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Secretary's Message

October 29, 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



Staff Announcements and Kudos

byron brown with letter of appreciationCircuit 20 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Byron Brown recently received a heartwarming letter of appreciation from a youth and parent he worked with. The letter reads:

“I just wanted to thank you for being a very nice and understanding person! You are very easy to talk to. You made a big difference in this whole process. You made a big difference in our lives. Thank you for all you do for our kids that deserve a second chance. Take care of yourself and never change who you are.”

Kudos to Officer Brown for his dedication and passion working with youth on his caseload.







EOM michael mohrCongratulations to Lieutenant Michael Mohr from Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was recently recognized as their Regional Employee of the Month. Lt. Mohr has demonstrated hard work, dependability, and a positive attitude. His willingness to learn and dedication to success makes him very deserving of this honor.











Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Derrick Cason, Major Margie McKinney, Michael Cole and Captain Edward Guerra.Brevard Regional Detention Center honored Juvenile Detention Officer Michael Cole with the September Employee of the Month Award. JDO Cole received this honor due to his outstanding contributions to the youth, staff and facility.







ruby curry and teamPalm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Rubye Curry has shown great team work and passion for the department. Ms. Curry has assisted in the hiring department and ensures the facility is well equipped and runs smoothly. Ms. Curry continues to improve and has recently been recognized as the detention center’s Employee of the Month.





Pictured above (from left to right): RS Donna Collins, Denise Matthis, Bernard CollinsCongratulations to Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Collins and her husband, Bernard Collins. The pair recently received the Unsung Hero Award from the Lincoln-Douglas Memorial Emancipation Proclamation Association, Inc., for their work with youth and families in the community. This was the first award of this kind from this association. Mrs. Collins has worked for DJJ for 19 years and along with the work she does for our agency, she has made a personal commitment to improving her community as well. Mr. Collins retired from DJJ with 27 years of service and continues to work with youth and families.



(AA) II Sherry Barksdale and AA I Sue Frieberg Kudos to Administrative Assistant (AA) II Sherry Barksdale and AA I Sue Frieberg with the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center for all of their hard work and dedication in filling vacancies at the center. Both Sue and Sherry are responsible for setting up interviews, processing the paperwork for new hires, and various other important steps to help management find the right people to keep the Orange Tough team staffed and ready to go. Both have become very efficient in the process, and ORJDC would like to recognize them for their hard work.





SD&T Completes Right Interactions Pilot in the Northwest Region

training and presenterfloor training

The first RIGHT INTERACTIONS: Youth Engagement Model pilot, currently known as PAR, was recently completed for the Northwest Region. Participating programs included the Walton Academy for Growth and Change, Okaloosa Youth Academy and Crestview Youth Academy. The pilot ran for 5 (40-hour) weeks and over 130 staff participated.

Participants enjoyed a number of opportunities to develop additional skill sets related to teambuilding, maintaining the right mindset, promoting a positive work environment, personal wellness and de-escalating challenging behaviors.

The interactive, scenario-based training focused on keeping youth and staff safe in an environment that can often be very challenging, unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Staff feedback identified the training to be very relevant to their job duties. All participants and instructors are to be commended for their hard work, willingness to learn and support of the new curriculum.

The Right Interactions pilot transitioned to the Central Region and began with Circuit 18 Probation and Bays Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP). The pilot will begin on October 28, 2019 at Circuit 9 AMIKids Day Treatment and the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Stay tuned for more exciting news as the RIGHT INTERACTIONS: Youth Engagement Model project moves forward!


Residential Program Completes New Mural Project


youth mural


Youth at St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, completed a new mural at the program. Professor Leslie Robinson with Flagler College worked with Compassionate St. Augustine and St. Johns Youth Academy to secure a sponsorship grant from the JoAnn Crisp-Ellert Fund for Art in the Community. This was all made possible through the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. The grant requires six youth and an artist to participate in creating a mural for the program. Each youth participant will receive a monetary award of $250 upon their release. The youth participated in art lessons with Ms. Robinson prior to the start of the project. During the preparatory sessions they learned color theory, composition, drawing, and idea development. The painting of the mural took place on weekends. The youth and instructor worked diligently to create the mural for the enjoyment of youth and staff at the program.


participants dancing

Last week was full of fitness at Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments. Realizing that regular exercise and physical activity promotes strong muscles and bones, Recreational Therapist Ephraim Gross pitched the idea to have a fitness week. Once planning and ideas were discussed, the “GET FIT BYTC” week came to life.

The week started off by calling out a short exercise every hour for youth, floor staff, the education department, case management, and administration to participate in. For instance, master control at the hour of 10:00 a.m. would call out a 1-minute wall squat; all the staff and youth participated each day, which was extraordinary. On top of the hour call-out during the week, they had a schedule of workouts each day. On Monday and Tuesday, they came into their mental and spiritual well-being by doing yoga, and what a stress relief it was! Also on those days, they had a walk around the block with administration, while the overachievers decided to run the last stretch of the lap and the rest of management decided to power-walk .

