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Secretary's Message

September 11, 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


DJJ Recognizes Suicide Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Week

suicide prevention weekSeptember is National Suicide Awareness Month and September 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide prevention is an important part of the work we do at DJJ. Suicide screenings begin at the first contact a youth has with the juvenile justice system and throughout our continuum of care.

Last week, our Office of Staff Development and Training hosted an employee wellness event to coincide with Suicide Awareness Month. The event included self-care techniques, health tips and resources centered around learning how to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.



Employee wellness event




Staff Announcements and Kudos

   staff recipients of orange tough award

Pictured above: Corporal Alexander “Gonzo” Gonzales was presented the award by Major Mathena and Corporal Shawn Cook, Maintenance Mechanic and Certified Juvenile Detention Officer Jose Martinez was presented the award by Major Mathena and Corporal Gerad Hilaire, Corporal Valerie Terry presented the award by Major Mathena and Corporal Cawanis Leonard.

Congratulations to Corporal Alexander “Gonzo” Gonzales, Maintenance Mechanic Jose Martinez, and Corporal Valerie Terry who were recently presented with the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC)’s Orange Tough Award. The Orange Tough Award is presented to staff who best exemplify the “Orange Tough” qualities of integrity, loyalty, decisiveness, and leadership.  Three staff members were given the award which features a pin that can be worn on the uniform that is unique to the Orange RJDC and features an orange with the word tough across it.

St. Lucie staffSt. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently celebrated Bravo Shift supervisors Sergeant Lee Davis, Sergeant Mildred Towns, and Lieutenant Douglas Kane by having a sweet treat. Everyone enjoyed the celebration and the delicious treat.






Prevention Staff Attend “A Tale of Life”

youth dancing at tale of lifeCircuits 12 and 20 Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson recently attended the Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida’s end-of-summer-camp-show “A Tale of Life” at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers.

The presentation involved about 200 youth. Each class showcased its array of talent. They truly looked amazing in their Lion King inspired costumes.

Quality Life Center, a DJJ Prevention program, is a structured afterschool, teen leadership and summer program. The center provides the opportunity for at-risk youth in Southwest Florida to reach their potential.

The Quality Life Center strives to strengthen and instill pride in family and community through programs which cultivate self-development, teach self-discipline, build confidence and promote cultural awareness. 


The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) recently held its third quarterly SAG meeting of 2019 in Riviera Beach.

Highlights of the SAG meeting were a conversation with DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller and remarks from Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims.

Another highlight was a G.A.A.P. Discussion that involved five Palm Beach youth and three deputies from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. All participants discussed their impressions of each other and how to improve communications.

Additional presentations included: the Center for Child Counseling, Mayor’s Village Initiative City of West Palm Beach, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. Other presentations involved updates from Birth to 22: United for Brighter Futures and the Urban League of Broward County.

Other DJJ staff involved were Prevention Policy Chief Marcus Smith, State and Federal Director Eugene Morris, Federal Grants Manager Dionne Anderson, Prevention Budget Director Brent Musgrove, and Federal Grants Coordinator Jackie Singleton. Also taking part was Program Manager Shirley Turner with Correctional Management and Communication Group.

The 2nd Annual SAG/Circuit Advisory Board joint meeting will take place on Oct. 28, prior to the Restoring Hope Training Summit, from Oct. 29-30. All meetings will take place at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando.

Pictured above (from left to right): SAG Vice Chair Judge Daniel Dawson, SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron, DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, and Policy Chief Marcus Smith.

Pictured above (from left to right): SAG Vice Chair Judge Daniel Dawson, SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron, DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, and Policy Chief Marcus Smith.



Prevention staff at GAAPCircuits 4, 5, and 7 Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shirley Moon, in collaboration with the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA in Jacksonville, recently partnered with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) to present a G.A.A.P. Discussion for youth attending the Y’s summer program in the 4th Judicial Circuit in Jacksonville.

Several staff members, parents, and 49 youth attended the event. Eight youth and five officers served on the panel. The officers provided great insight during the discussions on the role and responsibility of law enforcement and misconceptions that often affect the perceptions of the public toward officers.

The youth also evoked a greater dialogue from the questions posed to officers and youth. The panel provided a simulation of a traffic stop, where the officers changed roles with youth to assist them and the audience, to better understand their roles and procedures when interacting with the public.

After the demonstration, a female youth on the panel had a change of perspective regarding trusting and associating with officers. At the end of the session, the youth expressed an interest in becoming an officer and becoming involved in the JSO Youth Explorer Program.

