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Secretary's Message

July 15, 2019

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, with the latest on what’s going on and what the team is doing across 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.

Please keep sharing your great work, successes, and accomplishments both on and off the clock in serving the youth, families, and communities touched by DJJ. Your stories inspire us all to do more. So, send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Secretary Simone Marstiller



Secretary Marstiller Meets with Stakeholders and Staff in South Florida

Last week, DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller had the opportunity to serve as a guest speaker at the Florida Association of School Resource Officers (FASRO) Conference in Miami. Secretary Marstiller discussed the important role school resource officers play in the work of DJJ and in the lives of young people.

While in Miami, Secretary Marstiller met with the Eleventh Circuit Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez, stopped by the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department, which serves as the juvenile assessment center, and visited with Eleventh Judicial Circuit Judge Scott M. Bernstein.

Secretary Marstiller also met with the Circuit 11 Probation team to get to know staff better and discuss their roles and responsibilities within the agency. Finally, she toured and met with staff at the Miami Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the Miami Girls Academy residential commitment program.

DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller had the opportunity to serve as a guest speaker at the Florida Association of School Resource Officers (FASRO) Conference in Miami.
Pictured above: Circuit 11 Probation Team and Secretary Marstiller

Secretary Marstiller receives a personal tour of a Miami Girls Academy room by one of the youth.
Pictured above: Secretary Marstiller receives a personal tour of a Miami Girls Academy room by one of the youth.


Staff Announcements and Kudos

Justice, resident therapy dog at Miami RJDC. Justice, our resident therapy dog, has now been working with the Department of Juvenile Justice for seven years.  At Miami Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC), the facility where he started his career, Justice performs many roles during the day.

Whether it’s welcoming a new intake, providing comfort in the nurse’s station, providing love and support to a younger youth, or chilling with staff, Justice continues to make everyone happy, relaxed, stress free and loved.

Although he is now in his senior years, Justice remains healthy, active and loving. To make sure he has enough energy for the work week, Justice always takes his naps in administration. Miami RJDC hopes that Justice continues his work with children and staff for many more years to come.



Angela Davis, the June Detention Headquarters Employee of the MonthCongratulations to Angela Davis for being selected as the June Detention Headquarters Employee of the Month. Angela has done a phenomenal job with grant applications and assisting the detention centers in getting services for kids. She manages the grants and the statewide purchase orders for behavior management and recruitment initiatives.










Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Assistant Superintendent Samuel Sainval Congratulations to Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Assistant Superintendent Samuel Sainval who graduated Cum Laude (3.7 GPA) from Florida Gulf Coast University with his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Captain Sainval continuously demonstrates a strong work ethic, dedication to the Department, and an unyielded pursuit for personal development.  Through his actions, Captain Sainval has inspired numerous staff throughout the center to also utilize the tuition assistance program offered to state employees to further their education.









AMIkids Youth Attend Local Job Fairs

Youth from AMIkids Greater Fort Lauderdale attending youth fair.AMIkids Greater Fort Lauderdale is actively training all youth for employment with an apprenticeship and job placement career readiness curriculum. Youth are learning interview skills with a mock interview system through a partnership with the Dan Marino Foundation. Youth that recently gained employment are now working for Publix , McDonalds and Waste Management of Broward County. Other youth currently on the job hunt participated in job fairs at the Urban League of Broward County and Sawgrass Mills. Youth are also assisted in setting up and preparing for their individual interviews with potential employers.









Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team in Lakeland.Creativity and innovation combine to create the ideal foundation for propelling young people toward a more successful tomorrow. This foundation was created by the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team in Lakeland through a community partnership with the retail store Urban Appeal. The pair came together to create a project that would allow youth to share their stories, through the outlet of fashion design, on a t-shirt and a pair of shoes. The Urban Appeal team is hosting weekly meetings with the young people, helping them learn how to tell their stories and express themselves in a way that could one day lead to a career in the fashion and design industry.

These classes include the history of fashion, marketing and design, utilization of social media outlets to reach international audiences, the artistic approach of story-telling, graphic artistry, customer service, the importance of being diligent in the pursuit of success, and reinforcement of long-term, positive change. As the youth near the final stages of the project, they will have the opportunity to have their artistic story design displayed on a story-board, a t-shirt, and a pair of shoes. The youth will also use their voices and their stories to reach other young people with the message that they too can overcome adversity.



