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Secretary's Message

January 5, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Happy New Year! I hope these past few weeks brought with them time spent with your loved ones and perhaps some rest and relaxation. I am so excited to begin our work in the new year and I look forward to the amazing things we will accomplish together in 2017. But before we say goodbye to the holidays, I hope you will read the stories below of our staff and stakeholders’ holiday festivities as well as the other events and activities of our DJJ team. Thank you all for making this holiday season so bright and for continuing to pursue our mission of providing the very best for Florida’s youth and families. 

As a reminder, don’t forget that I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you all 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

Detention Update

As previously mentioned in our weekly letter, the Miami-Dade RJDC held a module sub-control holiday decorating contest and encouraged all of the youth at the facility to participate. While each mod did a fantastic job, Mod 7 took home the first place prize of $100 with their train set and giant snowman display. The second and third place mods each received $40, while the fourth and fifth placed mods will be rewarded with a pizza party. Miami-Dade would like to thank their guest judges, Sergeant Palacio and Major Garcia from the Miami-Dade County School Board Police Department and Principal Tanya Daly-Barnes from the RJDC. 

The staff and youth at the Brevard RJDC celebrated the holidays in a big way this year starting off with sprucing up their lobby at the facility. The lobby created a very warm environment for their guests spreading cheer and joy for the upcoming holidays.

The Brevard RJDC were also gearing up for their parent and youth holiday dinner, when they saw an opportunity to get the kids involved in a unique holiday experience. The youth decorated cupcakes to celebrate the occasion and as you can see by the pictures they all had a wonderful time!

The holiday party at Brevard went off without a hitch as Food Service Director Janice Hanna created a special meal for both the youth and their parents. The meal consisted of baked ham, garlic potatoes, green beans and the aforementioned cupcakes. The Department’s original pet therapy dog Justice also made an appearance wearing his holiday ribbon. The facility had to serve two shifts for dinner to accommodate all the youths’ relatives who joined their children. Parents expressed their appreciation for the great work of the Brevard staff in their care and concern afforded to their children.

JJDOS Lesley Roberson and JJDOIIs Deborah Caldwell and Jamese Edwards from the Hillsborough RJDC used their time and talents to decorate the dining hall at the facility after dinner on December 19. The youth at the facility noticed the changes at breakfast the next morning and reacted very positively.     

JJDOS Lesley Roberson and JJDO Deborah Caldwell from the Hillsborough RJDC came up with a fun way to get the youth involved in the holiday season while they are on winter break from school. Our officers let them help decorate the dining area for Christmas and worked on gingerbread cookie ornaments. In addition, the staff purchased holiday cards that the youth were able to decorate and send back home to loved ones. 

The St. Lucie RJDC also got into the holiday spirit when they hosted a holiday party for South Region staff members and superintendents on December 20. South Region staff enjoyed wonderful holiday treats and a great deal of fellowship as they celebrated the Christmas season.

And in the spirit of giving, Superintendent Dedilia Finlayson from the St. Lucie RJDC accepted gifts for the youth from DJJ staff members from probation and education as well as from our stakeholders at the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the public defender’s office and Children’s Home Society. The gifts were distributed to the youth during a recent visit from Santa Claus. This visit, sponsored by the public defender’s office, is a St. Lucie holiday tradition in its sixth year. All of the youth at the facility received gifts and felt festive during the holiday season.

DJJ faith partner, Reach Out Ministries, made a visit to the Manatee RJDC on December 20 to bring by a bevy of cake, cookies and brownies for the youth to enjoy this holiday season. Reach Out Ministries visits the facility once a week to speak with our youth, but as you can see, there is nothing like an abundance of sweets to get our youth truly excited for a visit. 

Also at Manatee RJDC, Assistant Public Defender Rebecca Wilson in Manatee County has provided Christmas stockings for the youth for the for the sixteenth consecutive year. This year Ms. Wilson provided red and white stockings along with black book bags stuffed with school supplies and toiletries for the youth to take home. In addition, Ms. Wilson provided the RJDC with $150 dollars in gift certificates to a local pizza restaurant for the youth to have a holiday pizza party. On behalf of our agency, I would like to thank Ms. Wilson for her continued dedication to our youth.

The Pasco RJDC held an all-staff meeting which featured a one-hour training session with Detective Law from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to educated our employees on gang identification and common crimes by gang members in the county. Additional training was held on medication administration including off exposure control and the use of an Epi-Pen.

