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Secretary's Message

January 8, 2019

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

DJJ Recognizes January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month

As we recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, it is important to remember the significant impact this horrific crime has on our state and nation. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are forced into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. As an agency, we have made tremendous strides in helping to combat human trafficking. DJJ partners with the Department of Children and Families, law enforcement, service providers, and other community stakeholders to better identify potential victims of trafficking and link them with services that help to address the trauma of trafficking, move beyond their victimization, and support them in the establishment of positive future goals. By understanding the unique needs of trafficked youth, we can better provide a safe and healthy environment for all.

For more information on DJJ’s anti-human trafficking efforts and information on many statewide events commemorating the movement against human trafficking, visit http://www.djj.state.fl.us/human-trafficking or contact DJJ Human Trafficking Director Katherine Gomez at katherine.gomez@djj.state.fl.us.

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Sergeant Arica Mann from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (ORJDC) who was named the Central Region’s November Supervisor of the Month. Sergeant Mann exemplifies leadership and a daily commitment to serving as supervisor at Orange RJDC.

Congratulations to Amanda Dziendzielewski from the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center who recently took home Employee of the Month honors. In her time at the detention center, Amanda has created various incentives for officers and youth and her ideas to build morale have been implemented by the management team. Amanda is also always willing to help assist her coworkers in any way that she can.

Congratulations to Maintenance Mechanic Noel Sanfiel from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recognized as the facility’s November Employee of the Month. Mr. Sanfiel was presented with his award from St. Lucie RJDC Superintendent Dedilia Finlayson for his hard work and dedication to the agency.

Congratulations to Circuit 2 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Janyah Glenn who was honored as the Circuit 2 Employee of the Year and Employee of the Quarter. SJPO Glenn was presented with a plaque by North Region Director Gwen Stevenson. SJPO Glenn exemplifies teamwork to her coworkers and compassion for the youth and families we serve.

Probation Staff Celebrate the Holiday Season

Probation staff in Circuit 18 introduced an Elf on the Shelf to their office during the holiday season. Each day the elf was hidden, and clues were provided to find just what he was up to for the day. The elf was busy all week. He went to the academy, came back certified and then took a trip to the spa. He took advantage while the team hosted their holiday potluck and got into the copy machine (literally). He even found his way into the state car and had some popcorn to celebrate his adventures.

The Circuit 2 Probation Office recently held their annual holiday office party. Each staff member provided a dish for the pot luck. Staff completed several team building activities which were very competitive but also fun. The “White Elephant” game was played at the end of the party and many Circuit 2 staff members walked away with awesome prizes.

The Circuit 7 Probation team recently celebrated the holiday season with a series of events. Chief Probation Officer Daniel Merrithew “decked the halls” with boxes of donuts to show staff appreciation and to spread holiday cheer.

Circuit staff also participated in Secret Santa exchanges around the office, followed up by the annual circuit holiday luncheon. The luncheon was an opportunity for DJJ and provider staff to come together and celebrate the exceptional work they do for the community. The group enjoyed lots of food and fun, and spread “good tidings” to each other for the holiday season.

Pictured above (from left to right): JPOS Bridget Orey, SJPO Jeanna Spellers, JPO Melissa Sprowes, JPO Ashley Epling, Secretary Specialist Julie Juengst, JPO Kristin Hopton, JPOS Niki Arnau, Reform Specialist Zemetria L. Anderson, and JPO Mary Mosley.

The probation team from Unit 101 in Circuit 3 came together and adopted one of their youth for the holiday season. Youth S.B. was in need and the entire office joined together to provide gifts for him for Christmas. He received a lot of new clothes, shoes, games and two stockings full of snacks. The family he lives with also received bags of groceries. S.B. left with a huge smile and a bag full of gifts. It was a blessing for Unit 101 as well.

