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Secretary's Message

January 16, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

I hope everyone is well rested and feeling renewed from the weekend and the holiday celebrated to honor Dr. Martin Luther King; his legacy sets an example for us all.

I encourage you to 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

Florida Legislature Convenes for 2018 Legislative Session

Last Tuesday, we welcomed the Florida Legislature as they convened for the 2018 Legislative Session. This 120th regular session is scheduled to end after 60 days on March 9, 2018.  The Department developed legislative and budget priorities for this session with the input of staff and stakeholders. The Legislative Affairs Office has been working diligently to ensure our policymakers understand these priorities, which reflect the needs for the Department to provide high quality services and programs to youth and their families.  

I am happy to say that our agency bill has been filed in both chambers by Representative McClure (HB 1417) and by Senator Brandes (SB 1298). These bills include changes to statue to reauthorize and restructure the board of our direct-support organization, the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation; strengthen our authority to hold prolific juvenile offenders for violations of nonsecure detention; allows us to better utilize “Invest in Children” license plate proceeds in a more effective way; and to require the judiciary to consider our predisposition report before determining a youth is suitable for commitment.  

Governor Scott’s 2018-2019 “Securing Florida’s Future” Budget includes a 7% increase over the Department’s current year base budget to ensure our continued success.  Our key issues include an $8 million request for a 10% pay increase, and 10 % increase to the base rate of pay, for our juvenile detention officers and juvenile probation officers. The Governor’s recommended budget also includes $12.9 million to increase our residential capacity by 140 treatment beds and an additional $1.6 million dollars to retrofit facilities to accommodate the additional beds. Ten million dollars is being requested for the repair and maintenance of our many aging facilities, and we are seeking slightly more than $9 million for the continuation of prevention programs such as Stop Now and Plan, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Prodigy, and PACE Center for Girls. Also included in Governor Scott’s recommended budget is $317,000 to establish the Office of Youth and Family Advocacy within the Office of the Secretary and $804,000 to complete a two-year project of upgrading and moving inhouse our Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT).

Throughout this regular legislative session, we will work to ensure our priorities are met to continue our mission of reducing juvenile delinquency, increasing public safety, and providing the services at-risk youth and their families need to transition youth back into their communities and guide them towards successful adulthood. 

What is JDAI?

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is a process that is focused on continued juvenile justice system improvement through the lens of the detention population. JDAI helps restructure policy and practice to create system improvements that reach far beyond detention alone. This initiative yields safe reductions in the number of youth detained through a set of interrelated strategies. Those core strategies include collaboration, data-driven decisions, objective admissions, alternatives to detention, expedited case processing, special detention cases, reducing racial & ethnic disparities and conditions of confinement.


Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI): Objective screening tool used to determine temporary supervision status pending adjudicatory hearing.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED)/ Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC): RED refers to the unequal treatment of minority youth in the juvenile justice system including disparate outcomes for similarly situated youth. DMC is defined as the disproportionate number of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

Conditions of Confinement: Using national best practices to ensure children entrusted to detention care are housed in a safe and secure environment with their medical, educational, and mental health needs adequately met.

Domestic Violence Shelters/Respite: Placement that is available for a youth charged with domestic violence as an alternative to secure detention or for a child and/or a family in need of services.

Police Youth Relationships: Creating a positive, safe environment for juveniles and police to explore the value of having mutually respectful interactions.

Be on the lookout for JDAI updates in future editions of the newsletter and introductions to the JDAI team!

Prevention Staff Hold Bridging the G.A.A.P. Conversation

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson recently led an additional Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) Conversation in Kissimmee in conjunction with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. During the discussion between teens and law enforcement officers, the youth and deputies spoke about the different stereotypes the community may have of one another, ways to respect each other, and build better relationships.  After the G.A.A.P Conversation was held, the Osceola deputies and young people had the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations while kayaking in a local lake near the sheriff’s office. The youth and deputies enjoyed talking with each other, which helped build a better relationship.


Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims, Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady recently attended the PACE Center for Girls in Leon County’s Open House in Tallahassee. Many local and statewide dignitaries were on hand for this grand occasion. Guests were greeted by PACE youth and staff, who provided tours of the new facility.

During the tours, guests were presented with tokens of appreciation from each of the educational staff as they entered their classrooms. Guests also enjoyed musical selections provided by local teens.

Pictured above (from left to right): Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator; AS Alice Sims; Kelly Otte, PACE Leon Executive Director; Onazina Washington, Delinquency Prevention Specialist; Mary Marx, PACE President and CEO; and Yvonne Woodard, Operations and Training Director

Refreshments were provided by Chef Shac, whose given name is Shacafrica Simmons. Last year, Chef Shac beat out three other contenders in the popular national Food Network program to take the title of “Chopped Champion.” She also won a $10,000 prize. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hannah gave an encouraging speech recalling all the wonderful accomplishments that PACE has achieved over the years.