Also, the RJDC’s juvenile justice advisory board selected three staff members whom they recognized in appreciation for all of their hard work. Officers Jose Santiago, James Vaz and Joshua Harrell each received a $125 Visa Gift Card. In addition, the advisory board awarded themed gift baskets for Officers Carol Towns, Mary Estiverne and JJDOS Jennifer Jones. The baskets that were featured included a movie basket, a carwash basket and a pamper and relax basket. 

The Escambia RJDC is keeping busy this holiday season with various scheduled events for the youth during their school break.  The Escambia RJDC hosted the local school for the performing arts as they put on a production of the Hip-Hop Nutcracker. The performance put a new twist on a holiday favorite and while it was an entertaining experience, it was also educational as the youth learned about the performing arts, college majors and the processes used to create choreographies.

The Escambia RJDC also received a special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus during the week leading up to Christmas. The visit was coordinated by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, and Santa and his helpers also organized a pizza party for the youth during their visit.

Finally, the facility held a gingerbread house decorating contest which brought in all of the mods to participate. Pictured below are the winning boys and girls mods. 

The food services staff from the Pinellas RJDC took festive to an entirely different level when preparing for the youth Christmas party at the facility. Shown left is the picture of two Christmas trees made entirely out of cupcakes. The trees were designed and executed by FSD II Christy Harris, JJDO Sean Coburn and Food Support worker Lisa Mathews.

Acting Superintendent Jack McCotter from the Collier RJDC hosted a Christmas Day dinner for youth and their families at the facility. Mr. McCotter and his staff members made the food and adjusted the visitation schedule so that families could have the chance to enjoy the holiday together.

Duval County Public School Teacher Rebecca Miller from the Duval RJDC rewarded the youth assigned to the Delta mod to a pizza party due to their excellent behavior for the week. Each youth from the Delta mod was given pizza, crazy bread, and an ice cream treat of their choice. This was a very rewarding experience for the youth, and during the party, Ms. Miller thanked each of them for working so hard while in detention. 

On December 21, the Volusia RJDC held an all-staff meeting centered on human trafficking training. Following the training, the staff members participated in their holiday luncheon, which included a visit from Chief Darrell Johnson who stopped by to recognize JJDO Michelle McGuirk, who was named officer of the quarter for the North Region. Johnson and McGuirk can be seen below with Superintendent Paul Finn.

Education Update 

For the second year, students at the Washington County School Program at OYTC Campus have collaborated to share their artistic creativity:  The 2nd Edition of “Rhyme and Punishment” was published December 9, 2016.

Over 20 students from teacher Linda Baker’s reading class submitted poetry and artistic entries to be considered for inclusion in the final edition.  As an additional way to share the published volume of poetry and art, selected students presented their poems during G4S OYDC’s Family Day on December 10.  Family members were very impressed with the effort and enjoyed hearing and reading the poetry.  Ms. Baker said that this will be a semi-annual event to keep the students engaged and to present their many artistic capabilities.

The GED and high school graduates keep on rolling out of the two Washington County School Programs at the OYTC and OYCC campuses located at Okeechobee Youth Development Center.  Since July 2016, nine graduates have graduated and celebrated this milestone with their cottage-mates, family, facility and school staff.  This surge of graduates has motivated many other students to study hard and apply themselves toward achieving academic goals.  The score:  OYCC – 7 OYTC -2.  The competition continues! 

Probation Update

A highly motivated youth in Circuit 19 has hit the ground running after completing his program. RN is a 16-year-old young man who has completed his GED and has secured full time employment at a restaurant in Vero Beach. Working as a busser in the restaurant he felt as though he wanted to progress in his employment. Within three weeks of employment and in competition with two other co-workers he secured the lead position as a food runner.  With this new position, RN stated that he has received a significant pay increase.  In order to assist him in his new position, Project Bridge will purchase additional work shirts for the youth.  On behalf of the agency, I would like to congratulate this hard working young man on his new position! 

I am pleased to announce that Circuit 8 CPO Diane Pearson is the recipient of the First Annual Peace Builder Award from the River Phoenix Center for PeaceBuilding (RPCP). Chief Pearson received the award during the annual RCPC Gala at the Wooly Event Center in Gainesville on December 10. Chief Pearson was chosen for this award in recognition of her role in transforming our local juvenile justice system by offering cutting edge restorative practices for youth and their families, as well as social and emotional learning to support optimum youth development. Congratulations to Chief Pearson on receiving this wonderful award! 

As I mentioned in a previous weekly letter, the Circuit 8 probation office had set up a park clean-up project with the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department. I am pleased to report that the project is well underway, and our probationary youth are making tremendous headway with the project in Duval Park. Our JPOs just completed their third work day with youth from probation, JDAP, and the local Teen Court. The staff and youth alike are having a great time partnering with the Recreation Department while renovating a neighborhood park that had long been forgotten and neglected. This project continues to instill a sense of community responsibility and pride in these youth which they can carry over into their personal lives.

