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Secretary's Message

October 30, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter! I am proud to share the stories and events that encompass what we do here at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. I hope you will take a moment to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to improve the lives of Florida’s youth and families and how we are working to make our communities even better.

To share even more of our great work and all that we are doing, please send in your successes and accomplishments both on and off the clock so we can feature them in our next weekly letter. Please send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Please join us in wishing Director of Program Accountability Amy Johnson the very best as she will be leaving the Department to become the new chief operating officer of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services. Amy has served at the forefront of the transformation of DJJ’s contracting and quality improvement functions as we moved to a shared services model and risk-based approach for monitoring of programs. She has been a sound and encouraging leader as well as integral to improving the relationships with outside contracted providers. DJJ cannot thank Amy enough for her dedication and commitment to this agency. We wish her well in all of her future endeavors! 

Congratulations to Circuit 17 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Janice Charlassier who was recently named the South Region Probation Employee of the Year. SJPO Charlassier serves as the court unit coordinator for the circuit and provides a variety of court liaison and training duties. Her commitment to the agency has been exemplary, and her hard work serves as an inspiration to all her colleagues.

Pictured above: SJPO Janice Charlassier (left) and CPO Cassandra Evans

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JPO) Desmond Little from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s Employee of the Month. JPO Little was presented with a certificate and a gift card by Major Paul Finn and Captain Andrea Akins.

Congratulations to Mental Health Counselor Tracy Earle from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s October Employee of the Month. Earle, who was nominated by her supervisors at the facility, goes above and beyond every single day to help the youth we serve.

Congratulations to Food Service Worker Yolanda Wilson from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s September Employee of the Month Ms. Wilson is a very dedicated employee who never is always willing to lend a helping hand.

Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation Receives Donation from Local Restaurant

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) was the recipient of a recent “Share Day” with Tallahassee restaurant Uptown Café and Catering. Once a month, the local restaurant selects a nonprofit to receive 10% of the day’s receipts. As part of learning to give back to the community initiative, the wait staff also donates 10% of their tips. Restaurant General Manager Nic Tedio presented FJJF team member Pat Tuthill with a check for $325.00. The family owned breakfast and lunch cafe is celebrating 35 years in business and giving back to the community.

Probation Youth Participate in Basketball Tournament and Work in Food Truck

The South Regional Probation Office recently held a morale luncheon to support October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During their luncheon, they worked together as a team and decorated their lobby area. They’ve also adopted the Henry Ford quote has their office motto: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Left Side (from left to right): Katiscia Bruce, Shannon Grant and Jamie McDaniel

Right Side (from left to right): Ashely Walker, Jacqueline Valdes and Lynnesha Sanders

The AMIkids facilities at Southwest, Greater Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade North and Miami-Dade South recently participated in the inaugural AMIkids South Region Shootout basketball tournament at American Airlines Arena in Miami. All the young men who participated had a wonderful time and were even allowed to stay afterwards for the Miami Heat game that night. A big congratulations goes out to Miami-Dade North who won the tournament.

DJJ youth with AMIkids of Greater Fort Lauderdale introduced their fully operational Mobile Café food truck during the Rotary Club of Fort Lauderdale’s annual fish fry. Our AMI students were very happy to show off the culinary skills they have been learning in the classroom and there was not an empty stomach or sad face to be found in the crowd. AMI thanks Rotary International for showcasing the talents of the youth we serve in Broward County.

AMIkids Pensacola recently hosted representatives with IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area to showcase the great work being accomplished with support of their generous grant. Several vocational training programs benefited from the grant, including construction and culinary arts.

Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell and Special Projects Coordinator Jill Gould hosted a DJJ resource table during the recent St. Petersburg Showcase of Services and Career Fair. The pair joined other child advocacy agencies at the event and handed out family engagement brochures to the community. They gave an overview of the agency and many of those in attendance asked about job opportunities.