Youth with bicycle from Project Connect.One of our youth in Circuit 7 has worked diligently on his transition plan since returning to the community from residential programming.  With the assistance of his transition provider, Project Connect, he has successfully completed employability skills training, completed multiple applications and gained employment at a local fast food restaurant.  However, transportation to and from work stood out as an obstacle to employment success so the youth’s Transition Specialist De’Andre Gainer, reached out to his Area Director Lauren Federico for advice.  Ms. Federico thought of the great staff at the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding (RPCP) who have offered their assistance in the past. Project Connect enjoys a unique and prosperous relationship with the RPCP in Gainesville who facilitate Family Reunification Circle training and fidelity monitoring for all Project Connect staff.  Jeffrey Weisberg at RPCP jumped at the chance to help.  He immediately procured a bicycle for the youth to solve the transportation issue.  The youth and his mother expressed their gratefulness for the gift from RPCP and assistance from Project Connect.        

Miami Girls Academy celebrating July 4th.

TrueCore Behavioral Solutions programs celebrated Independence Day with food and fun outdoor activities.

Miami Girls Academy (MGA), a secure high & max- risk residential program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, celebrated with fresh grilled food, cold drinks and water-fun activities. In honor of July 4th, all the youth learned about the history of the holiday before engaging in and enjoying the outdoor activities and food. Special thanks to Assistant Facility Administrator Brittney Ashley, Recreational Therapist Marc Leconte and the MGA B-shift for creating a fun and educational opportunity.

TrueCore Behavioral Solutions programs celebrated Independence Day with food and fun outdoor activities. Youth and staff at TrueCore's Okeechobee Girls Academy (OGA) along with Steadfast Mentoring Group also enjoyed a day of fun celebrating Independence Day. Youth enjoyed a Wipe Out water slide, haystack search, kickball and dance. All attending then were served ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, baked beans, potato salad, cake, cookies, watermelon and soda beverages.  Special thanks to L’Quincy Pryor for sharing his grilling expertise, Steadfast Mentors for desserts and a BIG THANK YOU to the OGA youth for their positive performance.




Youth at Orange Youth Academy celebrating Independence Day.At Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, staff from first and second shifts put forth a lot of time and effort to give the youth an Independence Day celebration they wouldn’t forget! The youth participated in a 7-on-7 football tournament before indulging in the tasty food prepared by staff.




Ted DiBaise, Million Dollar Man, speaking to youth at Columbus Youth Academy.Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel TSI, had the privilege of hearing the story of Ted DiBiase.  Ted DiBiase is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame professional wrestler who is best known as the “Million Dollar Man”, the villain wrestler of WWE.

After going through numerous trials and tribulations during his career , including drug addiction, he found a way through it all. Ted is now a full-time evangelist and motivational speaker.  He travels all over speaking to youth groups, church congregations, and others. The youth enjoyed his speech about not giving in to the pressures of the world,  and most importantly, peer pressure. Columbus Youth Academy would like to give a special thanks to several amazing volunteers, including Joe Pottle of Give Em Heaven ministries and Community Liaison Sam Cerezo, for setting up this great event for our youth!


Youth at Walton Academy for Growth and Change, starting college at Northwest Florida State College.Walton Academy for Growth and Change, a secure program for boys operated by Rite of Passage, has a graduate! Through a multi-agency collaboration between the Home Builder's Institute, the Raider Group, and Rite of Passage, one of the youth at the program was recently accepted and enrolled at Northwest Florida State College.

This student earned his GED during his stay in the program and developed a strong desire to continue his education, an opportunity he didn't believe would be possible. Through his hard work and the assistance of the agencies, this young man began his college courses this month on the campus of Northwest Florida State College!






Four youth from Dade Juvenile Residential Facility and one youth from Dade Youth Academy, traveled to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum Four youth from Dade Juvenile Residential Facility and one youth from Dade Youth Academy, both non-secure residential programs for males operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, traveled to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum to learn about the historic railroad and see several massive locomotives. Special thanks to Recreation Therapist Samuel Graham and Youth Care Worker Dominique Brown for helping to create a fun and educational experience!






Prevention Team Hosts Bridging the GAAP Conversations

Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims and honorees at Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion in Tampa.The Office of Prevention & Victim Services recently conducted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion in Tampa. Audrey “Pat” McGhee, delinquency prevention specialist for Circuits 6, 10, and 13, served as moderator of the discussion. Freddy Barton, executive director of Safe & Sound Hillsborough, a collaborative project that coordinates the efforts of Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners also moderated the discussion.

Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims delivered opening comments where she recognized former Circuit 13 Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) Chair, Judge Barbara Twine Thomas. Assistant Secretary Sims also recognized Tampa Police Captain Calvin Johnson, current CAB Chair Elvin Martinez, and the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office.

