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Secretary's Message

October 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 and Senator Jeffrey Brandes Tour DJJ Facilities

Secretary Marstiller and Senator Brandes on a site tourLast week, Secretary Simone Marstiller participated in several facility tours with State Senator Jeff Brandes. They visited the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Palmetto Youth Academy, and the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center. We appreciate Senator Brandes taking the time out to visit our facilities and working with our agency to improve Florida’s juvenile justice system.

 Secretary Marstiller and Senator Brandes on a site tour




DJJ Awarded 2019 RESPECT Customer of the Year for Commodities

respect award ceremonyRESPECT of Florida is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting severely disabled individuals through employment opportunities by producing commodities and providing contractual services to government agencies.

RESPECT holds an awards ceremony to honor both hard-working Floridians with disabilities and loyal customers each year. This year, the Department of Juvenile Justice was chosen as the Customer of the Year for Commodities.

The award was accepted by DJJ Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller at a ceremony and luncheon in Clearwater Beach.




Staff Announcements and Kudos

October detention eomCongratulations to Senior Management Analyst Chantelle Dishman for being selected as the October Detention Services Headquarters Employee of the Month. In recognition of her hard work and commitment to Detention Services, Chantelle received a certificate, will have her named added to the Detention Services HQ Plaque, and will have an Employee of the Month parking spot.




MDRJDC eomCongratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Yvonne Bisumber with the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) for being chosen as their recent Employee of the Month. JDO Bisumber handles the detention review process and ensures that youth are being held in detention appropriately.  She has served at DJJ for 20 years. Her institutional knowledge and willingness to help out in various areas of the facility makes her very deserving of this award.











orange service pinsOrange Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently presented several service pens to employees to acknowledge their years of service.

Corporal “Orange Tough” Valerie Terry received a pin for her 25 years of service and both Sergeant Jonathan Swift and Corporal Latosha West received pins and were honored for their tenure.



October is CyberSecurity Awareness Month

cybersecurity awareness graphic

October is National CyberSecurity Awareness Month. This is a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online.


This year’s theme is “OWN IT”, “SECURE IT”, “PROTECT IT”.  Each one is emphasized below in the role they play in online safety.

You are encouraged to take proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace. Consider incorporating this theme in your daily activities online. -DJJ’s IT Security Team



Understand your digital profile. Internet-based devices are present in every aspect of our lives: at home, school, work, and on the go. Constant connection provides opportunities for innovation and modernization, but also presents opportunities for potential cybersecurity threats that can compromise your most important personal information. Understand the devices and applications you use every day to help keep you and your information safe and secure.


Secure your digital profile. Cybercriminals are very good at getting personal information from unsuspecting victims, and the methods are getting more sophisticated as technology evolves. Protect against cyber threats by learning about security features available on the equipment and software you use. Apply additional layers of security to your devices – like strong passwords – to better protect your personal information


Maintain your digital profile. Every click, share, send, and post you make creates a digital trail that can be exploited by cybercriminals. To protect yourself from becoming a cybercrime victim you must understand, secure, and maintain your digital profile. Be familiar with and routinely check privacy settings to help protect your privacy and limit cybercrimes.


Learn more tips to protect yourself online here!

DJJ Staff Awarded DJJ Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year

Congratulations to former Data Integrity Officer Cassandra Thomas who was recently awarded the DJJ Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year. This award was presented at this year’s Human Trafficking Summit where members of our team accepted the award on Cassandra’s behalf. Key members of DJJ’s human trafficking intervention team that attended were Director of Human Trafficking Intervention Katherine Gomez, Human Trafficking Intervention Coordinator Dr. Jasmine Armstrong, Interstate Compact Administrator Agnes Denson, Data Integrity Officer Joanna Kuczenski, and Data Integrity Officer Dana “Bree” Thaxton.

The Human Trafficking Summit is an annual event sponsored by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Office of the Attorney General, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and the University of Central Florida. The Summit brings together local, state and national leaders working together to eradicate all forms of trafficking. Attendees participated in targeted breakout sessions covering legal/law enforcement, service delivery, policy and research, and medical/healthcare. Attorney General Moody gave opening remarks to more than 850 registered attendees, including welcoming Governor Ron DeSantis to the Summit.

During the summit, Director of Human Trafficking Intervention Katherine Gomez moderated a panel discussion titled “Multigenerational Approaches to Serving Human Trafficking Survivors.”  

