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Secretary's Message

October 24, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter 

This past week, the Panhandle and Big Bend areas of our state faced the extremely difficult task of beginning the cleanup and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. While we as Floridians are no strangers to hurricanes, this record-breaking storm made a devastating impact on our communities. I want to take a moment to thank our DJJ staff and providers for their swift response leading up to the storm and for continuing to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of our youth was a top priority before, during and after the storm passed.

I know we are all eager to help assist those impacted by this storm. For additional information on disaster assistance, insurance resources, and emergency supplies, please visit and share with others the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s webpage: www.floridadisaster.org/info. You can also assist those affected by Hurricane Michael by registering as a volunteer or donating to the Florida Disaster Fund at https://www.volunteerflorida.org/. As the state’s lead agency for coordinating volunteer efforts before, during and after disasters, Volunteer Florida has established resources for individuals and groups who would like to support Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. The Florida Disaster Fund is the state of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster.

While the road to rebuilding and recovery will be long, we will continue to support our communities through this ordeal. It is during the most difficult times when we give the best of ourselves and our Department stands together with all of those affected by this catastrophic storm.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Fred Lyles and Darron Toston  for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for September 2018. Each month, IT recognizes one employee from Headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process. Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency.

Best wishes to Food Service Worker Ebenezer Bote from the Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who recently retired from the agency after eight years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Mr. Bote was well respected and hard-working. He always came to work on time and frequently stayed late to make sure all his work was completed. On behalf of DJJ, I would like to wish Mr. Bote well in his retirement. 

Congratulations to Corporal Jonathan Didia from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recognized as the facility’s Employee of the Month for September. Corporal Didia was nominated by two separate supervisors who both cited his sense of teamwork, his willingness to assist his fellow employees with any task, and his desire to perform each task with excellence as to why he is so deserving of this award.

Congratulations to Samuel Thelon who was recently named the new superintendent for the Monroe Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Key West. Major Thelon began his career at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center back in 2006 and has steadily worked his way through the ranks, leading to his recent appointment as superintendent. Throughout his career at Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Mr. Thelon has often been called upon to assist at other facilities throughout the state. His passion for trauma-informed care and mentoring youth has yielded great results and has allowed him to build an excellent rapport with some of the more challenging youth in detention. He is very active in the Greater Miami community, volunteering in his church, and mentoring youth in several neighborhood programs. Mr. Thelon has also volunteered with the Miami Dade Police Department as a motivational speaker. Mr. Thelon is married to his high school sweetheart and is the proud father of two boys, ages 7 and 5.

Congratulations to Eli Fance who was recently named the new superintendent for the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Mr. Fance has been with the department for 12 years and has held numerous positions at Miami Dade RJDC. The last six years he has served as assistant superintendent at the detention center, which prepared him for this appointment. His experience in operations and his leadership qualities have often been called upon to assist at other facilities throughout the state. He credits former superintendent, and now central region chief, Steve Owens for mentoring him for his new role. He also recognized that this was also made possible because of the amazing support from his wife and his five children.

JDAI Team Attends Casey Foundation Coordinators Conference

Florida’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) team recently attended the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Coordinators Convening in Birmingham, Alabama. At the event, JDAI coordinators gained skills and strategies to become more effective leaders to advance JDAI work within their own site and deepened their focus on addressing racial and ethnic inequities within the juvenile justice system. The Convening included tours of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened on April 26, 2018, the Legacy Museum, and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Coordinators were enlightened about civil and human rights and challenged to use this knowledge gained as fuel to create a more equitable juvenile justice system. The JDAI team proudly accepts the challenge to promote equity in the state of Florida.

Staff Take Part in the Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit

General Counsel Brian Berkowitz recently served as a panel speaker at the 2018 Criminal Justice Summit hosted by the Florida Bar. The summit recognized and addressed issues affecting the Florida criminal justice system, provided a forum for discussion, and worked with stakeholders to develop programs and solutions for fair and effective administration of justice. 

The summit brought together a diverse group of leaders to provide in-depth education and awareness of key criminal justice related issues, share and discover ideas and potential best practices, and provide state leaders with different perspectives on potential solutions to the challenges they face. The summit featured scholars, policy makers, judges and practitioners from across the state and included representation of all three branches of government. 

