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Secretary's Message

January 23, 2017

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 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

On January 12, the Southwest RJDC welcomed two guest speakers to the facility in an effort to inspire and motivate our youth. Ms. Donna Arnold runs a non-profit organization called, “From Detention to Prevention,” and is the author of the book “Why Me? I am Just the Momma!” The book tells the story of how her son and grandson have both come through the doors at Southwest and accounts what she has endured as the mother of a son who committed suicide rather than face going back to prison for a second time. She speaks of her grandson who was only 16-years-old when he was given a 20-year prison sentence. She is a frequent visitor to Southwest and recently donated a DVD player for our youth.

Ms. Arnold was pleased to introduce the second guest speaker Mr. Brad Rogers who shared his compelling story from being the popular captain of a football team to becoming a chemically-dependent drug addict and alcoholic. Brad was arrested 21 times before the age of 18 and struggled every day to keep clean and sober. It wasn’t until a failed attempt at suicide left him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and led to a five-month hospital stay completely changing his life. Brad went on to tell how he has finally overcome his demons and is now a successful business owner with 7 years of sobriety.

The Office of Detention Services held a facility training coordinators meeting at the DJJ Headquarters in the training center of the Alexander Building. The three-day training tackled everything from guidelines and training plans to changes to SkillPro, Tableau and more. In addition, detention staff welcomed guest speaker Carol Campbell Edwards, a licensed clinical social worker, who spoke on secondary trauma and how to prevent burnouts and build resistance. 

I'm pleased to report that the Pinellas RJDC has begun an ongoing partnership with oneblood.org, and in keeping with that partnership hosted the Big Red Bus to the facility on January 9. Eleven staff members from the RJDC, the Pinellas County School District including Deanna Houmard (left), and Circuit 6 probation staff all participated. The Big Red Bus plans to make quarterly visits to the facility and will return again this March. 

Prevention Update 

Youth and adults at the Cops’ N Kids Youth Center, a DJJ prevention provider located in the Union Academy Neighborhood in Tarpon Springs, took part in an initiative called, “I Am a Chess Player.” The initiative began back in 2014 when the executive director of Cops’ N Kids challenged his staff members to learn the game of chess so that they could teach it to youth enrolled at the center. The initiative was met with great success and now the Center hosts a college-style tournament with matches in each age bracket K-12. During the school year, if students do not have homework they are given a choice of completing on-site educational material or playing chess, now commonly known as “chess-time.” 

The game of chess has been known to create many benefits for our youth. The skill sets developed as a player gains proficiency of the game ranges from critical thinking to increased emotional intelligence.  The cognitive and emotional benefits of being a chess player are well documented and players continue to realize the values throughout their lives. This increases compassion and sensitivity to diversity among the students.   

The Cops ‘n Kids Youth Center is now a licensed child care center with a campus that serves 80 neighborhood youth.  The census area was identified by the county to be one of the five most at-risk areas in the large county with thousands of low income households.

Staff believe the opportunities and support provided by Cops ‘n Kids will stop the cycle of poverty and increase the quality of life for youth enrolled.  Staff feels none of this would be possible without the support of the Department of Juvenile Justice.  All areas of their programming and administrative practices have been enhanced with the guidance provided by DJJ professionals.

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims spoke to the Marion County Children’s Alliance on January 4 in Ocala. The theme of Assistant Secretary Sims’ speech was, “DJJ’s approach to juvenile crime.” She spent her time talking about how juvenile crime is down in Florida - 7 percent last year, 37 percent since 2010 - and that DJJ is working with local and faith-based groups to spearhead community-based prevention programs. Her visit was covered by the Ocala Star Banner

Assistant Secretary Sims, then praised the Children’s Alliance for the work they do to provide much needed services and resources for the youth of Marion County. The Children’s Alliance is comprised of 65 community-based agencies and organizations of children and family advocates that creates programs to aid Marion’s most deserving residents.

The MCCA identifies needs, gathers resources and coordinates efforts among children’s organizations, parents and caregivers to ensure a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for the children of Marion County. The Alliance provides:

  • Communication, collaboration and coordination among agencies and individuals who work with children and youths.
  • A voice for children with local and state government representatives and agencies.
  • Assistance to parents and youth to help secure needed resources and services.

In the above photo (right to left): Lori Bright, Probation and Community Intervention; Chief Probation Officer Rick Bedson; Alice Sims and Randy Reynolds, Probation and Community Intervention.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Andria George attended the end of year celebration for the 5000 Role Models of Excellence at Lee High School in Jacksonville on December 21. The 5000 Role Models of Excellence is a program that was started in Miami with the aim of attracting mentors who would intervene in the lives of minority at-risk males in the community.

