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Secretary's Message

November 5, 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

We would like to send best wishes to Operations and Management Consultant Christella Moore from the Bureau of General Services who retired from the agency after twenty-four years of dedicated service. The Bureau of General Services recently hosted a Hawaiian-luau themed retirement party where Ms. Moore received a gift card and a special clock to honor her years of service. On behalf of our entire agency, we wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.

Pictured above: Christella Moore (left) and Chief of General Services Roger Kesling

Congratulations to Sergeant Brickler Gammon from the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the detention center’s October Employee of the Month. Sergeant Gammon began his career with DJJ as a juvenile detention officer and has continued to work hard and advance within our agency.

Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Stevens, Sgt. Gammon, and Major McCray

Congratulations to Circuit 1 Reform Specialist Therese Moses who was named Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year by Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi at the Anti-Human Trafficking Summit in Orlando. The award is given to a Department of Juvenile Justice staffer who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the struggle against human trafficking in Florida. Therese has been employed by DJJ for almost 27 years serving in various roles, including a juvenile probation officer supervisor and as the reform specialist for Circuit 1, coordinating the various juvenile justice reform efforts in her area of the state. She currently serves as DJJ’s human trafficking liaison for Circuit 1, representing DJJ in all local activities related to the fight against trafficking in the Pensacola and western Panhandle region. Along with her colleagues in Circuit 1, she helped to develop and maintain the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force, one of the largest and most active anti-trafficking task forces in the state. Therese is a proud graduate of Auburn University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Her commitment to DJJ and to trafficked youth is exemplary, and her work serves as an inspiration to her colleagues.

Congratulations to Circuit 16 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Ryan Lemay who was named the circuit’s Employee of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2018. JPO Lemay has been handling on-call duties and is an active member of the Probation Advisory Team (PAT), participating at the last Region PAT meeting. JPO Lemay is also a community mentor and tutor and volunteers to cover community events.

Pictured above: Ryan Lemay (left) and CPO Elaine Thompson

Probation Staff and Youth Take Part in Breast Cancer Awareness Walks

DJJ youth along with the AMIkids Miami-Dade North program recently worked on a number of improvement projects for the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCEER) program. The program involves youth in construction certification classes. The construction crew participated in projects such as cutting doors to size, case management, and worked on the lobby areas after the floors were tiled.

DJJ youth from the AMIkids program in Pensacola took part in the local “Making Strides Breast Cancer” walk supporting the American Cancer Society. The event drew thousands of participants in support of breast cancer research and treatment.

A dozen youth from AMIkids Clay County were recent participants in the Marine Education Program activities including Discover Scuba, Tampa Bay Fishing Experience and the Floating Classroom. This three-part program exposes youth to the wonders of our aquatic environment, marine conservation, and real-life skills they can use outside of the program.


The Central Region Probation Advisory Team came together, along with regional administration participants, for their last meeting of the year at the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Brevard County. The team went through a full agenda related to various topics affecting the circuits and region. A special thank you to Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Elizabeth Erwin as she is leaving Circuit 9. She will be missed by the team and we wish her all of the best. We also want to thank the Central Region team for their valuable participation. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Abby Anderson (Regional), Irene Jacusis (C6), Yvonne Ortiz (C6), Marian Epps (C13), Amanda Nelson (C12) MaryAnne Nichol (C12) Laura Coyne (C12), Shelley Turner (C13), Loredana McKenzie (C6) Matt Garboski (C18), Kandy Avery (C18) Norman Sherrod (C9), Elizabeth Erwin (C9), Racheal Pierre-Louis (C10), Connie Coffey (Regional), Frank Donnelly (Regional), Beth Cantrell (C18), Dennis McKinney (C13) and Cathy Lake. Present but not pictured is Lucille Rapale with the regional office.

The DJJ Circuit 20 office came together recently to celebrate Halloween with a luncheon. The office asked that staff dress up in festive costumes. The luncheon gave staff members the opportunity to participate in team building activities and bond together as an office.