At the event, Pat McGhee presented a brief history of the G.A.A.P. Discussions. The acronym G.A.A.P. stands for Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives. The purpose of the discussions has been to improve dialogue between young people and members of law enforcement, to help shed light on the root causes of arrest and behavior among youth, and to promote positive engagement between youth and members of law enforcement. Since its inception, the Department has expanded the discussions by scheduling additional discussions in schools, teen centers, gender-specific programs, and elsewhere in various Florida communities.
The youth who participated in the discussion were from AMIKids sites in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties. Both youth and members of law enforcement discussed previous encounters with each other, and thanked DJJ for the opportunity to engage in open dialogue in a positive environment. All participants received certificates of appreciation for taking part in the G.A.A.P. Discussion.

The team also conducted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion recently in Gretna. Prevention Policy Chief Marcus Smith, who is also the pastor of Beulah Hill Missionary Baptist Church, served as moderator of the discussion.

Law enforcement officers who took part were Gretna Police Chief Brian Alexander, Gretna Police Sergeant Freeman Bishop, and Deputy Chris Daniels with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.
Among the topics discussed were proper steps that motorists should follow during traffic stops and procedures that citizens should follow when dealing with members of law enforcement.

Approximately 20 people took part in the discussion, which was sponsored by the Union Baptist Association Congress of Christian Education.

, Gretna Police Chief Brian Alexander, Gretna Police Sgt. Freeman Bishop; and Deputy Chris Daniels, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.
Pictured above (from left to right): , Gretna Police Chief Brian Alexander, Gretna Police Sgt. Freeman Bishop; and Deputy Chris Daniels, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.



Youth from PACE Center for Girls Clay with their painted personal mobility carts.PACE Center for Girls Clay has chartered the first PACE Interact Club in partnership with the Rotary Club of Orange Park. Seventeen girls recently joined as charter members and club officers.

For their first project, the girls attended the Rotary-sponsored Personal Energy Transportation Systems Project, where they painted personal mobility carts to be shipped internationally to people missing their lower extremities due to polio, injuries from land-mines, animal attacks or other health challenges.

Interact Clubs are sponsored by Rotary Clubs around the world to introduce youth, 12-18 years of age, to living the motto “service above self.” Through leadership opportunities, local and global service projects, and learning about others near and far, Interact builds better community and global citizens and empowers youth to make a difference.

The PACE Clay Interact Club is setting goals for their inaugural year and plan to tackle projects relating to the environment, international aid, and human trafficking. These girls are poised and ready to make an impact on their world!



Detention Center Youth Enjoy Slip and Slide

Youth from Miami Dade RJDC playing in a slip and slide.As part of the summer recreational activities at Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the youth were provided the opportunity to use a slip and slide to combat the heat in South Florida, which can be pretty intense during the summer months. This provides a chance for the youth to have some fun, cool off and just be kids.

Monitored by supervisors, this activity was a favorite of the  youth in detention and everyone left the activity with a smile on their faces.



Officer Chad Harvey manning the grill at Collier RJDC for Independence Day.Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated Independence Day by providing several activities for the youth.  The youth participated in decorating their uniforms, the mods, and playing games.  The staff decorated the chow hall with the colors of the flag.  Officer Chad Harvey manned the grill and cooked hot dogs and hamburgers for all of the youth. 





Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center youth enjoying an amazing 4th of July.Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center youth enjoyed an amazing 4th of July complete with a watermelon eating contest, 4-on-4 basketball tournament, bowling and live D.J., “Major B”. The youth chose a menu of hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, baked beans, potato salad, pasta salad, tossed salad, mac & cheese and all the sweets they could handle.

Everyone enjoyed the food, company and celebrating our nation’s independence.



A local group of Orlando entrepreneurs speaking to youth at Orange RJDC.A local group of Orlando entrepreneurs, Candice Haughton, Sebastian Scaife, Trelani Perkins, Marquis McKenzie, and Food Service Director Deshawn Harrold, stopped by the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center and spoke to the youth about investing in the stock market, starting their own business, making positive choices that improve decision making, business, and building your own belief system.

This inspirational visit was well received by the youth who were very interested and participated by asking questions.



Youth at Volusia RJDC participating in the Arts For All program.The Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center is continuing their participation in the Summer Session of The Arts For All program. The girls made paintings and decorated the frames surrounding them.  The girls will keep the art in their sleeping rooms and take them home when they leave.