SJPO Ashley Baird, JPO Aparna Clarke, JPO Johnathan Gelatt, JPO Dollie Wygant and JPO Meaghan Hart

The Circuit 1 probation office began a new holiday tradition this year called the Battle of the Christmas Doors. The event was designed to encourage the holiday spirit at the office. The first prize went to the OPS Intake Screeners for their artistic impression of the Grinch. Though the bar has been set high for the first year, plans are already in the works for next Year’s Christmas competition! 

The AMIkids facility in Jacksonville has recently partnered with Sunnyland Antique Boat Club and Society to introduce our youth to boat building. Twice a week mentors from Sunnyland come in and work with our youth on building boats from scratch. The kids are gaining valuable vocational skills and improving their pro-social skills and self-esteem that will, in turn, transfer into their personal lives and successes by being able to make positive contributions to their communities and to their own futures, by learning a marketable skill.  

DJJ staff from Circuit 16 and Pastor Antonio Magwood from the Bethel AME Church in Key West sponsored a Farm Share event for the local community. The event was attended by many DJJ staff members and dignitaries from Key West to distribute chicken, milk, can goods, and plantains to those less fortunate in the community. Farm Share serves as a great example of all hands on deck to share in an event to bring the community together.

Key West Police Chief Donnie Lee presented DJJ faith partner Antonio Magwood from the Bethel AME Church with a $500 check in support of the church’s Success Through Empowerment Program (STEP). STEP services youth and families in Circuit 16 with monthly meetings for civil citation, IDDS, Drug Court, probation and conditional release as well as other peer groups in the City of Key West. 

Earlier this month, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Office of State Courts’ Administration, Center for Children’s Law and Policy, and Annie E. Casey Foundation held the Action to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Conference in Orlando. In attendance were members of the judiciary, community members, law enforcement, and representatives from the Department from around the state. The objective of this conference was to develop sustainable action plans to reduce racial and ethnic disparities along various points within the juvenile justice system. 

From left to right: Mark Soler (CCLP), Dacia Roberts(OSCA), Tiana Davis(CCLP), Lisa Macaluso(AECF), Minnie Bishop, me, Kathleen Tailer(OSCA), Roxanna Matiella(CCLP). 

The Central Region Probation Leadership Team met recently at the UF IFAS (University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) Extension Facility in Bartow for a regional fall retreat. Regional staff along with all central region probation circuit's management teams were in attendance. 

The day was filled with various agenda items although most enjoyable was the covered dish lunch. It was a wonderful time to come together for updates and discussion items. Everyone reflected on what they are grateful for in their work family along with goals for the upcoming year. Special thanks to Chief Fulford and Assistant Chief Stiles for arranging the location and assisting with organizing lunch, and to Secretary Specialist Amber Phillips for all of her help. 

Prevention Update

DJJ Prevention team members attended a statewide training seminar earlier this month at Headquarters in order to build team spirit, reinforce office protocol, and improve communication. Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I welcomed the team and thanked them for hard work and dedication in support of the department’s reform efforts. Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims also delivered opening remarks.

Budget Assistant Sharee Thomas discussed travel and budget procedures; Procurement Manager Brent Musgrove explained the procurement process; and Marcus Smith, Chief of Programs and Policies, discussed office protocol. Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) Coordinator Patrice Richardson discussed the CABs and Verla Lawson-Grady explained the history of the Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussions and Community Engagement/Outreach.

Federal Grants Manager Yvonne Woodard discussed federal grants; Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain delivered an overview of the Faith Network; and Jean Hall, explained her role as coordinator of the Central Communications Center. Delinquency Prevention Specialists Marie Boswell (Circuits 11, 15, 16 & 17), Pat McGhee (Circuits 6, 10 & 13) and Lydia Breaux-Davis (Circuits 1 & 14) described their responsibilities as prevention specialists. In addition, “Impacting Families…Transforming Lives” was announced as the Prevention theme for 2017.

The PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County participated in the Out of Darkness Walk at Starkey Park in New Port Richey. Forty-four PACE girls, family members, board members, and staff took part in a 3-mile walk and raised more than $300 to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP works to increase national awareness of suicide and mental health issues, to bring these issues “Out of the Darkness.”  The group provides suicide prevention programs, unites those who have been impacted by suicide, and creates communities that are smart about mental health. The PACE girls created personalized T-shirts for each team member to show their support of this cause, which has affected many of them.