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Marilyn Walker and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell from Circuit 6 hosted a resource table at the 4th Annual Adopt-A -Clause Christmas Festival at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Police Athletic League. Food and clothing were provided to many children and their families as well as gifts given to all the children by Santa. DJJ was on hand to disseminate family engagement brochures 

The Circuit 9 Probation team hosted a holiday luncheon for members of the local law enforcement in Orange County in appreciation for all they do for our agency. Partners from the Orlando Police Department, as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, came together to eat and converse with the Circuit 9 Probation staff. Overall, the luncheon was well-received, and appreciated by everyone who participated.

The Circuit 9 Probation team held their annual holiday circuit-wide meeting. The meeting started with a continental breakfast for staff, followed by training updates from Circuit 9 Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson. Chief Probation Officer Johnny Alderman and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Kristen Richardson also held an awards ceremony for staff members, years of service acknowledgements, as well as a few special presentations for the JPOs.

Circuit administration commends all of the Circuit 9 staff for their hard work and on-going dedication to serving the youth and families in our community.

We’re pleased to share the following letter that was sent to Circuit 12 Chief Probation Officer Virginia Donavan from a teacher at McIntosh Middle School regarding Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Terry Evans. JPO, who was a guest speaker in his classroom. It reads in part: 

I just wanted to let you know what an outstanding job Terry did today when he came in to speak to my class today! He came in last year as well and again, just like last year he was outstanding!

Terry spoke to them in a way which was so informative, educational, direct, and positive as well. He took time to engage and interact with the students as well as shared insights, answered their many questions, and was nothing but helpful and encouraging.

Thank you again for all of the hard work that your department does day in and day out. Thank you again Terry.”

Craig Robert,

Teacher – McIntosh Middle School

Detention Facility Hosts Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between the youth at Leon RJDC and local law enforcement. The discussion was in cooperation with the Office of Prevention Services. The law enforcement officials who participated included members of the Florida Highway Patrol, Leon County Sheriff Office, Gadsden County Sheriff Office, Tallahassee Police Department. Supervisors from Leon RJDC also participated in the panel discussion with the youth and Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally led a hearty discussion full of useful information.

JDAI Coordinator Sarah Blumberg made a presentation during the Florida Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity regional training seminar in Tampa. Sarah brought a wealth of knowledge to her presentation, including the multitude of ways the judicial branch must be aware of fairness and diversity issues. Members of the judiciary were presented with concrete examples of how implicit bias operates on a daily basis in the courts.

DJJ staff from the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center put together a schedule of activities for youth and staff to embrace the holiday spirit. The staff at Hillsborough RJDC hosted the youth and parents to some fun activities, music, and refreshments during visitation.  They made ugly sweater cookies and served refreshments.

The Hillsborough RJDC put together their inaugural Christmas Bowl, which included a schedule of activities for youth and staff to embrace the holiday spirit. The male officers supervised games on the rec field for the male youth. Games included jump rope, basketball shoot, shuttle run. The female officers set up and served the refreshments which included hot dogs, sodas, chips, and cupcakes. 

To celebrate Festive Fridays, the Central Regional Office of Detention Services hosted an ugly sweater day. Staff members came together for a group picture in their ugly sweaters.

In that same Festive Friday spirit, the Central Regional Office displayed their favorite holiday socks for the “Sip N Socks” event.

Food Service Director Cristy Harris and her staff from the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center made festive holiday cupcakes for the youth Christmas party at the facility. The supplies for the cupcakes were graciously donated by Superintendent Ariel Veguilla and Assistant Superintendent Bridgett Letthand.

The LTAG ministry at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center sponsored a youth and family luncheon over the holidays. In addition to the wonderful meal they provided, the LTAG group gave each youth at Pasco RJDC at t-shirt.  

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted their holiday luncheon for staff members. Staff members who were not on duty and providers were asked to come dressed in their favorite holiday attire. Staff members were also allowed to bring a family member or a guest. The food was delicious and the fellowship was awesome!