Pictured above (from left to right): Management Review Specialist Sarah Bechtel, Nursing Services Director Christine Gurk, and South Region Nursing Consultant Jennifer Scheller

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Lut Clarcq conducted a Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Refresher Training for all the supervisors in Circuit 20. The goal of the JPOS Refresher Training is to provide information on the supervisory roles and responsibilities as well the importance of time management. Subsequently, circuit team building exercises and an office luncheon followed with some staff dressed-up to celebrate Halloween.

The Circuit 2 Probation team participated in a Farm Share event at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee. Farm Share is a large-scale charitable food organization whose goal is to end hunger. Farm Share works with Florida farmers to prevent food waste and distribute healthy food to those who need it the most. This event was sponsored by Living Stones International and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. Over 1,000 families were provided with fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.

Pictured above (from left to right): Reform Specialist Michael Byrd, JPO Rachel Kumbat, Leon County Sheriff Walter McNeil and AA Kaprie Lee

Circuit 2 Probation also assisted with Hurricane Michael relief efforts by providing hot dogs, water and chips to Gadsden County residents affected by the storm. The event was held in partnership with the Gadsden County School Board and was held at Shanks Middle School in Quincy. The great citizens of Gadsden County really appreciated the food and compassion they were given.

Pictured above (from left to right): Major Conrad McCray, Gadsden County School Board member Audrey Lewis, CPO Rico Cooper

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Nancy Masry and Juvenile Probation Officer Ryan Lemay from Circuit 16 participated in the A21.org walk to help raise awareness in the fight against slavery and human trafficking. Monroe County raised a whopping $13,000 for A21.org, who pledges that they will not stop until all survivors are free.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Dorothy Malik, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Karl Dorelien and Juvenile Probation Officers Jimel Pierre-Louis, Elvie Joseus and Pam Givans from Circuit 19 participated in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk to support breast cancer awareness and to celebrate survivors.

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Anna Mason, along with Monroe County Coalition and Project Success, participated in the annual Red Ribbon event at Marathon High School. Approximately 300 high school students participated in the event, including members of the student council, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), and the marching band. Representatives from the community were present and participated in the event as well. 

DJJ’s Human Trafficking Intervention statewide team, led by Human Trafficking Director Katherine Gomez and Human Trafficking Coordinator Elena Simonsen, attended the Anti-Human Trafficking Summit along with DJJ colleagues from across the state. The summit is an annual event sponsored by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the University of Central Florida. It’s a forum for those who are passionate about fighting human trafficking in Florida to share ideas, provide encouragement, assistance, and inspiration to others.

For more information about human trafficking and DJJ’s efforts to combat trafficking in Florida, visit DJJ’s HT website at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/human-trafficking.

DJJ has recently launched a pilot of our new LGBTQI Youth in Florida training course. This class is designed for Florida juvenile justice professionals to better understand SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression), to enhance understanding of LGBTQI youth, address common stereotypes, learn some of the unique challenges and obstacles the LGBTQI population faces, and how to interact with LGBTQI youth in ways that are courteous and supportive. The course contains four modules: terms and definitions, dismantling bias and fostering equity, enhancing communication and building trust, and ensuring safety and equity. The course was developed by Georgetown University’s Supporting the Well-Being of System-Involved LGBTQ Youth Certificate Program Fellows. The fellows who make up the Florida team are Dennis Driscoll (Detention Services - DJJ), Matthew Fitzgerald (Residential Services - DJJ), Bethany Gilot (Human Trafficking Director - DCF), Katherine Gomez (Human Trafficking Director - DJJ), Elizabeth Phillips (Director of Youth and Family Advocacy - DJJ), John Robertson (Program Services Director - Florida Network of Youth and Family Services), and Jeff Wenhold (Statewide PREA Coordinator – DJJ) in partnership with Staff Development and Training Director Cina Wilson-Johnson and Kenny Reeves and Sam Brewer of the Staff Development and Training Curriculum Design Team. Last year, Florida sent an interdisciplinary team to Washington, D.C. for the Supporting the Well-Being of System-Involved LGBTQ Youth Certificate Program hosted by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy, in collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Impact Justice. This newly developed training curriculum serves as part of the Florida team’s Capstone Project, titled “Enhancing SOGIE Competence in Florida’s Delinquency and Dependency System”. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Jeff Wenhold, Elizabeth Phillips, Katherine Gomez, and Dennis Driscoll

