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Secretary's Message

November 5, 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 Visits with Staff and Stakeholders in Orlando

secretary with studentsAMIkids Orlando recently had the honor of hosting DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller. The Secretary was given a tour of the renovated facilities and spent time with the students hearing about their goals and aspirations.











secretary with orand sheriffSecretary Marstiller also met separately with Orange County Sheriff John Mina and 9th Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley to discuss Juvenile Justice in Orange County and how collaborative efforts with DJJ may help make a greater impact in the community.









While in Orlando, Secretary Marstiller also recently made a visit to Circuit 9 probation where she visited staff. Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed her visit.

c9 probation

DJJ Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Announced

amy jacob teacher of the yearOn behalf of The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller awarded Ms. Amy Jacob with the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award during a ceremony in Orlando on Wednesday. The Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding educator who uses innovative and creative instructional strategies and who also promotes a positive school environment.

 Ms. Amy Jacob is a Spirited Girls teacher at the PACE Center for Girls in Lee County. The Spirited Girls class at PACE teaches girls how to better navigate real life, tackling topics such as self-esteem, conflict resolution, and relationship building. Ms. Jacob has been active at this center for the past year and a half and has served in the education field for 20 years. In addition to her regular classroom curriculum, Ms. Jacob incorporates supplemental activities including yoga classes and guest speakers to visit with her students. “Ms. Jacob exemplifies what it means to be an extraordinary teacher by focusing not only on teaching her students but instilling in them life skills to prepare them for a brighter future,” said Secretary Marstiller. “She inspires her students to believe in themselves to help them achieve both personal and academic success.”

 Ms. Jacob also received praise from her students at the program. “It’s rare to find a teacher who genuinely cares, and my Spirited Girls teacher truly does care,” said one PACE student. “My Spirited Girls teacher has never let me give up, she always believed in me, has always seen the potential in me.”

 DJJ also honored two other finalists for the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award at the ceremony. Among the other finalists considered were Robert Hegarty, a social studies teacher at the Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center in Citrus County and Kayla Stevenson, a social studies teacher at the PACE Center for Girls in Clay County.

 The teachers were honored at the 2nd Annual DJJ Restoring Hope Training Summit where each received a medal and monetary award from the Florida Juvenile Justice Association. The DJJ Restoring Hope Training Summit brings together DJJ staff and stakeholders to discuss juvenile justice reform efforts and raise awareness on issues impacting Florida’s youth and families.

Staff Announcements and Kudos

stephanie nortonEckerd Connects Project Bridge held its Superstar Awards ceremony this month and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Stephanie Norton of Circuit 18 was bestowed with the honor of Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) of the year and presented with a probation coffee mug and engraved tabletop plaque.

 This award was presented because of her support not only to Project Bridge but also the dedication she provides to youth receiving aftercare services while encouraging their success. 






joann snyderFiscal Assistant Jo Ann Snyder of Pinellas Detention Center was awarded Central Region Employee of the month. Please take a moment and congratulate her when you see her. Jo Ann has worked very hard to ensure that Pinellas has everything needed to get the job done for the youth and staff alike. Congratulations Jo Ann and keep up the good work! Jo Ann received a beautiful certificate of appreciation and a gift card.






Ms. Constance O’Brien and Major Adrian MathenaThe Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Ms. Connie O’Brien for her assistance in hiring staff.  Ms. O’Brien was nominated for the Central Region Employee of the Month award by Major Adrian Mathena and Administrative Assistant (AA) II Sherry Barksdale for her hard work, dedication, and going above and beyond to help Orange fill vacant positions.  Ms. Connie O’Brien was presented with the Central Region Employee of the Month certificate and a gift card.  Thank you for your hard work, Connie!







Srgt. Stefanel Crockett and Corporal Webster TimmonsThe Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center nominated Corporal Webster Timmons for the Central Region Employee of the Month award.  Corporal Timmons is a dedicated staff member who during the last two academy sessions volunteered on numerous occasions to work double shifts and help out with the shortage of certified officers.  Corporal Timmons – we appreciate your dedication, Sir.  Please join in congratulating Corporal Timmons.








Corporal Stephanie Aguillard and Sargent Leandra Bell.The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center wishes to acknowledge and thank Corporal Stephanie Aguillard for five years of service to the Department of Juvenile Justice.










Office of Program Accountability Hosts CAT Trainings

cat training group

Several Circuit 17 staff underwent two days of Community Assessment Tool (CAT) training as part of the effort to have all current probation staff go through the new two-day CAT training.  This is being done in order to reacquaint all staff with some of the principles and research behind our risk assessment and improve inter staff rating reliability.  CAT trainers Ann Marie Campbell and Robert Fino co-facilitated the class and Research and Training Specialist Beth Cantrell was on hand to support and offer feedback.  


Circuit 14 staff members also recently participated in the new CAT two-day training.  The training was held in Panama City and was co-facilitated by Technical Assistance Specialist Jessica Gibson and Data Integrity Officer Bree Thaxton

cat training group

Probation Youth Participate in Beach Clean-Up

amikids youth posing on lifegaurd postYouth from AMIkids Jacksonville recently participated in a beach clean-up event. They helped retrieve several dozen pounds of trash left on the sand dunes of Jacksonville Beach!











c13 meeting group photoCircuit 13 Probation recently held its Circuit-wide Meeting at the Children’s Board in Tampa, Florida. 

