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Secretary's Message

July 12, 2016

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week was a productive and busy time for DJJ staff, our providers, and our stakeholders, as we continued our work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children 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

William Durden Remembered

Sergeant William Joseph Durden passed away on Thursday, July 7th, 2016. Sergeant Durden served in the United States Navy prior to joining the Department of Juvenile Justice at St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center in 1986, then the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Sergeant Durden was celebrated last month for achieving 30 years of dedicated, loyal service to the Department, the community and the youth and families that we serve. Sergeant Durden was active in his church and community, coaching youngsters on and off the football field. Sergeant Durden worked selflessly to ensure that the children were given guidance and direction to be successful adults. Sergeant Durden carried himself in a manner that inspired others, always available to listen to your problems, but never to burden anyone with his. Mr. Durden had a great sense of humor that helped to ease the stressful detention environment for the youth, staff, his peers, managers and visitors. Mr. Durden is survived by his wife Sharon, son William, mother Annie Lou and two brothers. Mr. Durden leaves behind many dear friends, including his entire Detention family at St Lucie Detention. After 30 years and 3 months,  Sierra 5 is off duty………..Rest in Peace Friend.

Juvenile Justice Talent Pipeline Initiative 

On Thursday, I served as the guest speaker during the Juvenile Justice Talent Pipeline Initiative for Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). This initiative is sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is a results-based leadership program designed to expose participants to experts in juvenile justice who are applying new innovative approaches through programming and engagement within the juvenile justice system. The information provided is expected to assist in guiding the strategies needed to move curriculum change within their own systems.  The seminar was attended by representatives from Bethune-Cookman University, Florida A&M University, Florida Memorial University, and Edward Waters College.

I was excited to speak to faculty members about DJJ system reforms, Florida delinquency trends, and the evidence-based services provided by the Department. The presentation was an opportunity for participants to gain a greater understanding of DJJ’s work and to identify ways that HBCU faculty can collaborate with the Department. 

Detention Update

Congratulations to JJDO Merline Latortue from the Broward RJDC who recently graduated from Nova Southeastern University! Merline earned a dual degree with a Masters in Criminal Justice and Investigative Forensics. What is most impressive is that Merline maintained a 3.9 GPA while working full-time including overtime at Broward.

Thank you also to the Broward staff that attended Merline’s graduation to show their support! 

From left to right: Michael Brooks, Raemar Daley, Katreeina Robinson, Merline Latortue, Brandon Gray and LaToyua Jones

The staff at the Volusia RJDC organized an authentic 4th of July cookout last Monday to celebrate Independence Day. Lieutenant Sylvonia Parris and the kitchen staff took the lead in making this a memorable event for all of the youth at the facility. Staff members grilled hotdogs and hamburgers which were accompanied by baked beans, corn on the cob, chips, patriotic cupcakes and juice cups.   

Last weekend, the girls from the Volusia RJDC participated in a trauma informed care art project where they personalized their pillowcases with liquid embroidery. The project was made possible by JJDOII Michelle McGuirk who worked with the girls and helped them come up with some pretty cool designs. Once the pillowcases dried, the girls were permitted to use them in their sleeping rooms, and they will take them home upon their release.

Prevention Update 

Recently, five young ladies from the PACE Center for Girls of Collier County earned a trip to Washington, D.C. The trip was earned by achieving perfect attendance, A’s and B’s in their studies, writing an essay about our nation’s capital and by obtaining staff recommendations and interviewing with PACE Collier Executive Director Marianne Kearns.

They had an incredible journey filled with inspiration and new visions for their future.  They visited The White House, the U.S. Capitol, The Jefferson Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, Iwo Jima, all War Memorials and the Spy Museum.

The PACE Center for Girls of Manatee County held their “Stars of Tomorrow” Award and Transition Ceremony on June 10 in Bradenton. PACE girls were recognized for promoting a grade, completing the PACE program and/or achieving goals. Four former PACE girls were recognized for achieving the highest goal - earning a high school diploma or GED!

Lily, a PACE graduate, joined the celebration in her cap & gown and shared her journey with the PACE Girls. Lily came to PACE as a 16-year old, still in middle school. The instability of her home life prevented her from achieving her academic goals.  Tattooed on her arm is the quote, “That which does not kill us, makes u stronger.”  Using the skills she learned at PACE, Lily now has a stable living situation, a GED and a dream for her future.

Probation Update

Recently a youth receiving transition services through Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.’s Project Connect program in the Jacksonville area received a $2,000 grant from the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation’s (FJJF) Youth Investment Award program. 

After completing his residential program, Youth MA made it a personal educational/vocational goal to fulfill a long term desire to become barber.  Project Connect went to work in helping make this a reality for him.  His transition specialist, Lemar Colleton, was able to help the youth acquire part time work as a construction surveyor to pay for his living expenses but it just wasn’t enough to cover the cost of barber school.  So, Mr. Colleton reached out to FJJF to assist in meeting the need.  FJJF came through in a big way with a $2,000 grant to cover his tuition for the barber school, which he will attend in the evenings and on Saturdays until completion and licensing.  Youth MA stated, “I am very grateful for the grant and opportunity to attend barber school.  I hope to own my own barbershop one day.”  We do too!!  