Continuing the fitness journey on Wednesday, they enjoyed doing Hip-Hop ZUMBA. On Thursday and Friday, they decided to give their bodies a break from working out because rest days are just as important as working out because rest allows the body to build strength, endurance, and muscle.

 On Thursday, the youth and staff were provided with fruit, kale, and almond milk to create some deliciously healthy smoothies. “GET FIT BYTC” week was a lot of fun for all that participated!

youth doing yogaBrooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, also put a focus on fitness and partnered with Rise Up Yoga Inc. for a 13-week program that incorporates the physical practice of yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and team building. Each week, the class focused on an identified principle of yoga. The group consisted of 11 young men who came in with an open mind wanting to learn the fundamentals of yoga. This group recently completed their last class and all the young men received certificates of completion from the instructor.


orange youth at football gameThe youth from Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, went on a community outing to a local high school football game. They were accompanied by Recreation Therapist Jamecia Whiteside and Staff Mentor Mavarius Roberson. The youth that were chosen for this outing displayed outstanding behavior and leadership skills during school, groups, recreation, and at the dorms. The goal was for the youth to be among their peers and enjoy a rivalry game at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The boys had a great time socializing with one another and watching the two teams compete. By experiencing this, it inspired the boys to stay committed to their treatment goals and successfully complete the program.




graduateLast week was very special one for the youth and staff of Charles Britt Academy operated by Sequel. Two youth successfully passed all areas of the GED test and earned their high school diplomas. To celebrate this achievement, Charles Britt Academy and Pinellas County Schools held a special graduation ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments. Sequel staff, Pinellas County School officials, family, and friends all attended the ceremony. Charles Britt Academy is extremely excited for these two young men. Not only have they completed high school, but they also made history. One of the young men was the first person in his immediate family to graduate since his great grandmother graduated three generations ago. Congratulations to these two exceptional graduates!






youth with jobDuval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, has engaged in a workforce initiative with their local businesses. The men of Duval Academy practiced their interview techniques with various staff at the program. Once they successfully completed the interview skills practicum and consistently displayed positive behavior in treatment and education areas, one of the transition specialists contacted one of the partners of the “Work Program Initiative” to schedule an interview for a job. Once the youth is successfully discharged, they transfer their jobs to their home community. This program is assisting the young men in understanding the steps to becoming successful. There is much excitement among the youth for the opportunity to exit the program with a job ready to go in their community.



Probation Youth Participates in Dentistry Job Shadow

youth at dentist office

Education is a life-long pursuit and many times begins with a simple curiosity. Such is the case for Zhmyah, a young lady enrolled in Eckerd Connects Project Bridge who shared an interest in learning more about becoming a dental assistant.

Zhmyah’s curiosity opened the doors for her to have the opportunity to participate in a job shadow with Dr. Emilia Godoy-Rapport with Windermere Center for Dentistry. Throughout the job shadow day, the youth observed the dentist and the dental assistant, met office staff, and also had the chance to be a part of the team working on patients throughout the day.

The youth was encouraged to begin dental studies at Orange Technical College and walked away from the experience with a plan set in motion for her future.

Circuit 13 Probation Staff partnered with the Hillsborough County Schools, State Attorney, and the Public Defender to participate in the Building Optimal Youth Success (B.O.Y.S.) Summit at Carter Woodson School. The Summit brought together juvenile-justice involved young men, their guardians, and law enforcement. Each youth and their guardians were able to make appointments with mentors and service providers. The young men then had the opportunity to meet with and discuss mentoring services with the male mentoring groups in attendance. The mentoring groups participating in this event included Men of Vision, G-3, Hope Street, B.U.B.B.A, Gentlemen’s Quest and Safe and Sound. Thank you to DJJ team members Chief Probation Officer Judy Roysden, Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney, Prevention Specialist Audrey McGhee, and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Frank Mitchell for your participation.


Circuit 14 Chief Probation Officer Fred Womack and Assistant Chief Probation Officer (ACPO) Michele Cook attended A Night to Unite hosted by Rebuild Bay County Inc. This was a celebration of the community’s strength just one year after Hurricane Michael. Through the collaboration of non-profit organizations, churches, and agencies, the community is rebuilding and on the way to recovery following the devastation of this storm. The event featured entertainment, fun activities, as well as a wide array of vendors. Chief Womack and ACPO Cook disseminated a variety of brochures, in addition to networking with other organizations and developing ways to collaborate in the future. Attending this special event were Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Representative Jay Trumbull, Bay County Commissioners Gary Griffith, and Robert Carroll along with Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford.





reentry fairThis month, Circuit 17 Probation and Community Intervention staff participated in the re-entry fair that featured local community-based resources and providers to help those who were re-entering society from incarceration, military service, and disfranchised groups.

The resource tables provided information about counseling, housing, substance abuse, and employment.

The probation staff helped set up the event, passed out items to the attendees, and networked with the providers. 