Detention Youth Celebrate Halloween and Staff Assist in Clean-up after Hurricane Michael

The Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center held a Halloween celebration for the youth at the facility. The youth were able to participate in a variety of activities including face painting, decorating and trick-or-treating. This event was a joint effort between the mental health department and administration.  The kids enjoyed themselves and were able to be creative.  We would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Regnier and Janelle Robinson from the mental health department and FTC Keyla Ball for organizing and ensuring the success of the Halloween event.

Our sincerest thanks go out to staff from the Detention Services North Region Office as well as the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center who delivered supplies and participated in clean-up efforts at the Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. In addition, the detention staff worked together with probation staff to clean out the badly damaged Bay Probation Office building in Panama City. 

In honor of Halloween, the youth and staff from the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a door decorating contest for the mod doors, staff lounge and dining rooms. The doors were judged by Juvenile Probation Officers Tiffany Charles and Natarishia Bacon from Circuit 17. The first place prize went to the G1 Mod, with the multi-purpose room and Mod B3 taking home second and third place honors, respectively. All of the mods who participated received treats for their hard work. The G1 Mod will receive a pizza party, the multi-purpose room will receive an ice cream party, and B3 will receive a popcorn and movie party.

A special thanks to Juvenile Detention Officers Samara Groom, Alicia Pittman, Lotoria Hubbard, Katreeina Robinson, Brandon Gray, Emily Wilson, and Kelly Ayala. In addition, we thank Officer Ayala for organizing the special Halloween meal consisting of mummy hot dogs, hamburgers, chili and a Halloween cake.

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center is gearing up for their upcoming harvest party by having their level three youth participate in a t-shirt decorating contest. The program at the detention center is called Teens-N-Tees, and is a part of their behavior management system. All designs will be judged by youth and staff and the top two winners will receive a prize. The shirts will be worn as a part of the harvest celebration.

The Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a door decorating contest for the youth at the facility. The doors and decorated common areas were judged by members of the Public Defender’s Office and staff from the Palm Beach Youth Academy. The group along with the youth enjoyed trick-or-treating and a special lunch for the winning mod.

The Detention Services South Region Office also came together in the spirit of Halloween by wearing costumes. This exercise was not only fun but an excellent display of team building for our staff members.

Pictured above: Yamila Fernandez Valls (left) and Latesha Thomas

Juvenile detention officers (JDO) from the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center, (RJDC), Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Reginald Lovely, Duval RJDC field training coordinators, and all trainees met at Copeland’s Restaurant in Jacksonville to meet with newly certified detention officer, Derrick Anderson. JDO Anderson shared his encouraging and motivating testimony on his journey from being a trainee to becoming a certified detention officer. The luncheon also allowed Duval RJDC’s trainees to meet each other personally and give their takes on training. The field training coordinators and Supervisor Lovely spoke to them about building a career with the Department, mentoring the youth they supervise, and building a rapport with each other.

Level three youth from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated Halloween by decorating masks and trick-or-treat bags. Following the decoration activities, the youth went trick-or-treating around the facility and made stops at master control, transportation, the school, medical, mental health and Lieutenant Sylvonia Parris’s office.  All of the youth who participated had a great time.

The Office of Health Services Central Region Office, including Dr. Ruby Itzen and Nurse Ronda Corr, will soon be moving to another office building. To show appreciation for working so closely with Health Services, Detention Services Central Region surprised the Health Services staff with cards, gifts, and pastries. In addition, the Central Region Office took this opportunity to wear pink in recognition of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Back row (from left to right): Chief Steve Owens, Bill Sargent, Dave Crum, Dr. Itzen, Kameika Bonner, Jennifer Jones (HQ), Jackie Vickery, Melody Chisholm, and Tamela Leonard. Front Row (from left to right): Director Monica Gray, Nurse Corr, Liz Dustin, April Walker, and Karla Edwards


The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a Halloween party, complete with a traditional trick-or-treating for the youth. Staff members donated candy and youth from every mod walked around the recreation field going to different stations to collect candy. Each station was manned by a unique character including staff from medical, mental health and administration. The event was emceed by Sergeant Gena Clark. Following the trick-or-treating, Captain Bridget Letthand hosted a luncheon for the youth which included chicken wings, fries and cupcakes.