General Counsel Berkowitz sat on a panel entitled Juvenile Sentencing, which was moderated by Whitney Untiedt, of Akerman LLP, Miami. Other panelists included Julianne Holt, Public Defender, 13th Judicial Circuit, Ralph J. Larizza, State Attorney, 7th Judicial Circuit, and Senator Perry Thurston, Ft. Lauderdale. The panel explored how Florida can continue its deliberate movement toward safer and more effective juvenile processing, particularly in sentencing, and panelists discussed what changes in law, policy and practice should be considered to improve both public safety and youth outcomes.

Detention Youth Receive Mentoring, Haircuts and Art Instruction

Sargent Jamauri Lockett and Juvenile Detention Officer Patrick Outten from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently organized a mentoring and haircut event for the level three youth at the center. This event served as a reward for the youth’s excellent behavior management. The barbers came to the facility by way of Next Cuts Barbers in FortMyers and both the barbers and youth enjoyed the event.

In addition, the Southwest RJDC welcomed Florida hip-hop artist Yungeenace to their facility to speak with the youth. The rapper shared his trials, tribulations and successes with the youth while imploring them to stay on the right track. Since Yungeenace is well-known around the state, the youth really enjoyed their time with him.

Staff from the Leon RJDC also went pink to celebrate October as being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The detention center stood in solidarity to represent the courage, strength and love our detention officers have for the survivors of this deadly disease.

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recently added new paint themes to some of the walls at their detention center. The themes were designed by the Orange County Schools’ education staff, led by Dr. Smart. The themes were designed to stimulate our youth with sudoku and increase their academic vocabulary.

Recently we highlighted the yoga program installed by the Orange RJDC for the young ladies at the facility. Classes have been running six days a week, but now they are offering a class specifically for the boys honors mod. The young men have really enjoyed this relaxing activity.

Also happening at Orange RJDC, the newly installed garden has begun to take shape. Our youth at the detention center have been working vigorously in the garden doing their best to get the plants to grow. Once harvested, the vegetables will be used in the meals for our youth.

In addition, the Orange RJDC has been working with world renowned speaker, author and CEO of C-Suite Analytics and the Finnegan Institute, Richard Finnigan. For the last five months, the team has worked with Mr. Finnigan to improve employee retention at the center. Since that time, the Orange RJDC has improved employee retention by over 80%, which is a phenomenal achievement.

Finally, we are pleased to share the following e-mail that was sent by Orange Superintendent Adrian Mathena to Circuit 9 Chief Probation Officer Johnny Alderman. It reads:

Chief Alderman, I want to extend my thanks on behalf of the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center for your assistance with the changes that we are implementing within the Osceola Court process. Our transportation time has sped up dramatically, and the impact for staffing and school involvement at Orange has been truly helpful. We appreciate the assistance in scanning us the Court documents, hooking up EM’s in Osceola, and assisting us with releasing youth in Court; all of which has helped us get staff back to the detention center quickly. We are finalizing with the Court the process to release youth in the Courtroom and we appreciate your help sir.


The young ladies from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center have been participating in the first fall session of the Very Special Arts Program, presented by VSA Florida. The program provides art instruction to youth in juvenile justice facilities. During the first week, the girls made batches of crazy paper which by the end of the ten-week session will be used to make large abstract collages. The next week, the Volusia girls in the arts program created sugar skull ornaments for a Day of the Dead tree.

In recognition of National Bosses Day last Tuesday, employees from the Central Regional Office of Detention Services showed their appreciation for Central Region Director Monica Gray by purchasing her flowers. DJJ wishes all of our managers and supervisors a very happy Bosses Day.

The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center continues to celebrate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The staff at Escambia are preparing to take part in a Breast Cancer Awareness Walk and have asked the youth to give staff the names of persons close to them who have lost their fight with breast cancer. The names will be displayed on these shirts to honor those who have paid the ultimate fight in their cancer battle.

Probation Youth Visit Military Recruiter and Probation Staff Donate Canned Goods

Circuit 5 Project Connect Transition Specialist Erin Miller had the pleasure of taking two transition youth to meet Army Recruiter Steven Morgan to conduct military career exploration and learn more about what they would need to do to meet Army enlistment requirements. Army Recruiter Morgan fielded question after question from the young men, as they developed a better understanding of the recruitment and screening processes and the delayed entry program. They also discussed potential Army careers, the types of training offered, and life in the service. Officer Morgan greatly helped these two gentlemen understand the process and presented it in a realistic, yet positive way. He sent the message that even though they had a juvenile record, they could still succeed in the military. The whole experience was positive for these young men as it showed them that there is a path to overcome their present circumstances. Needless to say, these young men walked away eager to meet the requirements necessary to qualify for Army enlistment. To top the day off, Transition Specialist Miller treated the young men to McDonald’s coffees to discuss the details and set service plan goals that ensure they meet the standards necessary for military service.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Transition youth and Army Recruiter Steven Morgan

DJJ staff from the Circuit 6 Probation Office in Unit 207 collected 365 cans of non-perishable food items from the youth in their care. The youth were permitted to donate cans of food as part of their community service. These items were recently donated to the Dunedin Cares Food Pantry, a non-profit organization providing food to those less fortunate.