The program expanded to Jacksonville in 2015 and is currently at multiple middle schools and high schools throughout the district.  During the end of the year luncheon, the students reminisced about the events that happened during the year. They laughed and enjoyed some quality time with their fellow students, and even shared some holiday cheer with their principal, Scott Schneider, who stopped by their classroom for the happy occasion.

Probation Update

Eckerd Project Bridge staff and youth in Circuit 19, along with hundreds of community members gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Parade in Ft. Pierce on January 16.  St. Lucie County fire trucks and sheriff's deputy vehicles were at the front of the parade, followed by state and local representatives walking along the route.  The parade also featured dozens of floats from around the community and from local high schools.  Men of the Sword Mentoring Group, who is a partner of Project Bridge, and One Florida participated as well.  The history of the legacy of Dr. King was discussed and great solutions resonated from the youth on how to combat struggles and on how we can all play a part in keeping the dream alive.

CPO Melissa Fuller and SJPO Janet Schnering from Circuit 6 attended a panel discussion entitled, “The 4 P’s Panel on Human Trafficking,” in Pasco County on January 11. The panel was presented by the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking. The discussion consisted of two separate panels of individuals who presented information on statewide and local initiatives to combat human and sex trafficking. Panel members included Honorable Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco as well as representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Eckerd Youth Alternatives and the West Central Florida Human Trafficking Advocacy Center. The collaboration of DCF and DJJ with other stakeholders rang clear as the discussion progressed on ways the county and state need to push forward and help overcome barriers in order to help those most vulnerable in our communities.

JPOs Salita Algere-Mason and Maria Ortiz from Circuit 6 attended the Bridging Freedom event at the Wiregrass Mall in Wesley Chapel on January 14. The event brought awareness to human trafficking and worked to raise funding for different organizations and legal teams who are working to pass legislation on behalf of the victims. During the event, one victim shared her story of being exploited for sex and then raped and brutally beaten by her abusers. The victim said how grateful she was to be alive and to escape that lifestyle because sadly there were many more women she knew who did not get out.

There were many non-profit and state of Florida organizations who were there to provide funds and resources to help the victims of human trafficking. There was an artist who auctioned an oil painting for $500 with the proceeds donated to the victims.  Two safe havens have been built, one in Dade City and the other will be in Central Pasco.  

Residential Update

Northeast Regional Residential Services Office:  Interview Success

Edward Waters College’s (EWC) Career Services Department Director Antonio Starke and Criminal Justice Department Chair Judy Scott, Ph.D., joined with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Recruiter Andy Latimer, Orange County Sheriff’s Office Recruiter Master Deputy Curtis Barnes, Florida Highway Patrol Officer Michael Elder, DJJ Northeast Regional Director for Residential Services Billy Starke, and DJJ Northeast Regional Commitment Chief Virgil Wright to conduct mock interviews for the seniors of the EWC College of Criminal Justice.  The purpose of the mock interview was to provide each student with an opportunity to practice interviewing skills in an environment similar to an actual interview.

Eight EWC seniors participated in this process.  Students reported, “The mock interview was a great opportunity to become familiar with interview questions and interview etiquette.”

The Career Services Department understands a mock interview will provide the job candidate with opportunities to practice and to prepare for a professional interview.  This mock interview process will be offered to EWC Criminal Justice students each semester of the academic year.

The Challenge Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Kids, recently took four students of the HBI® vocational education program to the International Builders Show® (IBS) in Orlando where they participated in a building exposition.  The show welcomed approximately 80,000 attendees, as part of Design & Construction Week. 

The four students met thousands of building professionals and manufacturers who were in attendance, answering questions regarding the HBI® program and what they've learned.  In addition, the students were able to demonstrate their skills in the construction trades and their public speaking skills.  Further, the youth visited with a variety of vendors and posed questions regarding their businesses and employment options.  Amidst the myriad of activities, they also had a moment to pose for a photo with Assistant Secretary for Residential Services Laura Moneyham (shown below). 

(L-R):  Youth JC, youth DF, HBI Instructor Joe Aponte, HBI Regional Director Chris Goodman, Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, Eckerd Kids Senior Counselor Dell Barnes, youth AP, and youth MK.