Director of Policy and Programming for Probation Jeannie Becker-Powell and Central Region Director Cathy Lake participated in the Financing Academy Project in Washington, D.C. June 28-29. The project focused on developing a strategic plan for financing community-based behavioral healthcare services and support for youth being diverted from the juvenile justice system. 

The team, led by Ms. Becker-Powell, consisted of members from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), the Executive Office of the Governor (EOG) and representatives from the Central Florida Behavioral Healthcare Network (CFBHN).

From left to right: Tracy Thompson (AHCA), Traci Leavine (DCF), Linda McKinnon (CFBHN), Cathy Lake (DJJ), Jeannie Becker-Powell (DJJ), Marybeth Vickers (EOG), Beth Piecora (CFBHN), and Laurie Blades (DCF).

JPOs Marco Schirato, Salita Algere-Mason, Tricia Alvarez, Jennifer Young, Dalila Placette, Melissa Nairns and Special Projects Coordinator Jill Gould from Circuit 6 participated in Eckerd’s Project Bridge summer barbeque on June 29 at John Chestnut Park in Palm Harbor. Our JPOs accompanied several probationary youth who earned community service hours by picking up trash around the park. The youth who picked up the most trash was awarded with a gift card. In addition, the youth heard from former professional soccer player Jason Williams who spoke to them about his struggles as a young man and how he overcame them. Project Bridge provided awards for all the youth as well as lunch.

SJPOs Donna Oliver, Tonya Emsweller, Shelley Turner, Temika Shoemake and JPO Ivan Colon from Circuit 13 were recognized by the Honorable Judge Barbara Twine-Thomas for their support in the development of the girl’s court during a celebratory tea on June 23. Judge Twine-Thomas implemented girls court to positively impact, mentor, and turn around the lives of girls in the delinquency system. 

Girl’s court seeks to builds relationships with girls to enhance life and coping skills to increase their opportunities for success. The celebration ceremony was a huge success.  The girls were able to utilize their ‘table etiquette 101’ skills while enjoying great tasting food and engaging in conversation. 

I am pleased to share the following letter of appreciation received in regards to Circuit 17 JPO/JDAI monitor Bryan Hill. Bryan went above and beyond to help a child with some serious medical issues. Bryan instills the qualities and attributes that I have come to except from all of our staff members. The letter reads:

Last night he went above and beyond to help me with my client DW. The child surrendered at the JAC on a warrant and Bryan had the kid's medical documents scanned. DW has some serious medical issues and without the documents, he probably would've had to go to Broward General Hospital for another clearance. He tried to email them to the JAC but his email wasn't working. So he drove from his house all the way to the JAC to make sure they had it. A lot of people wouldn't have even answered the phone at 9 pm but he did!

Residential Update

Charles Britt Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., recently welcomed over 50 family members and friends to their family day event.  The guests were able to tour the program and engage with the staff who care for their children.  There was a DJ who provided entertainment, a basketball game between the residents and staff, and a four-square tournament.  Additionally, a lunch was shared between loved ones, the residents, and staff.  Special thanks go to the members of the Advisory Board, Moving Forward with a Purpose, Inc., and Grace Bible Church for providing the DJ, t-shirts, and the volunteers to make this event possible.

Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Facility, a maximum-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently held its quarterly game night, which helps boost morale among staff and students.  Both teams enjoyed the evening shared together while playing Pictionary®.  The staff team performed well, but was ultimately defeated in a close game by the students in the end!

Recently, Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys, ages 10 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, held a gang awareness presentation for the residents.  Tampa Police Department Violent Crimes Bureau and Gang Awareness Specialist Andrew Jackson spoke with the boys about gang activity, the dangers that accompany gangs, and the effects that gangs can have on them personally, family members, and their communities.

Shown right: Officer Andrew Jackson speaking to the residents.

Twelve residents from Jacksonville Youth Academy (JYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, participated in The 3rd Annual Mario Butler Foundation Football and Cheerleading Camp at the Stanton College Preparatory High School.  The camp brought together over 400 youth from the Jacksonville area.  The boys participated in football drills and exercises that were led by former and current NFL players.  This was the second year that JYA attended the camp.  

Shown above: Buffalo Bill’s cornerback Mario Butler with JYA residents.

Additionally, JYA recently held a high school graduation for their first graduate.  JYA staff, his teachers, the principal, and other Duval County School Board representatives were in attendance.  He shared a heart-felt speech encouraging his fellow peers to continue to strive to reach all their goals. 

Shown right: Principal Edward Robinson with the first graduate. 

Ten residents from JYA recently attended a three-day vacation bible school camp at the Carpenter’s House Church of God in Christ.  The boys engaged in interactive bible study lessons, learned songs and dances, and participated in various sport activities.  

Shown left (left to right): Elder Chris Jackson, vacation bible school teacher, Ricardo Jacques, recreational therapist, with the JYA residents.

Ten boys from JYA assisted the Potter’s House International Ministries with their playground and grounds remodeling project.  The residents leveled the surface of the playground, laid mulch, and pulled weeds.  This opportunity to give back to the community gave the boys a sense of pride and satisfaction in their efforts. 

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., rewarded several residents for their good behavior with a trip to watch the baseball game between the Jacksonville Suns and the Tennessee Smokies.  The boys enjoyed the food, fellowship, and fun, even though the Smokies defeated the Suns, 4-2.  

Shown above: Mr. Griggs, recreational therapist, with the residents.