Pictured above (from left to right): Interstate Compact Administrator Agnes Denson, Data Integrity Officer Joanna Kuczenski, Data Integrity Officer Dana “Bree” Thaxton, Data Integrity Officer Cassandra Thomas (framed photo), Human Trafficking Intervention Coordinator Dr. Jasmine Armstrong, Human Trafficking Intervention Director Katherine Gomez


Residential Youth Participate in Kids N’ Canines Program

youth with dogsColumbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, started a partnership with Kids N’ Canines to provide animal-assisted therapy services for 12 youth, twice a week, for 12 weeks. This program aims to work with kids in building self-esteem, social skills, and helping to improve emotional functioning. Youth who are deemed appropriate for the group are selected by their primary therapists to participate. So far, the changes in the youth have been extraordinary; introverted individuals have become more social and the youth consistently have smiles on their faces. The dogs love hanging out with the youth. Special thanks to the Clinical Director Laura Richardson, LMHC who spearheaded this awesome program.   



okeechobee visitors

TrueCore’s Okeechobee Girls Academy and Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Corrections Center recently had some notable visitors tour their Okeechobee campuses. Visitors included DJJ staff including South Residential Regional Director Michell McCarthy, local area judges, local state attorneys, Palm Beach County public safety officials, and staff from Vita Nova. Vita Nova, based in West Palm Beach, is an organization that provides fresh starts for young adults transitioning to independence by providing a stable, nurturing environment that includes housing, counseling, and education.

The purpose of the visit was to help acquaint those in attendance with the juvenile rehabilitation process and/or specifically the operations of the residential treatment program.

TrueCore officials guiding the tour were Chief Executive Officer Steven Tomlin, Regional Director Orville Wallen, Facility Administrator J’Mana Jarvis, and Assistant Superintendent Natrinelle Edwards. Three youth who are members of the Elite/Student Advisory Board, also participated in the tour activities. 

The key takeaways from the tour included program completion requirements, structure, the importance of behavioral health therapy, program success, and how treatment teams are utilized to assist the youth. Those attending also learned from Lead Educator Hope Sheppard that there are 22 educational certificates available that youth can obtain.

This tour provided the visitors the opportunity to interact with the youth and listen to their personal stories of how TrueCore’s programming has prepared them for reentry into the community.

What an eventful week full of laughter, sportsmanship, and camaraderie at Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity. The youth participated in a tournament that consisted of outdoor and indoor contests. Each game played was worth a certain amount of points. Once a game was won, the winning team would receive points for that game and whoever won the entire tournament received a trophy along with ice cream and a pizza party. The competition was fierce as Dolphin Mod and Hurricane Mod challenged each other this week to some fun competition.

On Monday, the tournament kicked off with a football game and a chess tournament. On Tuesday, the youth had an intense basketball game and a dominoes competition. Wednesday was dodgeball and a spades contest. A battle of strategy and strength went on for Thursday’s agenda of tug-of-war and a PlayStation 4 game night. The tournament was rounded out on Friday with a rap battle and UNO, and by Saturday morning, the tournament concluded with a relay race. Overall, both teams had a great week and enjoyed the friendly rivalry, as did all the staff.

youth playing chess


youth displaying knitting projectA young man from Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Truecore Behavioral Solutions, wanted to display his creative side and make matching crochet beanies for himself and his daughter to commemorate October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He received help from the education department and direct care staff. He has also learned how to crochet blankets and scarfs for this upcoming winter season. Many youth have expressed this activity to be very therapeutic and relaxing. With the great response from the youth, this activity will be incorporated as an incentive for their program’s behavior management system.








youth and their familyKissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, hosted their 3rd Quarter Family Day. Staff and family were able to meet and greet in the presence of the youth celebrating the theme “Four Seasons”. Families were engaged with the youth celebrating each season by playing games and enjoying a taste of the season as well. Kissimmee Youth Academy presented raffles throughout the day and provided Chic-Fil-A gift card prizes. Thank you Kissimmee Youth Academy staff for making the family day a success!



College Students Tour Circuit 17 Juvenile Assessment Center

students at jacBroward College instructor Charles Livingston and eight of his college students recently participated in a tour of the Circuit 17 Juvenile Assessment Center. Court Unit Coordinator Janice Charlassier conducted the tour to include information about civil citation, diversion and detention screening. The students also heard from Sarah Gillespie Cummings of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Assessment Team about assessments completed on eligible youth as well as a discussion on human trafficking. The students had many questions about juvenile processes as well as career opportunities.

Detention Center Visited by MAGIC Volunteers

magic volunteersMusic therapy was the topic of discussion as eleven volunteers from the Junior League of Greater Orlando’s Mentoring Adolescent Girls to Inspire Change (MAGIC) program met with the girls at the Orange RJDC. The volunteers spent an evening enjoying conversation and Jason’s Deli sandwiches, chips, cookies, and apple juice with the youth.