St. Lucie RJDC also held a holiday program for the youth at the facility. The event was organized by Gwen Mcleod, founder of WE LEAP, INC., Shinequa Reddick Pierce from Women Inspire Yourselves, and other community. Soloist Tunisha Hill performed for the youth while the mental health staff at St. Lucie RJDC, including Sparkle Saulter, Ester Kim and Christine DiEleuterio, spoke with the youth about ways to deal with stress during the holidays. The program was a great success and each youth was given a gift bag, a personalized blanket as well as food and drinks.

The Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a holiday party for their staff members. Everyone who took part in the party had a wonderful time celebrating the season.  

The Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a holiday luncheon for their staff members. The staff all brought a variety of covered dishes and desserts and administration provided the meat for the meal.  All the staff participated in Secret Santa

and everyone had a great time.

In addition, members from the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church made a visit to the Volusia RJDC to provide youth with a very special meal. The youth and the members of the church all had a great holiday celebration.

The Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a holiday party for their staff members. Staff shared lunch, took part in a gift exchange and had a great time spending time together.

Getting into the holiday spirit, Broward RJDC decorated all mod doors, mods, administration doors, multi-purpose room, and the transportation hallway doors. There were also numerous activities scheduled for parents, youth and staff throughout the holiday season.  

In appreciation for all the terrific staff who reported to work on Christmas Day, Justice and Major Wolf arrived at the detention center and treated all three shifts to their own tray of wings, potato salad, cheeses and sliced cold cuts, a tray of cookies and decorated candy canes. It was enjoyed by all and the following morning, a nice thank you was received from all staff who enjoyed in the treats.

Broward RJDC (including Justice) would like to wish everyone a very safe, happy and healthy New Year.  

The Seven Day Praise and Worship Ministries also provided a wonderful holiday celebration for the youth at Broward RJDC. Pizza, wings, sweets, cakes, etc. were all brought in for each youth and the holiday spirit was in full swing. A special voluntary service was conducted for all youth who wanted to participate, and a great day was had by all. Thank you to our faith partners for making this holiday season a one of joy.

Residential Staff and Youth Close Out December with Festive Events

The NE Regional Office for Residential Services and MQI gathered together at Maggiano's restaurant in Jacksonville to celebrate the holiday season. There was great food and a gift exchange game that was filled with laughs. In attendance was Ann Hamilton, Billy Starke, Kristina Picone, Virgil Wright, Darrell Bacon, Natasha Swindler, Katina Horner and Leslie Hagans (Alan Guthrie - not pictured). Unable to attend but who were missed were Ashley Sears, Lisa Lamb, Mike Marino, Jennifer Schad, Amy Tyson and Paul McIntyre. Everyone had a wonderful time celebrating the holidays!

The youth at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, celebrated the holiday season with fun festivities, complete with a visit from Santa (Brother Dean from the Evangel Temple Church). Santa’s visit wasn’t complete without the delivery of treats and goodies for every youth, which included a pair of Nike tennis shoes, a ping pong table, footballs, and basketballs.

On Christmas Eve, the youth at Duval Academy were provided a unique opportunity to attend a campfire put on by the staff at the program. Several of the youth acknowledged they had never been a part of such an event and was pleasantly surprised. They had the opportunity to roast hotdogs, smores, and were given a cup of hot chocolate for the chilly weather. 

Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, was proud to announce the winner of this year's annual TV give away, Ms. Robbie Smith! Ms. Smith is Director of Case Management, and she has been with the company since 2009. The holiday gift was well deserved as Ms. Smith continues to exemplify hard work, passion, and integrity at Orange Youth Academy. Presenting the television was just a small token of appreciation for the job that Ms. Smith performs on a daily basis at Orange Youth Academy.

The youth at Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, exhibited their holiday cheer by following Recreational Therapist Arielle Deverson’s guidance in decorating a beautiful tree in the dayroom. The youth used creative thinking to design colorful ornaments to decorate their tree.