Circuit 8 Project Connect Transition Specialist Jeremiah Hook recently found a unique way to motivate success in a youth on his caseload in Baker County. When TS Hook first met Youth DB, the youth begged him to take him to the gym and show him how to work out properly. Seizing an opportunity to motivate the youth, TS Hook challenged Youth DB with the following; get registered for GED school, get a state ID and apply for 4 jobs in the months of September and October. If Youth DB completed these goals, TS Hook would take him to the gym and develop a workout regimen. Youth DB accepted the challenge and, with the help of TS Hook, Project Connect and Circuit 8 probation staff, Youth DB got his state ID and is attending class regularly in a GED program in Baker County. Youth DB also created a resume with the assistance of TS Hook and applied for multiple jobs. Youth DB found out recently that he had been accepted for an interview with a local restaurant and anticipates more employment opportunities to follow. So, true to his word, TS Hook rewarded the youth by taking him to a local gym. They both had a great time and a killer workout!

Chief Probation Officer Tom Witt and Reform Specialist Michelle Galloway from Circuit 3 participated in the National Night Out and Trunk or Treat event in Lake City. The goal of the National Night Out is to promote “Unity in the Community”, as well as educate children about neighborhood safety, especially around Halloween. This event gave DJJ the opportunity to distribute our DJJ brochures to provide information about all the services we can provide to the youth and their families. Our community partners, The City of Lake City, Lake City Police Department and Lake City Chamber of Commerce, sponsored this event so we could offer a safe and fun event for the youth, and of course, pass out candy!

Detention Center Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

The Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center has been gearing up for the Halloween holiday as the youth and staff have collaborated with the Junior League of West Palm Beach to design the units and hallways leading into their mods. Our young ladies at Palm Beach RJDC and Junior League volunteers also decorated pumpkins to be placed in the lobby to show off their decorating skills to visitors who come to the facility.

As you all know, the Gulf region of Florida was severely impacted by Hurricane Michael. Unfortunately, the Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Panama City was also affected by Michael’s wrath. Staff members from the nearby Escambia RJDC recently came over to assist Bay RJDC with the cleanup and to bring much needed supplies. 

GOC II Carrie Henry from Detention Headquarters teamed up with Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Michael Byrd to attend the recent job fair at Tallahassee Community College. Ms. Henry and Mr. Byrd spoke with interested candidates about open positions within the Department.

The Orange RJDC continues to team up with the Circuit 9 Probation Office to offer probationary youth with community service work opportunities. Captain Reginald Allen and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor April Stack worked with seven youth to clean DJJ vans and to paint and touch up curbs around the detention facility.

The Orange RJDC also collaborated with the Orange County Public School system to put together a program for Hispanic Heritage Month. The event featured a welcome in Spanish, a reading of Spanish literature, a Zumba/salsa demonstration, and featured Hispanic food. Our youth mods rotated through the program and participated throughout the day.

The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center came together to wear pink and host a luncheon in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The staff gathered together as a family not only to bring awareness, but to honor those we have lost to their battle with breast cancer. October is the time when everyone from football players to TV hosts wear pink, brands release pink products, free mammograms are given to women, and everyone comes together with one goal: to raise awareness and help find a cure for breast cancer.

The staff from the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently hosted a party for those level three youth at the facility who have demonstrated good behavior. All of the youth who participated had a wonderful time.

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently hosted a birthday party for Major Dedilia Finlayson. Major Finlayson wanted to celebrate with the youth at her facility and all of the level three youth at the facility attended. The best parts of the party were the dance contest, watching the youth show off their moves, and the personalized birthday cards made by the youth for Major Finlayson. 

DJJ Education Staff Prep Youth for Job Interviews and Teach Poetry

AMI Pinellas Center for Personal Growth hosted a Career Day Event to help the students learn valuable vocational day skills. In the days leading up to the event, Director of Education Michael Shelby guided his team in assisting the boys develop employability skills and set expectations for the day’s event. The boys then hit the floor for the mock interviews, which were completed by DJJ Education Coordinator Joey Nice. Stationed around the room were volunteers from DJJ, Pinellas County Schools, and Johnson Controls, a local business. Each boy went around the room to each interviewer, shook hands, made eye contact and presented his portfolio. The day was a great success and was capped off with a motivational talk from Henry Johnson, a recruiter from St. Petersburg College.