Junior League MAGIC volunteers included: Annette Gubert, Stacy Wilkerson, Jessica Seymore, Serena Turke, Angels White-Jones, Katherine Moore, Jordan Hopkins, Andee Kroe, Jennifer McCarty, Meghann Morris, Joelle Sopariwala. Thank you for taking the time to visit with youth at our detention center!


level 3 dinnerAlso at Orange RJDC, Level Three youth had the opportunity to enjoy a behavior management dinner party complete with ice cream sundaes for dessert. This weekly party was hosted by Tammy Druley with Orange RJDC’s Community Alliance along with Josie Lemon Allen with Bridging the Gap Coalition, Maura Smith (retired judge), and Valerie Smith (retired educator).



youth participating in yogaPinellas RJDC is proud to announce the successful launch of yoga programming with Kula for Karma. Fifteen young ladies were given the opportunity to participate in a one-hour yoga class. The class provided breathing exercises and meditation to assist the youth with better solutions to communicate their needs. The youth gave positive feedback and asked that yoga become part of the regular programming.  Special thanks to Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler, Regional Director Monica Gray, and Alberta Dering for their unwavering support in bringing this program to Pinellas RJDC.



trauma informed care traingingCentral Region Director Monica Gray conducted a trauma-informed care presentation for 11 new hires at Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Center who are in phase 1 of their training. A big thank you to Director Gray and Chief Steve Owens for their hard work and dedication in assisting with training and on filling vacancies!






Prevention Staff Attend Miami Bridge Youth and Family Luncheon

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Joann Law, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Johnny Sanders, and Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Concheita Gillum.Circuits 11, 15, 16, and 17 Delinquency Prevention Specialist Johnny Sanders, recently attended the third annual luncheon for Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services, a DJJ Prevention provider, at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove.

The event brought community stakeholders and service providers together for a time of networking and partnership. It also included an awards presentation honoring the Social Impact Agency of the Year and the Miami Bridge Employee of the Year, just to name a few.

The luncheon also featured live entertainment and a fashion show presented by Bridge program youth. The event included testimonials from past Miami Bridge youth who shared their stories and thanked Miami Bridge and its partners for having a meaningful, positive impact on their lives. 

Other DJJ staff in attendance included: Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Joann Law and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Concheita Gillum.

The mission of Miami Bridge is to promote positive youth development and strengthen and support families to enable children to reach their full potential to become productive community members. 




seminole sheriff foundation eventPresident and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Stacy Gromatski and former DJJ Secretary Christy Daly Brodeur recently attended the Seminole County Sheriff Foundation Awards Dinner in Sanford.

This event was hosted by the Seminole County Sheriff Foundation to recognize sheriffs for their accomplishments and hard work. The event also raises money to help the Sheriff's Office stay connected with the local community.

The Seminole County Sheriff Foundation, Inc. is a private 501(c)(3) organization formed to bring together charitable donors, community leaders, and non-profit organizations in support of, and to encourage, non-tax based philanthropic efforts for the benefit of Seminole County Sheriff's Office deputies, employees and their families, and innovations in crime-fighting. All with the goal of enhancing the Sheriff's Office’s services and to enhance the quality of life by reducing crime and the fear of crime throughout Seminole County.

The Florida Network is a DJJ CINS/FINS provider and is proud to support the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and is thankful for the work they do!




Circuits 4, 5, and 7 Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shirley Moon recently facilitated the Circuit 4 Faith Community Network Meeting in Jacksonville.

In addition to facilitating the meeting, Shirley provided an overview of the role of the Faith-Based Community Network and its importance to the youth and families in the community.

Nahshon Nicks, the new faith-based chair, was introduced and spoke about the importance of service and collaboration to meet the needs of youth and families.

Circuit 4 Advisory Board Faith (CAB) Liaison Angela Tompkins addressed attendees and provided information regarding the CAB and invited attendees to participate in upcoming CAB meetings.

Information was presented from the National Youth Advocate and Youth for Christ, and Seven Seas. Representatives from New Life Evangelistic Church, Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church, and The Ville Church were also in attendance.

Pictured above(from left to right):Front row: Nahshon Nicks, FBCN Chair; Lauren Brown, Seven Seas; Shirley Moon, Delinquency Prevention Specialist; Mingnon Jones, New Life Evangelistic Center; Angela Tompkins, C4 CAB Faith-Based Liaison; Chelsie Coleman, Youth for Christ and Patrick Meyers, The Ville Church. Back Row: Christopher Chandler, Seven Seas; Preston Harris, Seven Seas; Cory Spellman, National Youth Advocate Program, and Randy Sewell, Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church.