Residential Update

It’s that time of year!  Northwest Regional Residential Services Director Lori Jernigan and her team held their annual holiday staff meeting at the Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC) in Chipley where they created goody bags from donated, hotel-sized toiletries.  This year, the team received donations so numerous that a total of 186 bags were made, which was nearly double the number made last year!  

The goody bags and candy canes were given to residential programs in the Northwest Region for the youth in residence at DOVE Academy, Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST), and RAM-C Program, which are non-secure programs operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.; JoAnn Bridges Academy, which is a non-secure program operated by Rite of Passage; and Walton Youth Development Center, which is a secure program operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services.

Thank you to the many DJJ staff members for their donations, for making this annual project possible, and for helping it grow exponentially every year.  Without your contributions and support, this project would not be possible.

During the meeting, the team was presented with a TED Talk video about “Power Posing” by Amy Cuddy, in order to provide a simple, yet effective tool for staff to use when entering situations that may be a bit challenging.  Pictured here DJJ team members striking power poses.

Shown left to right:  SMA II Dwight Poole, GSL Kelvin Sanders, NW Regional Director Lori Jernigan, Commitment Manager Amy Daglish, Commitment Manager Sean Dorsey, AA II Jacqueline Woodham, Management Review Specialist Therman Gullette (Special Guest), Operations Monitor Neil Stier, Commitment Chief April Lewis, and Commitment Manager Stuart Wolcott.

Youth from JoAnn Bridges Academy (JBA), a non-secure program for girls, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by Rite of Passage (ROP) completed a community services project at a residential subdivision known as the Aucilla Plantation in Madison County.  They repainted the fence that surrounds the plantation, which is a large parcel of land for housing projects that will begin construction in the near future.  The project was organized by JBA Maintenance Supervisor Duane Jones.  

The residents of JBA and the ROP staff also hosted a Thanksgiving program for the youths’ parents, program staff, teachers, volunteers, and other invited guests.  During the program many of the JBA students gave performances, such as singing, stepping, and reading poetry.  

Many of students completed and presented their research about the ways in which other cultures and countries celebrate a form of the American tradition of Thanksgiving.  The students created and distributed pamphlets about their findings so that the audience could follow along.  They involved the audience in the presentations, asking them to pronounce certain foods in different languages. 

A former resident was the guest speaker, encouraging the JBA girls to learn as much as they can while going through treatment in the program.  Facility Administrator Tuwollar Mobley acknowledged the staff for their hard work and dedication, presenting each one with a certificate of appreciation. 

The girls also made holiday wreaths, which were presented to special guests who attended the program.

The residents of the RAM-C Program, a non-secure program for boys, ages nine to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., assisted the RAM-C Community Advisory Board in making gift baskets for Thanksgiving as a community service project.  The board members and RAM-C staff helped the boys decorate 10 gift baskets, which were handed out by the students to the residents of the Crosswinds Health Rehabilitation Nursing Home in Greenville, FL.  Each gift basket included a personal Thanksgiving card made by a youth, a hat, gloves, fruit, a supersized candy cane, a crossword puzzle book, and instant hot cocoa.

Shown left is Juan Youman (DJJ-HQ MQI) with RAM-C staff members Nicole Miller and Ashley Lewis, helping the boys decorate baskets.  


Recently, the residents of RAM-C also enjoyed a field trip to Florida State University where they met the basketball team.  The boys sat in on a practice, talked with the players and coaches, and they even got to shoot some hoops with the team. 

Many of the residents aspire to be professional athletes; this trip was an opportunity for them to learn what it takes to make it at the collegiate level.  The players and coaches all took the time to speak to the boys about the choices they are making and how they can affect them in the long term. 

The team even gave the boys Florida State Basketball shirts, signed posters by the whole team, and invited the boys out to a future game.

Afterwards, the boys ate dinner in the Florida State University dining hall and toured the campus to see what college life is like.  They really enjoyed this opportunity and several of the students began looking into college scholarships after the trip.

Okaloosa Youth Academy OYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, is now the home of two puppies—Layla and Royce—as part of the OYA Puppy Family Tree program.  The first two puppies—Holland and Lena—were welcomed to the program in late September.  The Pixel Fund volunteers work with the OYA residents and direct-care staff to train the pups.  The residents (and staff) of OYA give the puppies love and care, while helping them gain socialization with humans and other puppies. 


Sidiki Conde, a singer, dancer, and drummer from Guinea, West Africa, recently visited the residents of Challenge Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Kids.  He shared his story and passion for music and dance with the youth and staff.