Captains Reginald Allen, Louise Quick and Matthew Hudson from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted the inaugural Orange Captain’s Halloween candy celebration. Captain Allen joined with the kitchen staff to make cupcakes for the youth. Captain Allen and Captain Hudson took the youth on a walk around the facility to collect candy for trick-or-treating. Following that exercise, Captain Quick joined the youth for dinner to present them with cupcakes.

Staff from the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center came together for an October Festival. Several members of the detention center’s advisory board prepared dishes and grilled out for the occasion. Everyone had an amazing time getting to know one another and hearing one another’s stories.  All staff in the facility were invited to eat and the advisory board gave away Red Lobster gift cards. Thanks to our great advisory board members who really make a difference through their dedication and continuous support for the facility.

Residential Youth Learn GMetrix Computer Program and Host a Field Day

Jason Bertrand and his dog Sugar Mama recently visited with youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program operated by Sequel. Mr. Bertrand was a member of the TAILS Program when he served time in a correctional facility. He has visited Duval Academy a few times and openly shares his story with the youth. He says that his experience while in the TAILS program and his dog Sugar Mama taught him a lot about love and life. The youth can relate to him because his experiences reflect many of theirs, to include how they are thinking and feeling. Mr. Bertrand has a positive effect on the youth and we look forward to his return. 

Six youth from Duval Academy also attended their last session of a six-week program at Haven Horse Ranch. For the graduation, the youth and two members of the staff played a game of Horse Soccer. Each youth groomed the horses without assistance from staff before tacking them up with the gear. They all enjoyed learning to do this themselves and really enjoyed the friendly competition. Thank you to all of the Haven Horse Ranch staff, especially Ric Lehman, who spoke about setting goals and what it takes to be good men.

Young men from the Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solution, joined members of the St. Stephens AME Church in Jacksonville, to serve the community with food and free health care screenings. The youth assisted with set-up, distributing items, and breaking down the event. Members from the church raved about the helpfulness and respect shown by the youth during this special community event. Special thanks to Juanita Owens for her continued commitment to the youth of Jacksonville Youth Academy and the community she serves. This is the third year the youth have volunteered at this community event.

In mid-October, students from Kissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, participated in the fourth session of Gmetrix. Gmetrix is a program that allows students to practice taking Microsoft Office Specialist certification exams. Using Gmetrix, and fulfilling the requirements of Gmetrix, are the greatest predictors of success on the actual Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam. Pass rates for students who properly utilize Gmetrix is more than 95%. Students receive a weekly grade for tasks completed in the program. Kissimmee Youth Academy students are currently working on certification for key applications in Microsoft 2016. The current module includes activities in learning Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There are approximately 150 tasks for students to complete in order to earn all three certifications. The program will take approximately 24 weeks to complete. We want to send a special thanks to Osceola County Schools and Karen Hernandez for implementing the Gmetrix certification for Kissimmee Youth Academy students.

All 28 youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solution, recognized and celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Miami Youth Academy staff and educators helped the youth connect through looking at the voluminous history of Hispanic cultures and foods. The youth and staff sampled flavorful native dishes and pastries in honor of the event. The celebration concluded with a traditional piñata presented to all the youth. 

Miami Youth Academy recently celebrated the graduation of one high school diploma recipient and duly enrolled college freshman. Lead Educator Dan Wynne reminded family and all those witness to this sacred tradition that, "Earning a high school diploma is traditionally one of the markers of the transition of childhood to adulthood and it is a celebrated event for families and youth alike. For students adjudicated to juvenile justice programs, that rite of passage is often an elusive goal that escapes the grasp of our youth.” This recent graduation is a continued testament to the strong relationship between TrueCore, Miami Youth Academy and Miami-Dade County Public Schools – Office of Alternative Education. 

