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Secretary's Message

October 9, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

As we prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Michael somewhere in the Florida Panhandle, I would like to remind our staff, community partners, and providers to remain vigilant and ready as this storm could have a significant impact on our area. Please follow the lead of your county government regarding closures and continue to monitor the storm as it moves into our area. We will continue to send updates as we receive them. Thank you to our agency staff and providers who have been diligent in their efforts to prepare for this storm and in keeping our facilities safe and secure.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Circuit 19 Administrative Assistant Diana Lariosa who was recently named the South Region Employee of the Year by the Office of Probation. Lariosa serves as the secretary for the circuit and the regional and statewide Probation Advisory Teams. She has excelled at establishing friendships and gaining respect both locally and in the regional office. Lariosa is a team player with a positive attitude and always puts other people first.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Jarquis Black from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was honored with the Captain’s Award for his hard work and dedication to the youth at Orange RJDC. The award was presented by Captain Matthew Hudson.

Congratulations to Sergeant Arica Mann from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was presented with her years of service wristband by Major Adrian Mathena. Sergeant Mann is celebrating her seventeenth year with the agency and is dedicated to the youth in her care.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Gerald Hiliare from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was honored with the Captain’s Corp Award for his continued hard work serving the youth at the facility. The award was presented by Captain Reginald Allen.

The Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently recognized three of their officers with years of service wristbands. Sergeant Alison Stanton  received her wristband for twenty years of service to the youth at Okaloosa RJDC. Lieutenant Davenor Brown  was presented his wristband for twenty-one years of service to the agency, while Field Training Coordinator Yolando Teamer  was recognized for her eighteen years of service.

Best wishes to Food Services Director Betty Jackson from the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center who retired from the agency after thirty plus years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. The facility recently held a retirement party for Ms. Jackson. She was a vital member to the Miami RJDC team and she will be greatly missed. On behalf of everyone here at DJJ, we wish Ms. Jackson nothing but the best in her retirement.

Probation Staff Donate Clothing to Local Juvenile Assessment Center

Juvenile Probation Officers Eunicia Giuchici and Julie Stratton from Circuit 1 partnered with the Children’s Home Society of Florida to donate clothing items for youth coming through the local Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). The JAC received a donation of brand new Levi’s jeans in numerous sizes to distribute to youth in need. I would like to thank Chief Probation Officer Paul Wallis and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Janet Maconi for supporting these efforts and partnerships that bring valuable resources to youth.

Pictured right (from left to right): JPOS Janet Maconi, OPS JPO Eunicia Giuchici and OPS JPO Julie Stratton.

The AMIkids Tampa facility recently hosted mentors from Fresh Start, a faith-based mentoring program in the Tampa Bay region. Fresh Start focuses on serving at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. The group discussed personal accountability, the importance of self-esteem, and positive thought.

Recently, Circuit 5 Juvenile Probation Officer Susan Fuller reached out to the transition service provider, Project Connect, to discuss the need for a bike for a youth on her and Project Connect Transition Specialist (TS) Erin Miller’s caseload. Youth JL had been working hard to gain employment and had achieved that goal. So, he would need a reliable mode of transportation to get to and from work. TS Miller reached out to her extended Project Connect teams in Circuits 5 and 7 to inquire if anyone had access to a used bike for donation. Fellow Circuit 5 TS Angie Layerd reached out to her community contacts to inquire if someone had a used bike to donate. Martha A., an acquaintance from Quincy where TS Layerd used to live, reached out to Angie through social media and asked if she could help. TS Layerd told Martha A. that she no longer lived in the Quincy and it would be logistically difficult to get a bike transported from Quincy to the Ocala area. Martha A. then decided that she would simply purchase a new bike for Youth JL and TS Layerd could pick it up at her local Walmart. Needless to say, TS Layerd and TS Miller were super excited. They picked up the bike and delivered it the next day. When told she didn’t have to make such a generous offer, Martha A. said, “I want to; I enjoy helping those who are making a change in their lives and admire a young person who wants to work.” When it was delivered, along with a bike lock purchased by TS Layerd, Youth JL was very appreciative and expressed his generosity to all of those who played a collaborative part in helping him secure reliable transportation to and from his new job. 

Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson and Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson hosted a DJJ resource table during the recent Youth and Family Health Summit at the Kissimmee Civic Center. The event was sponsored by the Osceola County Youth Task Force and provided information on local resources to Osceola County youth and families. Melinda and Dionne provided information about the available resources DJJ provides, updates on our reform initiatives, and answered any questions from the community members in attendance.