Juvenile Probation Officers Jenelle Beckford and Karen Medina from Circuit 12 treated a youth in their care to an exciting hibachi dinner experience in celebration of her high school graduation. Our officers collaborated with JDAP Supervisor Tanneh Moore and Program Specialist Millie Wheeler for this special event. Sarasota Circuit Judges Curley and Haworth were also kind enough to have donated to this cause by purchasing several gift cards to help facilitate the dinner. The youth thoroughly enjoyed her dinner as she looks to further her education.

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisors Mitzi Petty and Heather Ferrara, along with Juvenile Probation Officers Tonya Brown and Adam Wiegand and Secretary Specialist Mary Anne Nichol from Circuit 12 recently took part in the coastal clean-up for Keep Manatee Beautiful. Manatee County has adopted a section of shoreline at the tip of Anna Maria Island called Bean Point, and clean-ups are done three to four times a year. All of our staff members enjoy helping to beautify their local beaches.

Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell and Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee from Circuit 6 hosted a DJJ resource table at the recent Child Advocacy Expo in Pinellas County. DJJ family engagement brochures were disseminated to a wide array of agencies who advocate for children. Networking partnerships were also formed and community agencies had the opportunity to receive an overview of the services provided by DJJ. Several individuals were very interested and signed up to attend the Juvenile Justice Citizens Academy, scheduled for 2019.

The Circuit 10 Probation Office recently held their quarterly circuit meeting with staff membersfrom Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Probation staff joined together to hear presentations by our community partners including Career Source Polk, Chrysalis Health and PACE Center for Girls – Polk. The theme of the meeting was, “Don’t Aspire to be the Best on the Team. Aspire to be the BEST for the Team.” During the meeting, staff members were recognized for their great work done throughout the circuit. The staff members recognized included Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Rachael Pierre-Louis, Senior Juvenile Probation Officers Susannah Schiebel and Stephanie Floyd, Juvenile Probation Officers Glenn Loften, Lakenya Lott and James McCoy, Secretary Specialist Susan Minshew and Administrative Assistant Van Grant.

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Collins had the opportunity to perform some very successful community outreach recently. First, she had the pleasure of beginning her day with the students and staff from Lighthouse Christian Academy. Lighthouse Christian Academy is a special school in the community, as it is designed for students who learn differently from mainstream students. Mrs. Collins shared the mission of DJJ and what resources we have to offer to both youth and families. Next, she attended the AMIkids Jacksonville graduation commencement exercise for five of our DJJ youth; some of whom graduated with OHSA certifications. In addition, four of our DJJ youth received their AMI program completion certificate for successfully completing all the requirements of AMI. It was a great afternoon of sharing information and successes with our community partners. Thank you to Lighthouse Christian Academy and AMIkids Jacksonville for their investment in our youth. 

The Circuit 5 Probation Office recently dressed in orange in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month. Every October, schools, organizations and communities observe National Bullying Prevention to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.

Prevention Staff Attend Child Protection Summit and Take Part in National Night Out

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally attended the recent Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) quarterly meeting in Circuit 2. The meeting was led by Circuit 2 Chairman Donnie Read and the attendees included Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Chief Probation Officer for Circuit 2 Rico Cooper and Major Conrad McCray from the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

The CAB discussed the recent CORE Forum, the 2018 One Voice Conference and the status of their annual report. In addition, the board discussed the upcoming Restoring Hope Training Summit to be held at the end of October in Orlando. This summit will focus on raising awareness on issues impacting Florida’s youth and families. The CAB plans to provide a platform to build a strong community as well as develop a strong organizational structure which delivers effective results. The Office of Probation and Community Intervention provided an update on Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) & Racial & Ethnic Disparities (RED) and discussed their plan to address the issue of racial inequity in Circuit 2.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally, along with Shanteria Randall and Willie Smith III attended the 2018 Child Protection Summit hosted by the Department of Children and Families in Orlando. This summit is the largest child welfare event in Florida and brings together a host of child protection professionals and advocates including judges, foster parents, case managers, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and young adults united for one common cause. The overall objective was to share best practices relating to protecting children and strengthening families, all while striving for a standard of excellence in service. The workshops presented by various community stakeholders was centered on the understanding of trauma-informed care.