Miami Youth Academy was also honored and blessed again this year to experience the support from Genesis Youth Project and its Executive Director Pastor Gary Brown. The youth were showered with gifts, including recreational items, playing cards, under shirts, socks, hygiene items and candy. This year the youth shared their dancing talents with Genesis.

Prevention Staff Member Participates in Capital City Classic Basketball Competition

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) round table discussion between youth and law enforcement at the DeSoto Alternative Program in Arcadia. The discussion was also held in conjunction with the DJJ Circuit 12 Advisory Board’s Racial and Ethnic Disparity Committee.

Pierre Hilarie, Behavior Intervention Specialist for Desoto County School District served as moderator.  Youth in the Desoto Alternative Program had an opportunity to speak out and voice issues facing them on a daily.  They revealed some surprising issues about the areas they live in and their views on Law Enforcement was also surprising by some. With the same token, law enforcement shared information about their personal wellbeing and connection to the community.  We want to thank Principal S., McGill and the Desoto Alternative Program staff for welcoming DJJ into this facility and for seeing the value of hosting our G.A.A.P. discussion. Several DJJ Probation staff members also attended this G.A.A.P. Discussion including Chief Probation Officer Ginny Donavan, Juvenile Probation Officer Dawn Hilarie, Juvenile Probation Officers Supervisor Terry Evans, and Reform Specialist Jarrett Bello. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally, represented the Office of Prevention at the Circuit 2 Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) meeting. Also in attendance was Superintendent Conrad McCray of the Leon Detention Center, Circuit 2 Chief Probation Officer Rico Cooper, and Reform Specialist Michael Byrd. The meeting of the board addressed the effects of Hurricane Michael in Circuit 2 and its recovery efforts. One of the prime objectives of the Circuit 2 CAB is to also work on effective ways to ensure that statutorily mandated members are in attendance at the meetings. There was also a recap of the success of the Circuit Advisory Board Training and Restoring Hope Training. Chairman Donnie Reed and his family also provided the members with a holiday meal. 

Recently, the Pace Center for Girls Hillsborough implemented the newly developed NutritionWorks program as a complement to the center’s full-day academic and social service programming. This project was made possible by a generous grant from Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

NutritionWorks provides weekly programming, designed to increase nutrition-based education and experiential opportunities for Pace girls.  This innovative program includes interactive classroom instruction as well as on and off-site educational presentations by nutrition-focused professionals. The program also provides experiential learning opportunities including physical activities, organic restaurant experiences, meal planning, shopping at a farmer’s market, and meal preparation.

Ijeoma Nwahiri, advanced registered nurse practitioner of the Endocrine, Osteoporosis & Thyroid Center in Wesley Chapel, provided a presentation on health and nutrition to the Pace NutritionWorks class. As one of the on-site educational programming opportunities, she engaged the girls in a session focusing on healthy eating habits, tips for nutritional balance, healthy meal replacements and the importance of physical exercise.

Following the presentation, the girls enjoyed a nutritious smoothie as an example of a healthy meal replacement or snack.

Statewide Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady served as the volunteer and event coordinator for the Capital City Classic Basketball Competition. The Capital City Classic celebrated 28 years of community service, scholarships and showcasing young athletes and performers locally and statewide. This was also Ms. Lawson-Grady’s 28th year serving as coordinator.

The Capital City Classic donates funds to each high school participating for scholarships and assisting their athletic programs. This year, Ms. Lawson-Grady coordinated with Livingstone’s International, Inc. to utilize volunteers from their civil citation youth program in need of community service hours. In addition to community service, Ms. Lawson-Grady coordinated and organized securing local talent to perform at halftime and an energetic young student to serve in the capacity of ball crew.  She continues to work with local schools and community organizations and the Sabal Palms Elementary School cheerleaders (shown left) are an ongoing fixture with the classic. Special thanks to Circuit 2 Probation Supervisor Teresa Chambliss who also brought In the Faith Dance Ministry to the competition