Project Connect Circuit 1 Transition Specialist (TS) Ron Gaines sponsored a team building event with youth and their life coaches at Sam’s Fun City in Pensacola. TS Gaines was able to partner with West Hubbard at Sam’s Fun City for this pro-social event which focused on peer-to-peer development and motivational concepts. The youth were treated to laser tag and go kart racing along with their life coaches, O’Darrius Williams and Joyce Nichols. The event was an opportunity to develop pro-social concepts in the youth as they worked in unfamiliar teams and groups with various challenges and objectives to achieve group goals through friendly competition. Ms. Nichols was kind enough to treat everyone to refreshments at the conclusion of this very popular event.




fgcuFlorida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and Eckerd Connects Project Bridge partnered together to host a special mentoring and restorative justice small group in Circuit 20.

The youth had the opportunity to work alongside FGCU students and mentors while they learned about college life, how to overcome barriers, and how to obtain college scholarships. Throughout the evening, the youth also learned about ways to spread breast cancer awareness and anti-bullying awareness. They painted pumpkins to donate on a local level as a way to give back and support the causes in the Ft. Myers area.

FGCU and Project Bridge will continue the partnership with a college tour in November 2019.



galaAMIkids Inc. recently celebrated their 50th year of serving at-risk youth during a recent anniversary gala fundraiser. Attendees included board members and executive directors from every AMIkids program across 10 states, community advocates and elected officials. The program celebrated several alumni of AMIkids programs through video vignettes, as well as guess speaker Jasmine , a graduate of AMIkids Tallahassee.


AMIkids also recently hosted its Board of Trustees annual meeting. Board members, the AMIkids Inc. leadership team, executive directors, and staff came together to review the progress made over the past year, identify and set goals for the future, provide invaluable training opportunities, and listen to the youth tell their amazing stories of perseverance and strength. The group heard from more than a dozen current and former AMIkids students, as they shared their experiences about how they’ve grown because of AMIkids. Numerous awards were distributed to board members and programs for their achievements over the past year, along with individual honors recognizing those that have represented the best of AMIkids’ values. The AMIkids family atmosphere was on full display as old friends got a chance to reconnect and new friends were able to create connections. In addition, the new AMIkids National Board Chair, Jerry Prejean, was announced to the group. Mr. Prejean will serve a two-year term, overseeing the national strategic initiatives.



Juvenile Probation Officer Tricia Alvarez recently hosted a resource table at the Pasco County Community Night Out, which is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer. There was a wide array of agencies participating and providing information on their business/organization. DJJ disseminated a variety of family engagement brochures.


Prevention Staff Host G.A.A.P. Discussion in Homestead

gaapDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 11, 15, 16, and 17 Johnny Sanders recently organized and moderated a G.A.A.P. discussion at the Phichol Williams Community Center in Homestead.

A Homestead police officer and 12 diverse youth, ranging in age from 9 – 16, engaged in candid conversation centered around stereotypes, myths, procedures, and what to do when encountering and interacting with law enforcement.

Since the inception of G.A.A.P. discussions in 2012, the Office of Prevention Service has successfully completed more than 200 discussions statewide in all 20 Florida judicial circuits.







Pictured above: Joyce Wilson, director of Unity Family Community Center.Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 2, 3, and 8 Saba Shariat-Pearce and Prevention Services Contract Monitor Onazina Washington recently conducted a site visit at Unity Family Community Center in Williston.

Unity Family Community Center (UFCC), a DJJ Prevention program, was created in 2002 to use its resources and expertise to provide quality care and improve the lives of at-risk youth through role models, improved family support, strengthened coping skills, and support of productive lifestyles.

Saba and Onazina met with Joyce Wilson, director of Unity Family Community Center. Ms. Wilson noticed a need for more health resources and connected with the University of Florida School of Medicine to get a pilot program to start a health initiative at Unity.

The youth being served by Unity is rapidly growing. To serve more youth, Unity has recently acquired six acres of land deeded by a local church with plans to build a larger facility.



Detention Center Paints Pumpkins for Halloween

In preparation for Halloween, the Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center participated in painting pumpkins. Rose-Lissa Regnier a staff member with the center’s mental health team, orchestrated the activity to help with the holiday spirits. The youth enjoyed the activity and appreciated the skills they’ve learned. They are also looking forward to trick-or-treating on Halloween.






Judge Lynn Tepper, one of Pasco’s RJDC’s advisory board members, worked with her sewing group to complete hand stitched quilts for the girl’s mod. Judge Tepper and her group are working hard to make a quilt for every youth at the center by the holidays.











Recently, volunteer Stephen Byers and his son Daniel came to the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center to donate an Xbox 360 and 15 games for the honors mod. The Byers family attended a volunteer function and were inspired to donate by Major Reginald Allen’s description of the Pinellas RJDC and some of the exciting new programs that were being developed to encourage good behavior.










pinellasPinellas RJDC Supervisors Qualia Turner and Joliane Francois recently treated their shift to breakfast. The staff was served homemade cooked to order French toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, and turkey sausage. The event was attended by Central Region Director Monica Gray and Major Reginald Allen. Everyone received a delicious meal and thank you cards.





Pinellas RJDC is also working hard to renovate additional space at the center to create a training center for the Central Region. The area will be completed to host the graduation ceremony for an upcoming juvenile detention officer academy in December.