The dialogue continued with the youth and officers after the discussion. Some of the youth exchanged phone numbers with the officers and many youths, including those in the audience asked the officers for selfies.

Special thanks to DJJ Statewide Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady for her attendance and assistance and to the Florida Youth Challenge representatives for their support.

AMIKids Host Floating Classroom

AMIKids floating classroomAMIkids Tampa had the pleasure of hosting Hillsborough County School Board Chair Tamara Shamburger and Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes at a recent Floating Classroom program. In partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, the Floating Classroom provides youth with hands-on educational experience about marine life and environment in the Bay.






JPO spotlight  recipientsEckerd Connects Project Bridge Program Manager Melvin Guzman and Pre-Service Coordinator Maria Weber honored DJJ’s own Dominique Telot and Michelle Woodcook, during a  Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Spotlight.

Both honorees have proven to be dedicated to the youth and their families, serving them with care and excellence.






Rep. Diamond at AMIKidsAMIkids Pinellas recently had the pleasure of hosting State Representative Ben Diamond. Representative Diamond was welcomed to the facility, given a tour and was provided information about the prevention model and how it helps youth overcome behavioral or mental challenges, while also helping them advance in their academic studies.





Project bridge youthLavonte and Omarion, two young men enrolled in Project Bridge’s work readiness and job placement services, are working diligently with their teams to make their marks in the career industry.

Omarion recently completed his SafeStaff ® Certification and used it to land his first job at the Treasure Coast Food Bank. Lavonte recently completed a six-week Project Bridge Special Design Course with Urban Appeal and was able to use his training to design and produce his own clothing line, which he has branded Xpress Xsirus (shown right).






Project Connect staff with youth at school orientationRecently in Circuit 5, a youth on Project Connect Transition Specialist Robert Smith's caseload was re-entering a traditional high school setting for the first time since 2016.  Mr. Smith knew the youth was going to be nervous about attending his local high school, a much larger academic setting than he was used to.  However, the youth’s parents were not able to attend orientation.  Knowing that getting properly oriented and comfortable with his new academic setting was going to be key to his success, Mr. Smith volunteered to take the young man himself so he could learn the campus, meet his teachers, and get properly acclimated for what will be his senior year of high school. This young man has worked very hard to get to this critical point in his rehabilitation. 





AMIKids staff appreciation eventThere’s a saying at AMIkids: “Our Staff = Our Success”. In honor of that, AMIkids programs across the state hosted “Staff Appreciation” events to celebrate the great work of AMI staff. AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale, AMIkids Miami-Dade, AMIkids Pinellas, and the AMIkids Home Office in Tampa, held various breakfasts, luncheons, special outings and fun prize drawings for staff.






staff retreatCircuit 19 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Ann Marie Campbell and her staff from Unit 201A/B recently went on the unit’s quarterly staff retreat at the Lion Country Safari. The team were able to work on team building and participated in educational programs which boosted staff morale. The event was filled with fun and laughter, and the staff  enjoyed the opportunity to relax and unwind, while also learning about the several species of animals at the safari. The tour was then followed with a wonderful dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. The staff returned to work with a more relaxed and positive outlook.




Staff dayRecently, Circuit 6 celebrated Staff Appreciation Day at Brooker Creek Preserve. The morning started off with a creative and interactive introduction of all new employees, followed by a fun activity to engage both new and seasoned staff.  The 2019 Service Awards were presented for years of service to the following staff: Juvenile Probation Officer  (JPO) John Daniel (5 years), Senior JPO Jennifer Young (5 years), Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller (15 years), Senior JPO Vicki Sanderlin (15 years) JPO Keyra Inmon (15 years), Sr. JPO Michele Hancock (25 years), JPO Jon Justison (30 years)

The day ended with the celebration of employees with 35+ years who are retiring between August 2019 – July 2020: Senior JPO Lesa Regan (36 years), Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Marilyn Walker (35 years), JPOS Yvonne Ortiz (35 years), JPOS Linda Leslie (35 years), JPOS Mike Shoemaker (35 years), and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell (35 years). In addition, JPOS Takeria Peterson was named the Central Region Employee of the Quarter.

youth receiving haircutProject Connect Life Coach Derrick Coles recently offered a youth in Circuit 5 free back-to-school haircuts.  Mr. Coles has been a Life Coach (mentor) for the Project Connect program in Circuit 5 for almost two years.  He enjoys a unique, down to earth rapport with the youth he serves. His sincerity flows from his understanding of the struggles youth, especially young men, face in today’s society. He is an author and advocate for at-risk, in-hope youth.  Project Connect is very proud of the mentorship he affords youth in Circuit 5.     





supervisors at kikoff gameCircuit 7 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Deanna Johnson, Juvenile Probation Officer Woody Douge, and JPO James McCullough attended the 2019-2020 Back to School Year Kick-Off game in Flagler County. The event was well-attended with thousands  of Flagler youth and their families in attendance. DJJ staff worked with local law enforcement to ensure a safe and successful event.