The youth was presented with a cap and tassel (which he could keep) and as he left wrote a motivating message on the "Believe You Can" wall.

Math & Sciences Educator Jeff Rudd reminded the young man that "life deals you different situations like using a deck of cards in a card game"; Mr. Rudd then tossed him a deck of cards.

Pictured right is the recent graduate displaying his TrueCore laptop, which was presented to him thanks to TrueCore Regional Director Robbin Berry and their accounting guru, Bob Hardman. He is standing at his lasting motivation written on the “Believe You Can” wall for all youths now and future, stating “Do what others won't or can't do.”

It was a wonderful day to celebrate at Broward Youth Treatment Center (BYTC), a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments. It was the program director’s birthday, and in her honor, the program held a very special Broward Youth Treatment Center field day for all youth and staff. The day began with a staff vs youth football game, which the staff ended up winning in impressive fashion. Table games were provided for all to play including jumbo Jenga, giant Connect Four, table pool, jumbo Uno. The group also took part in a tug-a-war, 3-legged race and sack race. It was a great time for everyone!

A group of BYTC youth were also recently surprised with a trip to a Miami Heat basketball game. The youth had the opportunity to witness the Miami Heat defeat the Orlando Magic. These youth were chosen because they displayed and sustained positive behavior patterns or made a major turnaround in behavior. They were able to walk around the arena, and for many of them it was their first time attending a professional basketball game. They were able to witness history with this being Dwayne Wade’s last season in the NBA and with his illustrious hall of fame career coming to an end. A special time for all fans of basketball everywhere who would love to see him play one more time in person.

Prevention Staff Meet With the Seminole Tribe of Florida

State and Federal Director Eugene Morris met with members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in Hollywood to discuss possible collaborations with our agency. As proof of the DJJ’s commitment to provide services to youth in all Florida communities, DJJ is working to expand its partnership with Florida’s Native American population.

To further those discussions, Eugene met with three representatives from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. They were: Natalie Gomes, advocacy director; Shamika Beasley, advocacy administrator; and Bernard Coleman, aftercare/prevention administrator in the Center for Behavioral Health. Areas discussed were federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s vital advocacy role in dependency cases.

Among the youth programs currently available to Seminole youth are an active Center for Behavioral Health Teen support group that offers peer support in a safe space for Seminole youth. 

Seminole youth also enjoy the services of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, whose mission is “to engage Seminole youth and encourage them to become productive contributors to society.” Their goal is “to provide a safe, well supervised environment for Seminole youth to express themselves in a multiplicity of formats.”

The PACE Center for Girls of Hillsborough County hosted a Back to School Bash with Kappa Xi Omega Sorority to help kick off the new school year. The girls enjoyed a day of fun, games, and prizes at PACE Hillsborough’s annual Back to School Bash. Kappa Xi Omega members kicked the event off with a rousing game of bingo. The fun continued with a variety of games and activities throughout the day. The PACE staff were included in the fun with a few games designed just for staff to participate in and win prizes. Allison Graham, PACE’s guidance counselor, was recognized by Kappa Xi Omega with a gift basket for her 10-year anniversary. The day ended with members of Kappa Xi Omega gifting each teacher with a tub of school supplies for their classrooms. The support Kappa Xi Omega and many other service organizations provide reminds us that together we are better.

Procurement Specialist Derrick Crawford and Procurement Manager Kenyata Frazier made recent site visits to Prevention providers in the North region of Florida to evaluate programs and to provide technical assistance. These providers included: Florida Youth Challenge Academy, Operation Save Our Sons, For Each 1 Reach 1 mentoring program, Marion County Children’s Alliance, Filter Youth Development, Unity Family Community Center and the Gainesville Police Department.

Our staff members discussed contract terms and conditions, provided clarification relating to contractual language, explained performance expectations and observed program operations. The visit provided an opportunity to develop better professional relationships with providers and afforded great face-to-face dialogue. The providers expressed appreciation for the partnership with the Department to provide prevention, intervention and diversion services to at-risk youth.