PACE alumni, past and present, as well as community stakeholders were recognized for their hard work and dedication within the community by maintaining the PACE mission statement, which is to, “Provide girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.”

PACE Collier at Immokalee is pleased to report that their girls and their families are doing better now after Hurricane Irma.  There was an outpouring of support in the days and weeks after the hurricane.

People from Collier County and beyond began reaching out to determine which needs were most significant.  A donation list was posted via social media and the response was phenomenal.

Four families lost trailer homes, and during the relocation process, two families needed refrigerators. In addition, a PACE staff member as well as the center itself needed new refrigerators.  During PACE’s annual “Feed the Families” event, the appliances were made available and taken home that same day.

Detention Residents Take Part in Equine Therapy

The Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) has been working with Healing Hoofs Equine Therapy Services to bring horses to the facility to interact with the youth. Narissa Jenkins and Connie Baldwin from Healing Hoofs brought in three horses and they did an amazing job with the kids. One youth even said it was the best day of her life. Thank you to Juvenile Detention Officer II Gary Wilson, Erika Perez, and North Regional Director for Detention Services Colette Antozzi for volunteering at the event. The team had a really great time and enjoyed seeing the benefit this event provided for youth. Also, a special thank you goes to the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation for donating the funds for this event.  

I am pleased to share this letter that was sent from a youth who recently resided at the St. Lucie (RJDC)to Superintendent Dedilia Finlayson. The youth’s letter praised the staff at St. Lucie RJDC for their excellent care while they were at the facility.  

Probationary Youth Receive Job Training from Local Apple Store

DJJ youth from the AMIkids of Greater Fort Lauderdale received a great life experience from the employees at a local Apple store in the Fort Lauderdale Galleria. Each student worked one-on-one throughout the day with different Apple employee on resume writing, interviewing skills, and communication skills. The day ended with each student conducting multiple mock interviews. AMI thanks Apple for this great opportunity and hopes to continue to develop their ongoing relationship to benefit our youth.

DJJ youth along with staff and mentors from the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge program wrapped up 2017 with a fun and meaningful event at Lyons Park in Fort Myers. The day started out with a special presentation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving along with a presentation by an officer of the Fort Myers Police Department which focused on the dangers of drinking and driving. Youth and staff had the ability to try on goggles that simulated the feeling of being under the influence and then attempted a field sobriety test. The youth also had the opportunity to decorate “Cookies for Cops,” as a community service project. Lastly, all youth received a Christmas present courtesy of some generous donors. This was a great way to end 2017!

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Janyah Glenn and Reform Specialist Michael Byrd from Circuit 2 participated in a Farm Share event at the Old Tomato Farm in Quincy. The event was hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and our staff along with other volunteers boxed up cases of bottled water, fresh fruit, and vegetables and clothing. This event served over 700 families in need in Gadsden County and the surrounding area. 

Pictured above: SJPO Janyah Glenn

Residential Youth Attend College Football Bowl Game

Just before the new year, eight youth from Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and the Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended the TaxSlayer Bowl game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida to see the Louisville Cardinals play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The youth were super excited to see Heisman winner Lamar Jackson play live and in person. While the weather was cold, the youth enjoyed a meal from Chick Fil- A, received a t-shirt, and watched a great game that was competitive right until the end. Many of the youth shared that they had never been to a college football bowl game in person.

Hastings Youth Academy Completes Hurricane-Related Renovations


Last September, Hurricane Irma blew through the entire Florida peninsula and left behind death and devastation in her wake. Many of our DJJ facilities suffered damage during the storm, however the Hastings Youth Academy in St. Johns County south of Jacksonville bore the brunt of Irma’s wrath. Hastings backs up to Deep Creek, a tributary of the St. John’s River, and on September 11, 2017 the creek flooded over its banks leaving much of the facility underwater.

Hastings suffered severe water damage from 12 to 16 inches of Class III Black water which is major health risk and hazard. Most of the facility was contaminated and called for the removal of floors, furniture, sheet rock, beds and office equipment.

Following the aftermath of the storm, the Department contracted a Certified Indoor Air Quality Professional as well as a mold remediation company to clean and remediate the entire facility, inspect all the HVAC unites and conduct fungal testing samples. Once all the contaminated materials were removed, they could once again get started on building the facility back to normal.

As we turn the calendar to 2018, I am pleased to share with you these before and after photos, and to report that the work at Hastings is expected to conclude on February 15. I would personally like to thank all of the men and women who worked to get Hastings back up and running.


The inclement weather effecting North Florida recently caused the Hastings and Gulf Academy programs to move large muscle movement activities indoors. Under the tutelage of Recreation Therapist Mr. Crowley, the youth have been working on push-ups, leg lifts, jumping jacks, squats, lunges, and other exercises and stretches. While the youth can’t wait till the weather gets warmer to get outside, they are thankful to be able to release some of their energy in alternative ways.