Detention Program Celebrates Labor Day

youth field dayPinellas RJDC celebrated Labor Day in style with a water slide and pig roast provided by Project Angel. The day consisted of touch football, soccer, sack races, foot races, and lots of delicious food. Youth were served roasted pig, chicken, hamburgers, coleslaw, baked beans, and Klondike ice cream bars. Everyone had a good time and the youth of Pinellas RJDC were extremely tired at the day’s end. Special thank you to Project Angel and the advisory board members for their time and donation.



All Hands MeetingOrange Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held an All Hands Meeting.  The meeting featured a meal catered for all staff and guests by the Black Bean Deli, a free yard sale, and drawings of various items gifted to staff from the Community Alliance for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center. During the meeting, an introduction of the members of the Community Alliance for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center was conducted, along with a pinning ceremony for Captain Douglas Fergerson. Behavior management training by Adapt and Transform was provided by Emily Kieffer, and a mental health refresher training was given by Designated Mental Health Authority Amanda McCloud.




hillsborough youth listening to motivational speakerThe youth at Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center were treated to a discussion from special guest Michael Deleon, founder of Steered Straight. Mr. Deleon is a nationally known motivational speaker and came to speak to the youth. The kids enjoyed him so much so, they asked when he would be returning to speak again.









pinellas and subway staffRecently, the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center hosted a dinner for its Level 3 youth, which was  sponsored by the Tri City Subway on East Bay. The franchise owner who generously donated the meal was presented with a Pinellas Proud certificate for his support.












st. lucie rjds youth at lunchThe St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center continues to ensure youth that exhibit positive behavior and are role models for their peers are rewarded. The detention center has a special event where youth who display positive behavior have the opportunity to eat lunch with the facility superintendent.

This incentive has been very effective and is a popular reward at St. Lucie RJDC.









Residential Youth Help Homeless Community

Columbus Youth Academy serving food to homelessRecently, six youth at Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, volunteered with Women Helping Others of Tampa Bay at Borrell Park.  At this community event, the youth were able to help the homeless and less fortunate citizens in the area by serving hot food, handing out drinks, passing out essential hygiene items as well as clothing for them and their families.  The boys were able to help serve about 25 people.  Everyone who participated mentioned how good it felt to make a difference in someone else’s life while experiencing how good it feels to give back to others.  Thanks to Recreation Therapist Josh Glanton, Medical Clerk Casandra Peterson, and Youth Care Worker Mike Ershery for making this outing possible!


HBI at expoHome Builders Institute (HBI) students from the Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, participated in a trip to the Pensacola Home Builders Expo. The students were able to learn and to make contacts for potential employment. The HBI students visited all the booths and saw new products in the construction field, and they were also able to participate in some of the games and work experience activities.




CSIO youth at bahama breezeThe youth of Center for Success and Independence- Ocala, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, recently took a trip to Bahama Breeze. Community Liaison Tony Watts, Administrative Assistant Williams, Youth Care Worker Rashaad Coleman, and several youths had lunch at the Bahama Breeze restaurant located in Gainesville. The youth were rewarded for earning their daily and weekly averages in the program. While at Bahama Breeze, the youth ate, socialized, and met Vincent Lamar Wilfork, a former nose tackle who played in the National Football League for 13 seasons. Mr. Wilfork played college football at the University of Miami and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.  The youth spoke with Mr. Wilfork who encouraged them to make positive choices.




OGA prom

Okeechobee Girls Academy (OGA) a non-secure program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, hosted its 3rd Annual prom entitled 'A NIGHT with the STARS.’ This was by far one of the most successful events involving several businesses in the Okeechobee community. The youth looked amazing and really enjoyed themselves. The entire staff and youth population would also like to take this moment to send a big thank you to Stacey Stallworth, Okeechobee Girls Academy’s training coach, the Okeechobee Girls Academy Education Department, Lipton's Food Service Staff, Steadfast Mentoring, the Circuit 20 Probation Office, Okeechobee Sheriff's Department, UCF Project Liberate, Staffords Salon, Jovita Nails, and the team at OGA for their participation on making this event a huge success!