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Secretary's Message

January 14, 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.

Sincerely, 

Secretary Simone Marstiller


DJJ Recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness Day

In recognition of January 11th as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, DJJ hosted a training opportunity on human trafficking.

DJJ Human Trafficking Director Katherine Gomez and Human Trafficking Coordinator Elena Simonsen, provided employees with an overview of human trafficking and our agency’s role in the anti-trafficking effort. Topics including the prevalence of trafficking in Florida and the nation, trafficking warning signs, and what to do if you suspect someone might be a victim of trafficking.

Also, in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, DJJ team members, including our new DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, wore blue as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS)’s Blue Campaign. The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the DHS’ efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.


Probation Youth Meet with Tuskegee Airman

The AMIkids Y.E.S. program in Wimauma recently had the opportunity to host one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, retired 97-year-old Air Force Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.

The students said Lt. Col. Jefferson left a positive impact. One vowed to better his life and not give up. Another said he’s more determined to earn his GED and possibly join the military. Lt. Col. Jefferson’s visit tied into the goals of the organization’s vocational training and job placement program, which aims to expand the career opportunities, internships and work experience possibilities. Through these services, students can gain employment and become equipped with skills that will lead towards a brighter future.


DJJ youth with AMIkids Orlando participated in the inaugural bullying intervention luncheon, hosted by substitute social studies teacher James Harvey. In this forum, the older students discussed bullying and tactics for identifying and combatting it, while others shared their experiences. Afterward, Mr. Harvey treated the youth to pizza from Marco’s Pizza. Students were very pleased with the success of the forum, with one saying, “It really opened my eyes to how much it really happens, and how many people are hurt by it.” More forums will follow, as students vow to stamp out bullying in all its forms.


Circuit 17 Probation staff participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. The Angel Tree program assists families in need for the holidays. Staff members were given the opportunity to adopt at least one “angel” whose Christmas they wanted to make memorable. Thank you Circuit 17 for your great generosity!








Circuit 13 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Tonya Emsweller and Juvenile Probation Officers Ofiela Dennis and Celia Kalis participated in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) ride along for curfew checks last month. HCSO Deputy Jimmy Romano spearheaded the event to ensure serious offenders were on target with their probation requirements. The HCSO plans to conduct this event on a quarterly basis to encourage probationers to remain on target with their probation requirements.


Probation staff from the Juvenile Community Resource Center in Circuit 8 along with screening staff collected a total of 291 pounds of canned goods for their holiday food drive. These items were delivered to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in Gainesville. The food bank personnel were so excited and pleased to receive this very generous donation for the families within their community.


SD&T Receives Thank You Letter Regarding CPM Systems Improvement Training

We’re pleased to share a thank you letter that was sent from Gerie Crawford of the Crawford Consulting Agency to DJJ’s Staff Development and Training (SD&T) Director Cina Wilson-Johnson for putting on the Certified Public Managers (CPM) Systems Improvement Training in Ocala.


Residential Youth Hear From Mentors and Participate in Flag Football Game

The student athletes at Walton Academy for Growth and Change, a secure program for boys operated by Rite of Passage, had the opportunity to meet with Edward Parker, CEO and founder of Parker Global Solutions. Mr. Parker met with the student athletes to provide inspiration, hope, and mentorship to our young men. Mr. Parker’s company specializes in consulting and helping small business owners reach their maximum potential in the states as well as internationally. The student athletes had the opportunity to discuss their future goals and ask questions to gain knowledge on becoming an entrepreneur. Mr. Parker provided a positive outlook for our young men to look forward to upon release, which also goes towards Rite of Passage’s mission of “Improving the Lives of Youth.”





Three youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, earned their GED one week ahead of being released from the program. The education department honored the youth (shown right) with a graduation ceremony and served cake and drinks to the graduates, guests, student population and staff. The education department is to be commended for a job well done in preparing the youth for the test.






Three additional youth from Duval Academy were awarded individual gift bags from the program advisory board. The gift bags were given to the youth out of appreciation for their assistance in putting together gift baskets for several families in need within Duval County.