Education staff from the Central Pasco Girls Academy and Facility Administrator Christina Roberts partnered with their local WellCare office to provide an afterschool program teaching our young ladies the art of poetry. This started as part of the incentive program, but quickly grew into an enrichment and educational opportunity the girls will never forget. Funded by the gracious team at WellCare, the girls met, had dinner and began to write.  Assisted by local poets they developed their craft. As the poems were completed, the WellCare team helped the girls publish the books. WellCare hosted a book release party for the collected poems titled, “The Life that Blossoms within Us.” Those in attendance were treated to a reading by the girls and a dinner hosted by WellCare. 

Prevention Staff Volunteer after Hurricane Michael and Speak to Middle School Students

Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady served as a hurricane relief volunteer at the special needs shelter at the Florida State University High School in Tallahassee following the impact of Hurricane Michael. Left with no electricity, Ms. Lawson recognized the need of others less fortunate and volunteered to assist those in need of services who could not physically help themselves. The special needs shelter serviced individuals in need of medical attention, bed ridden or confined to a wheel chair. Individuals temporarily living at this shelter required 24-hour nursing care. Verla felt that it was a very rewarding experience to have been able to volunteer and assist those individuals who could not help themselves due to a disability. Nursing assistance was provided by the Florida Department of Health. Other volunteers provided food service for all patients housed at the school during the hurricane and kept the area clean for those living there following this devastating storm. There were additional shifts of volunteers from all agencies, organizations and concerned citizens of the Big Bend.

Pictured above (from left to right): Verla Lawson-Grady, Miriam Marlow, Executive Administrator of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and one of the nurses on duty from the local health department. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson was invited to speak to middle school students from the Renaissance Charter School in Orlando. She provided an overview of the organizational structure of DJJ and provided a brief description of each program area within the Department. Dionne covered DJJ’s mission and vision and discussed other DJJ initiatives. During her presentation, she explained to the students the definition of a delinquency act and the consequences that may occur when a youth commits or incurs a delinquent act.

Dionne’s background with DJJ as a former juvenile probation officer, afforded her with the knowledge and tools to describe a very clear picture of the juvenile justice process. Currently a delinquency prevention specialist, Dionne provided another alternative to not committing any juvenile acts. She also informed the youth of prevention programs in the Orlando area. The experience was very enlightening, the students were very interested and respectful ,and asked a lot of questions. The school administrators were so impressed that they have requested that she return to provide additional training to their students.

Prevention staff members from DJJ Headquarters observed October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month last Thursday by dressing in pink. The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, and pink in general, identify the wearer or promoter with the breast cancer brand and express moral support for women with breast cancer.

While breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women, according to the American Cancer Society, some 2,600 men will still be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, with 440 succumbing to the disease.

Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann, former Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Health Services Administrator Chuck Corley, SMA Supervisor Christopher Goodman, Director of Staff Development and Training Cina Wilson-Johnson and Prevention Policy Chief Marcus Smith attended a meet and greet for the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD) Chapter 2 at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee to help recruit new members.

FCCD is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of high professional standards for criminal justice agencies and criminal justice personnel. The keystone for FCCD is its educational programs which are designed to foster an interchange of information and training between the professionals in law enforcement, the courts, corrections, probation and parole, juvenile justice and interested citizens.

FCCD is the primary organization in the state of Florida for bringing the various criminal justice disciplines together to help recognize and develop strategies to solve our great state’s criminal justice needs. Through the years, FCCD has continued to focus the attention of its members and the citizens of Florida upon the needs of the criminal justice system. 

Pictured above (from left to right): FCCD Chapter Two Board members, Marcus Smith, President Elect; Alice Sims, President; and Matthew Page, FCCD Secretary, FCOR

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III made a site visit to the Oretha Bell Boys and Girls Club in New Smyrna Beach. While meeting with the Boys and Girls Club, he discussed the mission and vision of DJJ and provided an overview of the Office of Prevention’s current celebrating families initiative for youth and families statewide. The purpose of this meeting was also to gauge the interest of the Boys and Girls Club in partnering more with the DJJ. During the meeting, Willie provided an overview of the GAAP Discussions and extended an invitation to them to host a discussion in the future. Staff introduced him to some of the youth in their after-school and gang prevention/intervention programs and he observed the children interacting while doing homework and playing games. Over all it was a great experience, and the door has been opened to gain another strong partnership.