Unit 103 in the Circuit 1 Probation Office has begun a new pilot program where our juvenile probation officers (JPO) are now seeing youth on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The initial launch started slowly, but over the last two weeks our JPOs have seen a total of twenty-four clients during these special after-hours appointments. Many of these clients expressed their appreciation for the opportunity our agency provided them to come in on Saturdays to avoid scheduling conflicts with school or other weekday obligations. Unit 103 will continue to provide this service until the end of the year when they can properly evaluate the success of this project. I would like to thank Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Dallas Rich and Juvenile Probation Officer Janise Best who made this program possible by working the Saturday hours.

Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement Hosts Peer Review Training

Recently, the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement’s (MQI) Central Region held a Certified Peer Reviewer Training session in Orlando. The Certified Peer Reviewer Training is a two-day event that provides an in-depth review of the MQI process, including an overview of all MQI standards, rating definitions, debriefing process, and basics of writing an annual compliance report. Participants will receive elective credit hours in SkillPro for attending and passing the Certified Peer Reviewer Training. All sessions were taught by the Bureau’s regional monitors, who are trained in delivering the Certified Reviewer Training. Participants from across the state included contracted provider staff and Department program area staff. Certified Peer Reviewer Training is available twice a year for all Department staff and contracted provider staff who are interested in learning more about the MQI process and assisting the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement when conducting on-site annual compliance reviews. If you are interested in becoming a Certified Peer Reviewer, please ensure you have taken the Department’s Motivational Interviewing training as it is a pre-requisite for the Certified Peer Reviewer Training. The next Certified Peer Reviewer Training session will be held in the Central Region in the Spring 2019. 

Prevention Services Hosts CORE Forum Resource Fair in Orlando

The Office of Prevention and Victim Services hosted it’s second CORE (Community, Outreach, Resources and Education) Forum resource fair in the Central Region at Frontline Youth and Family Center in Orlando. The CORE Forum seeks to strengthen families by connecting them with local resources and connecting community partners and stakeholders with youth and families.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson presided over the event with the assistance of Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady. Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims gave opening remarks. Many thanks to the following speakers for the evening: The Honorable Robert Egan, 9th Judicial Circuit; Rev. James Watkins; Major Adrian Mathena, Orange County Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Circuit 9 Chief Probation Officer Johnny Alderman; Circuit 9 Circuit Advisory Board Chairperson Lonnie Bell, Orange County Government and Circuit 9 Faith Representative; and, Dwight Mitchell, Program Director of Frontline Youth and Family Center.

Pictured above (from left to right): Chief Probation Officer Johnny Alderman, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson & The Honorable Robert Egan, 9th Judicial Circuit

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III recently met with Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan from District 1 at the Jacksonville City Hall. The purpose of this meeting was to develop a collaboration and discuss future initiatives and endeavors. They discussed bringing a positive message to District 1 through engagement, outreach and creating a network to inform families of available resources. Councilwoman Morgan was also asked to partner with DJJ to host a G.A.A.P. Discussion. In doing so, youth and law enforcement will meet in a safe environment to discuss perceptions, pre-judging, programs, dos and don’ts when approached by an officer, and a host of positive topics. Other items of discussion were the possibility of setting up a town hall meeting and embarking on a local clean-up project.

Pictured above: Councilwoman Joyce Morgan and Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally recently took part in the Zion Cares Resource Fair at the New Mount Zion AME Church in Tallahassee. Aimed at educating and supporting Frenchtown and surrounding communities, the fair featured various community providers, free food, live music, free giveaways, free groceries which included fresh fruit and vegetables, a clothing boutique which provided free clothing items, and health screenings. The event also hosted a mobile law clinic which provided free legal advice. Community providers present included the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Tallahassee Police Department, N.O.B.L.E., the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, the Health Department, Career Source, the Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center, and the Refuge House.

Residential Youth Volunteer at Football Game and Take Part in Family Fun Day

Last month, the non-secure youth at Crestview Youth Academy, a non-secure and secure residential facility for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, volunteered in the local community during a city league peewee football game. During the game, the youth worked the concession stand and served the family and friends of the players a variety of snacks and drinks. In addition to providing services in the concession stand, they volunteered on the field as field markers for an up-close, front row view of the game! One of the coaches, Charles Reynolds, is a regular volunteer at the facility and offers motivational speaking services for the youth. The youth were more than happy to give back as a reciprocation of their gratitude for Mr. Reynolds’ continued dedication to them. The boys thoroughly enjoyed giving back and being a part of something greater than themselves! 

Ten youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, attended an introductory meeting at DJJ’s NE Residential Regional Office. This meeting was an ice-breaker meeting to inform the youth of what they will be participating in with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This meeting was led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Carlton L. Peeples, from the FBI Jacksonville Division (pictured to the left). The youth were asked to write essays about what they learned in the meeting when they returned to the facility. Many of them stated that they learned that law enforcement officers are not all out to get them and that the officers aren’t only there to arrest people; they are there to protect people as well. This program will teach the youth appropriate relations with law enforcement and provide an opportunity for the youth to share their thoughts and experiences when making contact with law enforcement. We look forward to the meetings ahead.