Students from Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Sequel, enjoyed “Christmas Family Day.” The girls of Alachua Academy had a joyous time in fellowship with their families, staff and faith mentors. Pastor Dean of Evangelist Temple provided a guest speaker who shared the message “Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams.” Pastor Dean also provided gifts for the girls at Alachua Academy and donated a Ping Pong Table to the facility. Alachua Academy Executive Director Tameko Gore and staff also conducted a Toy Drive in the month of December and all the proceeds were given to Pastor Dean and the Evangelist Temple mentors to provide throughout the Jacksonville community.



Flag football took on a professional look on Christmas Eve at Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility, a secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. The facility hosted the program’s inaugural Christmas Eve Bowl game against Orlando Youth Academy.

Prior to kickoff, the youth had several weeks of preparing for “Gameday,” not just on the field, but also reviewing plays on offense & defense and learning how to play as a team. The youth had to ensure they were complying with program rules, completing daily assignments, and applying treatment concepts. Participating in the game was an incentive. Recreation Therapists Mr. Roberson and Mr. Pritchett said the event was born out of interest to enhance both programs’ Positive Behavior Motivation Systems, and to add a little endurance to the youth’s wellness plans.

Facility Administrator Ryan Montgomery encouraged from the sidelines, as he cheered both teams on to victory. He shared that it is his intent to develop more inter-collaborative activities with other programs so that the youth can learn and practice more character building skills; skills they will need when they return to their communities.

In the end the final score was 70-21, with Daytona taking home the win!


All Around K-9 Academy visited Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, to impart their knowledge and training of K-9 services. All Around K-9 Academy’s mission is to provide the finest dog training program available in not only Central Florida, but worldwide. They strive to provide an outlet for civilian competition in canine obedience and controlled protection. All Around K-9 Academy endeavors to set a new standard for dog training and encourage youth entrepreneurship throughout the dog training community.













Five of fifteen youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, were escorted by Recreation Therapist Arielle Deverson and Youth Specialist Melvin McCormick to a local Steak'n Shake for a steak burger meal and milkshake. Items were ordered for the other ten youth and brought back to the program so they could experience the incentive reward.





During the holiday break, four youth from Miami Youth Academy also enjoyed an incentive trip in the form of roller skating, comfort food and games at Super Wheels Skating Center. The youth were escorted by Miami Youth Academy’s Recreation Therapist Arielle Deverson and Youth Specialist Donnell Redwine.



Detention Facility Recognizes Students of the Week

Last month, the administration at the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) hosted a holiday celebration for their staff members at the facility. The party was full of food, laughter and good cheer.








The Duval RJDC also recently welcomed author and pioneer Betty Burney to the facility. Ms. Burney spoke to the youth and encouraged them to become productive members of society. Ms. Burney was also presented a gift of appreciation for her efforts to share encouraging words with our youths.









The Central Region Office of Detention Services recently held their regional meeting and holiday luncheon. The meal was prepared by staff members to show their facility administrators appreciation for all they do. The superintendents were encouraged to enjoy the day with food, friends, games, songs, and gifts. After the party, the team had a group photo taken in their building’s lobby.

Top left to right-GOC David Crum; Major Adrian Mathena; GOC Troy Jones 2nd row-OMC William Sargent; Marcus Wilson 3rd row-OMC Lisa Arent; GOC Tamela Leonard; GOC Melody Chisholm and GOC Kameika Bonner 4th row-GOC Jennifer Jones; AA Kristine Copeland; AA Sandra Flament 5th row-GOC Liz Dustin; SMA Karla Edwards; OHS Ruby Itzen Bottom left to right-Chief Steve Owens; Major Jeffrey Williams; Major Margie McKinney; April Walker; OHS Ronda Corr; Acting Major Eris Womack; RD Monica Gray; Major Ariel Veguilla and OMC Jackie Vickery



The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a pizza party for girls who were recognized as students of the week. Student of the Week at Escambia incorporates the youth’s behavior management system with the school system's input and guidance. Students who participate throughout the week and maintain good behavior receive a certificate indicating they have achieved Student of the Week and are given incentives and rewards. 