Sidiki began his presentation by telling the students about his past, specifically how he lost the use of his legs at the age of 14, while walking to school one day.  In Guinea, West Africa, this was devastating for his family as well. Those with disabilities are thought to bring shame and bad luck to the family and village and they were cast out of their community.  He was forced to live in his grandfather’s village deep within the forest.  Instead of giving up hope on participating in the coming-of-age ceremony that would reconnect him to his village, Sidiki taught himself to perform the ritual dance on his hands. 

He performed for his village and was able to reconnect with his community and culture.  Now, he lives in the United States and spends time dancing and sharing his story of hope and perseverance with others. 

After telling his story, Sidiki taught the boys the ritual coming-of-age dance and a song from his tribe.  The cafeteria was filled with smiles and laughter as the boys practiced the dance until they got it right.  After his presentation, each boy shook his hand and thanked him for his inspiring message.  They told members of the program staff that they were motivated to work harder at achieving their goals and overcoming the obstacles they face in the program and upon their return to their home communities.

Marion Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, hosted several festivities during the last quarter of 2016, with events designed to foster a sense of community between the residents and the program staff, as well as celebrating seasonal holidays.  

The events began in mid-October when the students were given arts and crafts supplies to decorate their dorms and staff office doors for Halloween.  Staff members judged each dorm and the winners were awarded with wings and the opportunity to keep the PlayStation® game system in the dorm to use for a week.

Youth who qualified for monthly incentive participated in pumpkin painting, face painting, games, candy apple, and enjoying plenty of food.  The young men also received goody bags with some seasonal treats.  On Halloween, all staff were encouraged to come to work in costume and the youth judged which staff member wore the best costume.  Further, all of the residents were allowed to trick or treat around the facility.  Each staff person brought “treats” to give out to each young man as they went around each office and candy stations in the facility.  Overall, these events not only provided youth an opportunity to enjoy the fall season; it allowed both youth and staff to enjoy the community in which they work and live.

In early December, through the support of Rene Williams and in partnership with the Jacksonville Jaguars, 10 young men from MYA attended a professional football game as the Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Denver Broncos.  Although the Broncos defeated the Jaguars (20 to 10), for many of the youth in our care, attending a professional football game is an unlikely event.  For these young men, the experience not only provided exciting action on the field and in the stands, it was an unforgettable adventure and an opportunity to see professional sportsmanship.

Also in December, Marion County Public Schools in partnership with the Ocala Recreation and Parks Department, brought the Starlab® Planetarium to MYA.  The Digital Starlab® is a portable planetarium with a comprehensive database including Hubble Space Imagery.  The Starlab® program is capable of producing detailed views of an unspoiled night sky of stars, galaxies, and deep sky objects complete with extraordinary displays of planets, constellation overlays, and even meteor showers.  Every MYA student had a chance to take a journey...to infinity and beyond!

For the second year in a row, the headquarters Office of Residential Services (ORS-HQ) held an unusual team-building exercise in between the Christmas and New Year’s holiday breaks:  bocce ball.  While bocce ball was first played in either ancient Egypt or Rome (the debate is ongoing) and it is very popular in European cultures, it is not considered a mainstream sport in the United States.  Typically, the bocce court is an outdoor area of natural soil or asphalt of 90 feet in length and 8 to 13 feet wide.  This team-building game, however, was played along an indoor hallway that is a little more than 3-feet wide and about 30-feet long.

This exercise was initiated by ORS Programming & Policy Coordinator Meg Bates as a way to unite staff members—one of whom is new to her job—and to engender healthy competition.  This year, Meg invited the folks from Research & Data Integrity to join in the exercise and it was open to anyone who showed an interest.  The game of bocce ball includes four balls of two different colors (red and green), allowing up to eight players in two teams of four.  Ultimately, each team had five players who alternated playing each round.  

src=This year, the “Red Team” (shown left, clockwise, left to right) included members of the ORS-HQ Policy Development & Planning Unit:  Brandi Clevenger, Meg Bates, Vanessa Wicker, Garrett Tucker, and Lytha Belrose.

The “Green Team” included members of the Research & Data Integrity Office:  Research Analysts Katherine Gomez, Allison Reagan, Rosie Hutchins, Kristy Colella, and Research Supervisor Julie Pla.

The Research & Data Integrity team members showed up for the exercise sporting team colors and a music playlist (as a form of psychological intimidation, perhaps).  Typically, the game is played until a team gets 12 points but the winning team must win by two points.  This year, the Red Team won 13 to 4—making the concept of intimidation by music moot.