A few days later, Duval Academy held a family day at the facility. The facility’s Clinical Director, Ms. Carr, was assisted by the youth and the clinical team in decorating the pavilion in a carnival theme, complete with bowling, ring toss, a balloon relay race, and a photo booth. The youth had a great time visiting with their families and playing games at the booths. They received tickets for the games they won and got to pick prizes at the end of the day.

The recreational therapists at Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, create opportunities and incentives for the youth who are doing the right thing. One incentive is having a video game night for the youth who have shown consistent behavior during the week. During a recent game night, the youth battled it out in NBA 2K and Madden. Great job to the young men for their consistent behavior and setting a positive example for their peers.

Hastings and Gulf Academy youth also recently held their Hastings Got Talent competition. There were acts of many varieties, which included singing, rapping, poetry, and one youth even brought out the chicken dance. Recreation Therapist Milly Pagan did a great job organizing the event and it was held without a hitch. The staff commend all the youth who participated and did such a great job. 

Hastings and Gulf Academy has had a unique ‘visitor’ join them at the facility. A duck from a nearby pond has repeatedly made its way inside the compound. According to the maintenance staff, he has been removed from the facility only to fly back to the same spot. The youth have adopted him as the unofficial mascot.

Recently, the staff of Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, honored five youth in the program by hosting a graduation ceremony during its quarterly Family Day event. These five young men were able to successfully complete one of their educational goals and become a high school graduate, while at the same time focusing on completing their treatment program goals. It was important for the administrative team to honor these young men amongst family and friends so that they were able to receive the appreciation for their hard work and dedication to excellence.

Kissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, organized another successful Florida Licensing on Wheels event in conjunction with the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMW). The event enabled 50 youth to secure ID cards and birth certificates. Kissimmee Youth Academy’s goal is to ensure that all youth be granted the opportunity for success by providing them with adequate education, skill development, on site job training, and the appropriate standard ID documentation. This collaboration between DJJ, our providers, and the FHSMV has been nothing short of stellar! All youth were ecstatic to receive their ID cards. Kissimmee Youth Academy will continue to provide various opportunities for the youth to assist in their transition back into their respective communities!

Five youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, were escorted by Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson and Transition Manager Brittney Ashley to the University of Miami. There they joined Professor and Senior Lecturer Jan Sokol-Katz, Ph.D., in her juvenile delinquency class to initiate the fall semester group discussions.

This was the first-ever Google Hangouts interactive group discussion, allowing five other youth back at Miami Youth Academy to actively participate via Chromebooks with the assigned college students, under the guidance of education staff.

This visit was made possible by Exchange for Change, which provides opportunities for creative and intellectual engagement. When everyone has the ability to listen and be heard, strong and safe communities are formed. With a pen and paper, students can become agents of change across different communities in ways they may otherwise have never encountered.

Detention Facility Conducts Tour and Youth Take Part in a Painting Project

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recently welcomed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the League of Women Voters of Orange County to the facility for a tour. Following the tour, the committee discussed how they could assist the staff and youth at the facility and are now working on forming a detention advisory board to guide future endeavors. The committee also expressed interest in linking Orange RJDC with additional programming for their youth, the creation of a library for the youth, and support for the staff at the facility.

Major Adrian Mathena from the Orange RJDC also organized a painting project for the youth on the honors mod at the facility. The youth spent the day repainting their mod and also added a shout out board.

As the calendar turned to October, the staff at the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center have begun decorating their facility for Halloween. The decorating project was spearheaded by Captain Mary Pagano and the youth at Southwest RJDC also assisted to make their surroundings a bit more festive.


Staff Development and Training Host Youth Engagement Model Workshop

The Youth Engagement Model (YEM) workgroup has continued to meet over the past few months revising the Protective Action Response (PAR) curriculum. The workgroup consists of members from all program areas, the Office of the Inspector General, Staff Development and Training and private providers. Representatives from the Office of Health Services as well as Master PAR Instructors have served as technical advisors as well. On October 2nd, the workgroup met to review the final module of the curriculum: REWARD. The workgroup is currently on target with the project timeline and anticipates the pilot to roll out during the first quarter of 2019. 

I am pleased to share the following letter from Shannon Grant from the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center that was sent to Andrea Minnis from the Office of Staff Development and Training. The letter describes the training style of Blended Academy Instructor Joe Glick. The Blended Academy is delivered to juvenile justice probation and detention officers as part of the certification process. The courses delivered are those common to both disciplines and is a pre-requisite to their job-specific academies. The letter reads:

Good afternoon,

I am conducting a site visit at Collier Detention Center and sat in the Blended Academy with Instructor Joe Glick. I just wanted to let you know that he’s a phenomenal instructor. He’s so engaging and interactive with the class.