In collaboration with the Broward County School Board, Resources Generalist Mary Noe from the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division came and spoke to youth at the detention center about a variety of subjects, including future employment. Many of the youth were surprised to know that despite their current situation, they are able to later become hired with the county.

Feedback from Ms. Noe indicated that she was thankful to have the opportunity to speak with the youth and if she inspired the youth, her day was a success.

Future guest speaking topics in January 2019 include: filmmaking, music production, game design, sportscasting and a host of others.



St. Lucie RJDC has embarked on a program called “Blessed Hands” for the young ladies in detention. Officer Courtney Clark who is also a certified cosmetologist came up with the idea of teaching our young ladies how to style hair. The mannequin heads were donated by Major Finlayson.



Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between youth and members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at the Youth Crisis Center (YCC) in Jacksonville. There was a very positive exchange between the youth and law enforcement. During the G.A.A.P. discussion, youth and law enforcement discussed ways they could bring the various communities together in a more productive manner and how law enforcement wanted to become more involved in community activities.

YCC, founded in 1974 as Florida’s first runaway program, Youth Crisis Center has grown to one of the largest and best-known providers of services for youth and families. YCC’s emphasis on care is for those who have been exposed to traumatic situations such as divorce, homelessness, relocation, loss of life, and abuse. YCC provides a variety of services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families. 



Officer Ester Pierre with the St. Lucie RJDC coordinated a spa day on the weekends for the level three female youth. The girls are given the opportunity to paint and decorate nails. The spa day is one of the activities both staff and the youth really enjoy.





During the holidays, volunteers brought in gifts for the youth at St. Lucie RJDC. Volunteer Patricia Richie-Johnson took charge of gathering the donations and delivering them to the facility. Favorite items were journals, coloring books and teddy bears for the girls mod. They also donated inspirational books and movies for the youth.






Prevention Staff Hosts Anti-Bullying Sessions for Youth

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between youth and members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at the Youth Crisis Center (YCC) in Jacksonville. There was a very positive exchange between the youth and law enforcement. During the G.A.A.P. discussion, youth and law enforcement discussed ways they could bring the various communities together in a more productive manner and how law enforcement wanted to become more involved in community activities.

YCC, founded in 1974 as Florida’s first runaway program, Youth Crisis Center has grown to one of the largest and best-known providers of services for youth and families. YCC’s emphasis on care is for those who have been exposed to traumatic situations such as divorce, homelessness, relocation, loss of life, and abuse. YCC provides a variety of services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families. 



Delinquency Prevention Specialist Carmen Lundy and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Dan Bears joined twenty other members of the Panhandle Saddle Club who rode their horses in the Crestview Christmas Parade. Children squealed with delight when they got a glimpse of the horses, decked out in colorful holiday wear, escorting Santa and Mrs. Clause in the parade. Many riders interacted with the bystanders by letting the public get a closeup view of their horses and the children had an opportunity to pet the equines. Everyone had a joyful time in the cool, December night festivities.



Prevention Specialist Carmen Lundy attended the family day festivities at the Okaloosa Youth Academy with Pastor Sanford Hayes and Sam Waters from the North Okaloosa Faith Community Network. Okaloosa Youth Academy is a non-secure program for males, which includes supervised community contact. Mental health and behavioral health treatment services are provided for the youth who have a need for outpatient-levels of mental health and substance abuse treatment services. This program is a Mental Health Overlay Services (MHOS) and a Substance Abuse Overlay Services (SAOS) program. The team was able to spend time with youth and their families, visited with youth who did not have family visiting them, pray with the young men who wanted to participate and encourage all the youth. Program Director Derek Peoples graciously welcomed and escorted the faith team during the tour. 



Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson partnered with Angela Hall head of Youth Services at the East County Regional Library in Lehigh Acres to give a series of anti-bullying presentations titled “Cyberbullying: Just One Click Away” and “Let’s Talk Bullying,” to middle and high school students who participate in the library’s afterschool program. The interactive sessions had 48 tweens and teens in attendance who role played various scenarios and put their thoughts about bullying on paper. The students, who were from three local schools, learned facts about bullying and how important it is to tell a trusted adult if they or someone they know is being bullied.


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