Pictured above (from left to right): Willie Smith III, Shanteria Randall and Jashett Omeally

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson set up a DJJ information table during the recent National Night Out event in Orlando. The event was hosted by the Greater Malibu Groves Community Members and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando. The theme of this event was “Avenging Crime One Community at a Time.”

The purpose of National Night Out, organized in conjunction with police organizations nationwide, is to inform the public of various police and community programs. Drug prevention initiatives, town watch organizations, or even tips on how to burglar proof their homes, are a few of the educational highlights of a typical National Night Out community gathering.

National Night Out was first established in 1984 by Matt Peskin of the National Association of Town Watch. This event has attracted more than 2 million participants in both Canada and the United States. Members of the community came out to enjoy food, games, music, and learned about some of the resources available to them in the community.

Residential Youth Participate in Annual Heart Walk and Fishing Trip

At the end of September, six youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, attended the Haven Horse Ranch. It was their first day getting to actually ride the horses and they learned the proper ways to direct the horses. A few of the youth were nervous, having never been on or around horses before arriving at the program. After a few minutes the nerves wore off and they had a great time. The youth can’t wait for the next session!

Duval Academy Advisory Board and ten youth assisted in setting up for the 25th Annual Heart Walk. The youth hung banners, set up trashcans, moved fencing, and set up tables and chairs. They had a great time and enjoyed participating in such a worthy event in the community.

Recently, recruiters from the US Navy and US Army stopped by to speak to the youth at Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel. They spoke to the young men about recruitment and the criteria to join their respective military branch. The recruiters discussed the opportunity for jobs in their respective branch as well as the benefit of serving our country. The topic of military contracts, income, rank, and the criteria for getting promoted were also discussed. Finally, education, travel, and the retirement advantages of being in the military were also topics of discussion. The youth were engaged, very inquisitive, and really enjoyed both presentations.

Twelve youth from the Brooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, attended a fieldtrip at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center. The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center is a Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission facility. Dr. Kathryn Guindon and her staff of biologists taught the boys basic saltwater fishing skills (knot tying, casting, and ethical angling), as well as biological sampling and assay techniques. Two of the boys caught their very first fish. The boys were exceptionally well behaved and represented the school well, and thanked Dr. Guindon and the biologists for a fun day.

At the beginning of October, six girls from Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, visited the Tampa Bay Humane Society to read stories to the dogs and puppies housed at the shelter. This is a community service opportunity the shelter provides which also helps with socializing the animals. The dogs were anxious or barking and when the girls began reading they would calm down and would become notably relaxed and attentive to their reader.

TrueCore's General Council Mellissa Longo is an active volunteer at the Tampa Bay Humane Society. Thanks to her involvement, the youth at Central Pasco Girls Academy and surrounding facilities will have the opportunity to volunteer at the shelter more frequently.

The following day, purple was the color of the day as Central Pasco Girls Academy held the 2nd Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Walk/Run event. The event included guest speakers from Sunrise Domestic Violence Shelter and the Crisis Center. Speakers Kim and Tori provided education on healthy boundaries and relationships as well as how to speak out against abuse. They also shared some spoken word poetry. They continued the event with a memorial balloon release. Dedicated program mentor, Ms. Deb, led a prayer for all the victims and survivors of domestic violence as the girls released their purple balloons. They wrapped up the event with a mile walk/run around the property in honor of survivors and victims.

Lead Educator Dan Wynne is always thinking of a positive challenge for the students at Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. He jumped at the call from the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings [CEEAS] for the students to explore the issues that surround youth justice by participating in the Unsung: The Voices of Youth Justice, so that their voices can be heard all while competing for a spot in the top ten.

Students will use the power of music to create songs that create awareness around topics that impact their lives. The program partnered with CEEAS on the project, as well as Soundtrap, who brought the music making tools into the classroom using their Chromebooks and Google Suites.

The Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, hosted a field day and barbeque for staff and youth to celebrate Facility Administrator Latoya Singletary’s birthday. The youth and staff enjoyed tons of food and games while they honored their hardworking and fearless leader. It’s indicative of Ms. Singletary’s leadership to share her birthday with her staff and kids. It was a great time for everyone involved!