Secretary Specialist Wanda Jones Mack and Senior Juvenile Justice Probation Officer Valentino Hart led Circuit 13 in recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness and Gun Violence Awareness. 

The information provided brought attention to the importance of early detection not only for breast cancer but other cancers as well. 

Staff participated in honoring the lives of loved ones who have passed, as well as survivors,  by placing a ribbon with their name on the “Honor Tree”. 

The Hillsborough County Sheriff Gang Unit provided Gang Awareness training to the entire staff.

Refreshments and raffles were provided for the Staff.



officer playing chess with youthAMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale has launched a mentoring partnership with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. They are utilizing the National Scholastic Chess Foundation as a platform to learn the game of chess while also developing relationships!







donna collins certificate of appreciationThis past weekend, Reform Specialist Donna Collins from C4 Probation attended a community fundraiser event “Hairchella, Where Hair Meets Fashion”, as an honored guest. This event was held in order to raise money for a summer camp for youth in the community who can learn barbering skills, as well as other life skills.  Mrs. Collins was honored to be a representative of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and show support of this very worthy cause for our kids.  Summer 2020 will mark its second year of offering this service.  It had great community participation last year while partnering with the Boys and Girls Club in Northeast Florida. Community reform at its finest!







volusia youth at humane societyYouth from AMIkids Volusia recently volunteered at the local Halifax Humane Society, caring for the animals and making special treats. Several of the youth spent time comforting the animals and bonding. This activity helps our youth strengthen their compassion and empathy for others.








eckerd connects open houseEckerd Connects Pinnacle Academy recently hosted an Open House event in St. Petersburg (Circuit 6) to promote one of the two facility-based day treatment programs awarded in Central FL to their organization. Over 50 guests from DJJ, The Public Defender’s Office, Pinellas County School Board, and other local providers attended the event. Guests were provided a brief presentation, followed by a site tour, and an overview by one of our students on the M.R.T. curriculum. Pinnacle Academy staff are very appreciative of the community support received to date and look forward to engaging stakeholders to make this program truly shine.



c10 gaap discussionCircuit 10 recently partnered with Haines City Parks & Recreation and held a Reducing Ethnic Disparity GAAP at the Haines City Commissioners Chambers. The GAAP was emceed by Delinquency Prevention Specialist, Ms. Pat Mcghee. Chief, Alison Fulford, Assistant Chief, Amy Stiles, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisors, Deirdre Holmes & Korri Stallworth, and JPO Cynthia Streeter, completed the DJJ team at the event.  City Manager, Deric Feacher and Haines City Police Chief, James Elensky, stopped by to watch the youth and officers in action. The night was emotionally charged and gave a great perspective to the DJJ youth from the police officers’ perspective. A special thanks to Haines City Police Officers Carlos Dominguez, Chris Colon, Kalen Holmes and, Andre Stoudimire.



amikids youth eeting tony thompsonYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale were invited to attend an event honoring Mr. Tony Thompson, a nationally-recognized historian, actor, playwright and prominent community figure in South Florida. Mr. Thompson was also the curator for artifacts in the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. The youth had the pleasure of spending some time with Mr. Thompson and sharing their goals with him.



Prevention Staff Visit Flagler Pace Center

flagler pace visitShirley Moon, Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 4, 5, and 7 recently conducted a site visit at the Volusia/Flagler Pace Center for Girls in Ormond Beach, a DJJ Prevention program.

During her site visit, Shirley met with the Executive Director, Georgia McCurdy. She also received a tour of the facility as staff and faculty prepared for an open house event.

Director McCurdy said that 28% of the girls at the center are referrals from DJJ. The current success rate is 95%, and 82 % of the girls remain in the program for more than 90 days.

The center recently received donations of two large TVs that will be used during assembly and for other activities. The same donor also donated a beach bike to assist girls that were having difficulties with transportation to and from the facility.



Manatee Detention Staff Recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Cameron Cabarris, Eris Womack, Sierra Mitchell, Phyliss Lazier, Ethel Shannon, Sherry Shinnholster, Avril Rettagliata, Chris Groene, Jackie Walker, Khalid Ibrahim, Juan Ruiz, DeAngelo Moore.Breast Cancer Awareness is a worldwide annual campaign that takes place during the month of October, involving thousands of organizations, to highlight the importance of breast cancer awareness, education and, research. Our Manatee Detention team hosted a “Think Pink” on Wednesday 10/16. Staff were encouraged to wear something Pink to honor those affected by Breast Cancer. It was beautiful to see the overwhelming support and hear survivors’ stories of strength, compassion & determination.






beautificationOrange Regional Juvenile Detention Center thanks Ms. Tammy Druley from The Community Alliance for her donation of mulch which helped to beautify the front of the facility.