Pictured above (from left to right): Kim Brown (Unit Director); Kemayah McClean (Club Member); Kendall Smith (Club Member); William Milligan (Club Member); Lisa Ryals (Area Director)

Residential Programs Recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Brooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys and the newest program operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, is already making their mark on the community. Already light is being shined for one special youth. This youth has passed all three certification classes in the C-Tech Program. Although this does not sound like much, the reality is that this youth has set himself up for a career in telecommunications. The national certification is recognized by both unions and all the major company’s providing services. This youth will leave YOI’s program ready to work on the most demanding telecommunication field: fiber optics. Hundreds of thousands of communications run through one fiber optic cable the size of a human hair, and this youth can diagnose, repair and manage this system. When we talk about career skills that put the youth at the head of their peers, this student was provided an opportunity, and seized it successfully. He has also shown an interest in sharing his new-found knowledge with his peers. 

Three youth from St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, recently spoke at a local Boys and Girls Club to tell their stories in hopes of keeping other kids out of trouble. The young men are working with the transitional case manager in the restorative justice process to understand that is imperative to give back to the community. The three youth spoke to an audience at the St. Augustine Boys and Girls Club. The young men entered in their normal attire from the Academy and began sharing their personal stories of what decisions lead them to the Academy. Near the end of the visit, the youth changed into their Dress for Success clothing to show the youth where they are headed with their lives. The crowd was very attentive and asked several questions. After the event, one youth in the club reported that she was empowered by the words and they instilled in her a desire to become a mentor. One of the youth at the Academy became emotional during his presentation as he reported that he wished he had someone to spend time with him when he was their age because he may not have made some of the mistakes. 

The youth are completing their stories as part of their healing journey. They were told to share only what they felt comfortable sharing. The youth have been working with Mr. Warren and a Life Coach via Compassionate St. Augustine as they continue their journey of healing.  Several members of the Boys and Girls Club asked if the youth from the Academy could return to speak with them again. 

Ten youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, attended Open Mic Night with the program’s advisory board. The youth had a great time! They enjoyed food, drinks and listening to the people that were performing. They also danced with the local dance class the Sassy Steppers. It was a great night of song and dance for all!

A few days later, eight youth from Duval Academy were taken to TIAA Bank Field (Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars) to help set up for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The event was coordinated by the facility’s advisory board members. The youth enjoyed helping out for such a good cause.

Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended the MSABC (Making Strides Against Breast Cancer) walk, volunteering their time, helping with set-up, and assisting walkers with questions during the event. The youth worked as a team and the energy from other volunteers and staff for the event was great. There were many high fives and smiles throughout the day!

Lake Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, held an event with all the youth and staff for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The staff and youth had a ceremony and some of the girls participated in speeches, singing, and the myths and facts about breast cancer. The girls at Lake Academy had a balloon releasing to show their support for all those suffering from breast cancer.

The Research and Data Analysis Committee for the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) met in Orlando for their annual Researcher Summit, hosted by committee chair former Secretary Christina Daly and Director of Research Mark Greenwald. Committee members from juvenile justice agencies from around the country attended and presented on how data and research are being utilized for juvenile justice improvement and reform in their states. Presenters included Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham and Garret Tucker from the Office of Residential Services. In addition to presentations, those attending had an opportunity to tour the local juvenile assessment center, detention center, and Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA).

Youth Opportunity Investments would like to thank Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham for providing Kissimmee Youth Academy the opportunity to represent the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice programs. Members had an opportunity to ask questions of the KYA staff and learn about their best practices currently being utilized in the facility. In addition, CJCA reciprocated and shared their best practices. All in all, they walked away with inciteful information to increase positive outcomes for the youth they serve.