Saint John’s Youth Academy; and
  • Southwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Completed PREA audit reports are posted on the Department’s Web site.


Residential Update

Last month, Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, held a “Day of Love” event to coincide with Valentine’s Day.  Over a four-day period, the residents made crafts for special visitors to the program.  They designed wooden frames that were used later to display either a photo of the youth presenting his mom or a special person in his life with a custom-made corsage or a picture of the youth and his visitors in front of a Valentine’s Day display board.  Additionally, they put their culinary arts skills learned in the program to good use by baking cookies and cupcakes from scratch.  Lastly, they assembled small gift bags filled with various candies.  For making this event a success, special thanks go to Miami Dade County Public School (M-DCPS) Lead Instructor Dan Wynne, M-DCPS Educator Jeff Rudd, and M-DCPS Vocational Instructor Deb Sanchez.  

Also at Miami Youth Academy, March 6th was declared as “Irish for a Day” and all of the residents made special treats and trinkets for their families and loved ones as a part of this family reunification event.  Over a seven-day period, the residents participated in multiple arts and crafts projects to welcome their special visitors.  They designed Irish-themed props, board games, and a St. Patrick’s-themed display board to be used as a backdrop for photos.  They also baked homemade green cookies and cupcakes for the event.  The families and youth participated in specially themed games, like “Shamrock Bingo” and “Find the Gold Volleyball and Basketball.”  M-DCPS Vocational Instructor Deb Sanchez helped to make this day a success.  In addition, special thanks goes to MYA Recreation Therapist and Creative Director Sheratanairy Flores for sharing her creative arts talents with the residents.