palmbeach focus groupPalm Beach Detention welcomed, Nicole Edwards Director of Community Partnership, and Stefanis Giannella and Stacey Rashfor from Prime Time of Palm Beach County, Inc. Prime Time of Palm Beach County is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support for youth to help them identify with a profession. “Focus Group” a subsection of Prime Time visited Palm Beach Detention Center after youth held a session to demonstrate their fitness abilities and work.  Major Saintil welcomed this group to speak with some of the youth at the detention center. The youth were able to participate in  different fitness-related challenges to encourage their focus on improving their physical health, mental health, and self-awareness. This group activity was both therapeutic and relaxing and an eye-opening experience for our young men. With the great response from the youth, this activity will be incorporated as an incentive for the program’s behavior management system. The group teaches mindfulness and impulse control techniques while decreasing the negative symptoms related to mental health issues through positive interactions within the group.

thanksgiving gratitude displayVolunteers at Manatee Detention Center organized a lobby display for the Thanksgiving season. Superintendent Eris Womack encouraged team members to participate in the spirit of giving thanks with a message that read:

“Supers, our wonderful volunteers have created a pretty cool display for our lobby. There is a tree of gratitude, and we ask that you all participate by writing what you are thankful for on the leaves provided. The hope is by Thanksgiving our tree will be full of constant reminders of how truly blessed we are. Please share this message in your shift briefings and encourage our team to do the same.


I’m thankful for each of you !”


pinellas donated bowlsMrs. Donna Johnson Lancaster of Pinellas County donated 2 brand new mixing bowls for the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center kitchen to assist the staff with the preparation of meals for youth, a generous cash donation to support the level 3 meal program, and has also agreed to supply Pinellas detention with a new refrigerator for the staff breakroom. Pinellas detention wants to recognize Mrs. Lancaster for her generous and ongoing support of Pinellas detention. Thank you so much from Pinellas JDC.



orange barberThe Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center is proud to announce that they have opened a barber shop in the east building as part of the behavior management program.  The barber shop was the idea of Maintenance Mechanic Jose Martinez and Corporal Shawn Cooke (who gives haircuts to youth) and includes an actual barber’s chair, a soft mirror, and motivational posters.






popeyes foodPinellas Detention just received a huge donation from Popeyes Chicken. Fiscal Assistant Jo Ann Snyder was speaking to her former boss Mr. Ignacio Cajigas about the level 3 meals at Pinellas Detention. Mr. Cajigas is currently the regional manager of Popeyes in Central Florida and has agreed that Popeyes will be a monthly sponsor for Pinellas Detention level 3 meals beginning October 24, 2019. Thank You Jo Ann for spreading the word! And Thank you Popeyes (Manager Cajigas). This is a Pinellas Proud moment. Pinellas detention hosts a weekly level 3 meal program to encourage the youth to maintain excellent behavior, follow program instructions, and to communicate with words instead of bad behavior. Pinellas youth enjoyed Popeyes Chicken with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, French fries, red beans and rice, and hot biscuits.



Jacksonville Residential Youth Visit Local Zoo

jacksonville youth at zooThe education department at Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, the youth had a class field trip to the local Zoo. This outing was done in conjunction with our partners, Duval County Public Schools, and the Jacksonville Zoo.  Each youth received a passport to record the common name and scientific name of each of the animals being studied. The youth were also assigned the task of recording the behaviors they observed from each animal and list three things that they already knew about each animal. In addition, the youth enjoyed a picnic lunch.

The Youth Advisory Board President spoke for all youth participating and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this community outing and the experience of seeing living animals they are learning about in the classroom.


alachua graduateAlachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls, which is operated by Sequel, celebrated the graduation of C.W.! Youth C.W. was admitted to the program in March 2019 and set a goal to obtain her high school diploma while at Alachua Academy.  Youth C.W. also just celebrated her 18th birthday and looks forward to serving our country as she plans to join the military.  Special thanks to Principal Emma Lewis and her team who worked with her to achieve this goal. Alachua Academy wishes Youth C.W. the best in her future endeavors!!









Pictured are the corn hole games that were built by students in the HBI program from Brooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments. The games were built and painted by students, and the instructors. The students painted the games using the colors of their dorms as inspiration. You have the Ravens in purple and black, the Lions in silver and blue, the Giants in blue and red, and the Eagles in green and silver. Each dorm was given a set of four bean bags for their corn hole game. The facility was surprised and pleased with the quality of workmanship that the students put into each game. The students learned several processes as they built the games, from the 3-4-5 rule, as well as how to lay out for the hole and how to counter sink the screws for the game. The material was donated by HBI, Charles Anderson and Travis Whitman the Carpentry Instructor.


At Crestview Youth Academy, where Youth Opportunity Investments operates secure and non-secure programs for boys, students stepped into the future and explored technology. Taught by Nicole Dixon, Goodwill EasterSeal's Digital Skills Instructor, Crestview had 10 youth begin a Basic Computer Skills Course. This class has helped students understand how computers work and has taught them how to properly use them. The youth have explored operating systems, applications and the cloud. Crestview is proud to say that several youth are now trained and certified in Microsoft Office including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook!