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Secretary's Message

December 23, 2019


Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

The holiday season is a special time of celebration, where together with our friends, family and loved ones we reflect on the year and look towards the future. I want to thank our DJJ staff, providers, partners, and friends for their dedication and support of our agency this past year. DJJ has achieved great success this year which could not be accomplished without a deep commitment to provide the very best services to Florida’s youth and families. I would like to wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, and joyous holiday season and a wonderful new year.


Secretary Simone Marstiller



Staff Announcements and Kudos

djj accomplishment graphicThe Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the agency is closing out this milestone year with several important accomplishments.  “The Florida Department of Juvenile justice is recognized as a national leader in evidence-based approaches to juvenile justice”, said DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller. “Our achievements this year are just the beginning and illustrates our continued commitment to enhancing Florida’s juvenile justice system. Through the leadership and dedication of Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, DJJ will continue to serve as an innovative and data-driven model for other juvenile justice systems.”

Read our full list of accomplishments here.




jason griceCongratulations to Jason Grice who has been named as the Superintendent of Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center effective December 13, 2019.

Superintendent Grice was born and raised in Galveston, Texas. He graduated high school in 1991 and attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he studied Criminal Justice. He started his juvenile detention career in May 2004 at the Henry Wade Juvenile Detention Center in Dallas, Tx. In June 2008, he relocated with his family to Naples where he accepted a sergeant position at the Collier RJDC and was later promoted to shift commander and then to assistant superintendent. After some time away from DJJ, he never lost his passion for working with our youth and later returned to the agency as the assistant superintendent at Pasco RJDC. He then worked at Pinellas RJDC and in August 2019, joined the team at Hillsborough RJDC to assist with the growth of the administrative side of the facility and overall operations.

Superintendent Grice was recognized for his hard work when he was awarded the Statewide Assistant Superintendent of the Year in October 2019. Superintendent Grice has been happily married to his wife Melissa for 15 years and has two daughters and a 10-month old grandson.  



Captain Gary Bridges, Last week, Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recognized Senior Management Analyst (SMA) II April Walker with a Pinellas Proud pin and certificate. SMA Walker has been very instrumental and supportive of the changes occurring at Pinellas RJDC and is always willing to give expert advice on how to continue to move the facility in a positive direction.












Chris Fisher (FSW),  Sherry Shinholster (FSD), Octavia Harper (FSW), Wadson Almonor (FSD)Congratulations to Manatee RJDC Food Service Director Sherry Shinholster and the food service team for scoring satisfactory with no violations on all health inspections for 2019!








Major Adrian Mathena, Retired Corporal Rueben Paige, Chief Steve Owens.Retired Corporal Rueben Paige recently stopped by the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center and was presented with his retirement plaque. Corporal Paige served with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for over 30 years.











latosha westCongratulations to Corporal Latosha West who was recently awarded Detention Services Central Region Employee of the Month. Corporal West received this award in recognition for her hard work every night on the third shift at Orange RJDC.  Corporal West is known for hitting 100% compliance on wand checks every night, assisting with transportation hub paperwork, and completing the vehicle reports for the center.  Thank you, Corporal West, for all of your hard work.











detention staffAssistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler and Detention Chief Matt Hefelfinger presented Major Regina Berry and her staff at the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center with a plaque and goodies to celebrate their 100% compliance on a recent QI review.









DJJ Staff Participate in Wreaths Across America Day

wreaths across america participantsAssistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Program Accountability Director Christopher Goodman, Human Resource Analyst Selena Boles, former Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, and other Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD) Chapter 2 members participated in National Wreaths Across America Day at the Tallahassee National Cemetery.

There are 1,200 veterans’ graves at the Tallahassee National Cemetery and so many families were present to honor their loved ones for this very special and amazing ceremony. 

Over 100 volunteers gave of their time by taking the wreaths out of boxes and organizing them for family members to place at their loved one’s graves. Volunteers also finished laying wreaths at the remaining graves if no family member were able to attend.

In 2007, the Wreaths Across America non-profit group was founded. The event has expanded to all 50 states to lay wreaths at veterans’ cemeteries to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who served and teach our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. Thank you to our DJJ staff and FCCD members for taking part in such an important and sacred tradition!



pace center before and afterPACE center for Girls Pinellas, a DJJ prevention provider, recently participated in the WorldLegacy Extreme Giving Project.

PACE Center for Girls Pinellas was selected by WorldLegacy for their extreme giving project when a group of empowered, worldwide leaders updated the center’s great room and calming room, all made possible by donations from supportive community organizations. The challenge of every WorldLegacy Leadership Team project is that they must completely design the project from start to finish, cannot spend any of their own money, and must complete the project in two days.

The completion of the work was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the PACE Center which included PACE Pinellas board members, PACE girls and staff, community members, and the WorldLegacy Leadership Team. WorldLegacy’s NC178 Leadership Team completed the makeover of renovating an existing space by replacing the flooring and painting the walls.  The work will serve as a lasting gift to enable PACE Pinellas to create infinite possibilities for its youth. This WorldLegacy Leadership Team is committed to furthering the physical, cognitive, and emotional strength of youth, and creating possibilities by modeling a leadership role in the world.



Bond Elementary School Principal, Delshuana Jackson and Eugene Morris, State and Federal DirectorIn order to ensure that school officials were able to spread holiday cheer for staff and students at Bond Elementary School in Tallahassee, Prevention headquarters staff collected money for holiday school initiatives.

State and Federal Director Eugene Morris delivered the holiday donation to Bond Elementary School Principal Delshuana Jackson. Ms. Jackson said the gift was very much appreciated because it was unexpected. She thanked DJJ for its support of Bond Elementary School.









prevention staff at tabling eventDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 9, 18, 19 Shanteria Randall and Probation Reform Specialist Holly Fernandes recently participated in the 2019 Educational Strategies & Student Engagement Institute at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando.

This conference united professionals from school districts, government agencies and other sectors of the community to build knowledge and enhance skills on educational strategies proven to promote student achievement and college and career readiness. Attendees learned, shared, and were able to network and identify tools to help counter and prevent academic struggles, school disengagement, and dropout. Shanteria and Holly participated as vendors at the conference where they hosted a DJJ booth full of information about our agency.  



stms training

Pictured above (from left to right): Prevention AS Alice Sims, Teresa Davis, and Dawn Spann.


Accounting Services Administrator Teresa Davis and Senior Professional Accountant Dawn Spann from the DJJ Office Finance & Accounting met with Prevention team members to provide a brief training and overview of the new Statewide Travel Management System (STMS) and the new travel reimbursement system.

STMS is the state of Florida’s first cloud-based travel management solution designed to support the more than 115,000 government travelers and managers located in Florida’s executive and cabinet agencies, as well as the judiciary.  STMS will process travel authorizations and reimbursements electronically, eliminating paper processes while increasing standardization across the state. The system will also benefit agencies by centralizing travel-related tasks and boosting auditing efficiency and transparency.

Ms. Davis and Ms. Spann graciously answered questions and provided some answers to completing the new forms. The Office of Prevention was very appreciative of both women for attending the staff meeting and shedding light on the new systems.

Probation Youth and Puppies Work to Solve Bullying

ami youth holding puppyAMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale hosted their annual anti-bullying workshop with special thanks to American Bullies Against Bullying. Facilitated by American Bullies Against Bullying Instructors, Ms. Pancake and Mr. Fireman (American Bulldog puppies), this workshop helped to spread the message that bullying is a major concern that we all must work together to solve.

In addition, the kids at AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale are continuing to develop their culinary skills by effectively learning cost control, budgeting, event planning, and how to manage an inventory. Students are given a budget and a number of guests they must feed. With the help of Chef Gary, the kids do everything from build a menu, shop for the ingredients, prep, cook and serve.

ami youth cooking


ami youth with rep. evan jenneYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale also recently had the chance to visit Representative Evan Jenne to share their experience in the program and progress they’ve made both personally and academically. A big thanks to our elected officials for their support of at-risk youth programming throughout the state!






ami youth on boatYouth from AMIkids Tampa and AMIkids Pinellas recently had the opportunity to tour the Marine Max of Clearwater facilities. Marine Max is one of the region’s top boating brands and has recently partnered with AMIkids as a corporate partner. As part of AMIkids’ career path development programming, the youth learned about the various trades involved in boat manufacturing and maintenance.







ami youth with apopka policsTwo youth from AMIkids Orlando recently had the pleasure of shopping with officers from the Apopka Police Department. The police officers spent time with Osiris and Diamond and purchased some much needed items for them. We cannot thank these fine men enough for their support of our youth and our mission!

Juvenile Court Judge for the 9th District Robert Egan also spent time with AMIkids Orlando to speak with the kids and personally delivered the official completion letter for Diamond. This young lady will be attending Apopka High School and has also secured a job in her community!

robert egan speaking to ami kids














More than a dozen kids from AMIkids Clay County, AMIkids Manatee, AMIkids Pinellas and AMIkids Tampa had the pleasure of going on the AMIkids Floating Classroom. In partnership with Mote Marine Laboratories and Aquarium, the youth were exposed to various forms of marine life and learned a great deal about the vast ecosystem below the water’s surface from a marine biologist from Mote.




amikids with donationsThe AMIkids Home Office staff, along with the board for AMIkids Manatee, recently held a food drive for the youth and families served by AMIkids Manatee. Accompanying the more than 50 bags of donated non-perishable items, more than 1,200 lbs. of food was purchased through the Food Bank of Manatee County and Meals on Wheels. Program staff, board members, volunteers from the Apple Store, and others helped assemble the items for the families this week for the holidays.




probation buffetProbation and Community Intervention Circuit 4 staff enjoyed their 2019 Holiday Party in Jacksonville. The holiday luncheon was put together with the assistance of all Circuit 4 staff, to include administration/management, juvenile probation officers, and supervisors. This luncheon allowed staff members to come together and enjoy a special buffet-style lunch. Several staff members from across Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties contributed by bringing their own signature homemade dish.