Congratulations to two students of Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC.  Both students recently took the Postsecondary Education Readiness Exam (P.E.R.T.), which is a pre-college exam.  While a passing score is 97 percent, both passed with flying colors:  youth AW scored 117 percent and youth LV scored 121 percent.  Pictured below, in the middle, is Mr. Renardo Boyd one of the educators who assisted the students in their studies to prepare the P.E.R.T.  Both boys are slated to be part of the 2017 high school graduating class.

Youth from Duval Academy visited Smart Pope Livingston Elementary School with members of the program’s advisory board and helped wrap presents for the Angel Tree gift giving.  The youth enjoyed packing, decorating, and wrapping the boxes as part of this community service project.

Right:  Pictured with youth is Mr. Robert Griggs, 

For Duval Academy’s Christmas Family Day, four students learned “Silent Night” in American Sign Language (ASL) as shown in the photo here.  They then preformed the song in ASL in front of the families who attended the event.  They learned the song in two days and did an amazing job.  The Christmas Family Day was a very wonderful celebration that included food and gifts for the boys and their families, which was provided by the church.  

Additionally, the Duval Academy Advisory Board held their Christmas party at the program where they exchanged gifts and enjoyed a nice luncheon.  Shown right are the members of the advisory board who attended the event.

Front Row:  (right to left) Dolores Williams, Natalie Reed, Ms. Jessica Dowdell, Cheryl Houston.

Second Row:  (Right to Left) Mr. Robert Griggs, Mr. Jamell Greene, Herlena Washington, C. J Reed, Vernell McDaniel, Jimmie Washington, Pat Martin, Mr. Albert Chester, Marilyn Duncan, Annie McCaleb Smith

Eight Duval Academy residents recently enjoyed an outing to Adventure Landing at Jacksonville Beach.  They enjoyed driving the go carts, racing each other, and using the batting cages as shown right.  

The residents of Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, recently participated in the Adopt-a-Park Program with Marion County Parks and Recreation.  The Adopt-A-Park Program is designed to encourage the community to be hands-on in helping keep Marion County parks clean, safe, and attractive. 

This program provides the program’s youth an opportunity to contribute to the county by "adopting" a park, and agreeing to improve it through litter pick-up, spreading playground mulch, and other beautification projects.  The boys take ownership in their community, which promotes pride, appreciation of one’s environment, and awareness of natural resources. 

Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, held an inaugural Sister 2 Sister Program last month.  The guest speaker was Sgt. Marquitta Brown from the Gainesville Police Department’s Operation Gang Unit, who is shown left, holding the bouquet of flowers, and Alachua Academy Activities Specialist Adrienne McCray (in the pink top) who are shown with two of the residents (far left and far right).

Breakout sessions that were part of the Sister 2 Sister Program included proper hygiene and life skills for young adults.  The residents also enjoyed a great soul food lunch as part of the program.

The residents of the Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for males, ages 10 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, learned about the impact of crime from two esteemed speakers who witnessed it firsthand.  Elliott and Darla Saunders, founders of Advocates for Safer Communities, talked to the youth about the impact that crime has had on their family.

In 2005, the couple’s 18-year-old son was murdered and his case remains unsolved.  The Saunders spoke about how the family underwent permanent changes that were difficult to accept.  They also talked about how different family members struggled with their own pain and grief, as well as how each member navigated their feelings of loss. 

The Saunders established Advocates for Safer Communities to push for change, help reduce violence, support victims, and break the silence of witnesses.  The students and staff members were inspired by their message and the mission of Advocates for Safer Communities.  Additionally, the Saunders have graciously agreed to serve on the Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility Community Advisory Board.

Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently took 10 of the residents on a trip to Golden Corral with Program Director G. Wright and Assistant Facility Administrator R. Thurman.  These 10 boys received the “Good Citizenship Award” for having and displaying positive pro-social behaviors. 

The Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House and the Okeechobee Youth Development Center, operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, hosted a Christmas party for the youth, which was put on by the local Kiwanis Club. The youth at both programs received Santa hats, Christmas stockings, gifts, and enjoyed dinner with local Kiwanis Club members.

The boys from both programs who exhibited positive behaviors throughout the past week also earned a barbeque with hot dogs, chips, soda and ice cream.  The youth were served by staff members from case management and administration.  They also enjoyed an afternoon of activities organized by the recreation therapist.  

The last Family Day of 2016 at Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, was filled with holiday laughter and fun.  The residents decorated the facility and assisted in baking goodies for their families.

Activities included building gingerbread houses with their loved ones, creating ugly stockings and wreaths, and operating hot chocolate stations.  The boys and their families enjoyed the delicious food and the holiday spirit.