Chief Probation Officer Donna Webb, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ashley Graves, and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisors Ali Bishop, Tim Denton, John Eyrick, Erik Lash, Chappell Walker, Joy Curtis, Elizabeth McKinnon, Brad Atherton, and Valerie Ryals, showed their appreciation to the Circuit 4 Probation staff for their hard work and achievements made in the year 2019.

Following the lunch and dessert buffet, an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest was held. JPO James Sampson won for his homemade Christmas sweater. Staff also received raffle tickets, and each winner was gifted different gift cards as a courtesy of Circuit 4 supervisors. Circuit 4 staff enjoyed exceptional food, great conversations, and team bonding as a wonderful start to the new year!

 probation holidayc4 uglly christmas sweaters












socksCircuit 11 “Holiday Friday Festivities” served as a great staff morale activity.  The “Sip and Sock” function was a total success. This fun-filled event helped bring staff holiday cheer and was a great way to introduce new circuit staff to the veteran staff. Happy Holidays to all from Circuit 11!










treeCircuit 16 Probation displayed a holiday tree that local community provider Kids Come First provided for youth and their siblings. Not pictured are five male bikes that juvenile probation officers are getting ready to put together. The Circuit 16 team would like to thank Kids Come First for all of their support of our youth and families. Thank you also to our Probation staff for connecting with the families and breaking out the tools and mechanical skills.









Detention Centers Celebrate Holidays

Escambia staff with dancing santaDetention centers across the state of Florida are celebrating the holidays with decorations and events for youth and staff.

Food Service Director Mary Small from Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center has decorated her dining room with a dancing Santa. The hallway at Escambia RJDC is also under Elf surveillance.  All youth that pass by this area enjoy seeing the holiday decorations.   

The education staff at Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center also got into the holiday season by putting together their annual holiday carousel for the youth to enjoy!

elf decorEducation staff at Duval RJDC










pasco decorPasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center held its annual holiday luncheon for youth and parents. The event was sponsored by the detention center’s advisory board and volunteer ministry groups. All of the youth enjoyed the event and were provided presents from the volunteers.








Pinellas staff Major Reginald Allen,Pinellas RJDC staff are also getting into the festive spirit! The team donned Santa hats and decorated for the upcoming holiday!









pinellas staff and demetrius familyTeam Pinellas Proud recognized Minister Demetrius Brinson and Kimberly Brinson for their ongoing support of Pinellas RJDC and the youth that are served. The Brinson’s provided new games for the upcoming Honors mod and gift bags that contain, candy canes, hygiene products, and composition books, so that youth in secure detention would be able to open a bag on Christmas day. The Brinson’s were awarded Pinellas Proud Pins and certificates. Pinellas youth enjoy the ministry programming that the Brinson’s provide on the weekends and Pinellas RJDC appreciates their community partnership.







instructor and staff in classroomBehavior Management Specialist Ariel Veguilla recently instructed a “test” class in the Central Region on the new behavior management material being developed for the Juvenile Detention Officer Academy.  Thanks to Senior Management Analyst April Walker and Angenette Williams for making this class possible! 







Residential Youth Create Holiday Crafts

holiday tree craftDuring the month of December, staff at Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, engaged the youth in a series of holiday crafts and activities. Last week, staff and youth made edible trees! The young men created the trees using different fun treats including ice cream cones, green frosting, twizzlers, M&Ms and sprinkles! Each tree was made with creativity and style. Everyone had a fun time with this project, especially eating the delicious treats after they were completed!  








broward youth on treadmillsRecreational Therapist Ephraim Gross, at Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments changed up the youths’ fitness plans a bit by conducting workouts at a local LA Fitness gym. During their visit to the gym, the youth learned about proper gym workouts and received help with properly using the different machines. Over the course of their workouts, it became apparent that each youth started to become more confident in themselves and their abilities, more than ever before. When you realize you can change your mindset, your habits follow. After that very first workout, the youth were excited to know when their next trip to the gym would be!



famu career fairThe youth of Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Educational Career Fair in Orlando. The youth were accompanied by Recreation Therapist Jamecia Whiteside and Staff Mentor Rodney Green. The selected youth have exhibited exceptional behavior, have a high grade point average, and have shown an interest in college. The program’s Lead Teacher Charnetta Starr, who is also an alumna of FAMU, assisted with registering the youth for this event.

This career fair was a great learning experience for the youth, and they were very excited about college after the event. A couple of the young men were apprehensive about college, but the event allowed them to connect with graduates and students of FAMU who shared their same concerns about college and financial aid. The representatives from FAMU did a great job with explaining to the youth their options and what the school had to offer.