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Secretary's Message

February 26, 2020

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, where we share the latest news and updates on the great work the DJJ team is doing across the state of Florida. Thank you for taking a moment out of your day to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to support youth and families and strengthen our communities.

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 Gadsden Sheriff with Lieutenant Governor

secretary marstiller with gsdsden sheriff and lieutenant governor of floridaLast week, Secretary Simone Marstiller along with Lieutenant Governor of Florida Jeanette Nunez participated in a tour at the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office. The tour was led by Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young. DJJ sponsors two prevention programs with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office: The Restoring Families program and the Teen Success Academy. Restoring Hope supports prevention and intervention efforts for youth, 5-17 years of age. The Teen Success Academy includes programming to combat cyberbullying, deter gun violence, teach anger management skills, and other effective programs to prevent juvenile delinquency. Secretary Marstiller also joined Lieutenant Governor Nunez on a tour and visit with leadership at the Gadsden County Department of Health.

secretary at gadsden sheriff visit




DJJ Secretary Marstiller also recently attended the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services’ Executive Advisory Roundtable meeting in Tallahassee. Secretary Marstiller spoke about the WhyTry program that many Network providers currently implement and how important it is to possess the principle of resiliency. DJJ is planning to pilot  WhyTry  in one of its program to a residential commitment programs in May.

Secretary Marstiller spoke about DJJ’s priorities this year as well: to elevate the program accountability function with legislative permission to appoint an assistant secretary to the Office of Program Accountability, and to include detention officers in the special risk retirement benefits.

Secretary Marstiller addressed questions from executives on topics ranging from group care, DCF and DJJ crossover children, challenges with the direct care workforce, and more. DJJ Deputy Secretary Heather DiGiacomo was also in attendance.


DJJ secretary speaking at florida network roundtable



Staff Announcements and Kudos

systems analyst angel ortizCongratulations to Distributed Computer Systems Analyst Angel Ortiz for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employee of the Month for January 2020!  Each month, IT recognizes one of its own using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to the employee’s work ethic and dedication to this agency.  Great job Angel!






collier employees of the monthThe Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently recognized Detention Review Specialist Jeaniska Norvil, Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Michael Noonan, & Officer Devenel Tanis who all received the honor of receiving Employee of the Month for Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie shift.  These officers demonstrated hard work, teamwork, and the willingness to share their knowledge with other members of the team.  Furthermore, for the month of January, these are the three individuals who exceeded expectations and stood out amongst their peers. 


collier eom



collier january perfect attendance recipientsThe Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center also acknowledged several staff members for their hard work and dedication to the team.  The following individuals were recognized this week for their perfect attendance for the month of January:  Officer Jeremy Curry, Officer Naomi Andre, Officer Joel Hagenburg, Officer Jo Cronk, Cpl. Jalesa Carzel, Cpl. Camielle Smith, Cpl. Michael Noonan, Sgt. Felipe Vasquez, Sgt. Nicole Rivera, Sgt. Vikingson Dalien, & FTC Michele Goodman


orange eoms februaryOrange Detention would like to congratulate Corporal Gerad Hilaire and Corporal Kattrina Walker for being recognized as Employees of the Month for February for their hard work and dedication at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center(RJDC). Corporal Hilaire and Corporal Walker go above and beyond with helping out on the floor with the trainees. They both show commitment and consistency as being great veteran staff. Keep up the great work! Hard work never goes unnoticed!







gold shirt recipientsMajor Dedilia Finlayson and Administrative Assistant Altha Smith of St. Lucie Detention recently received their gold polo shirts for 30 plus years of service. Major Finlayson has 30 plus and Altha Smith, AA has 40 plus years.










Congratulations to Nick Lefrancois on his upcoming retirement! Lefrancois has been with the Department of Juvenile Justice since before there was a DJJ, when it was the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).  He has filled many roles in that extensive time span.  He was the Detention Assistant Superintendent and the Detention Superintendent in Polk County.  He later became a Management Review Specialist and has completed his public service career as a Senior Management Analyst II.  When he retires at the end of the month he will be missed by the many people, whose lives he has touched.  Management Review Specialist Mack McLeod has been selected to become the new SMA II and the region is confident that he will do an excellent job carrying out the Department’s mission.

The Circuit 11 Probation Team recently recognized its employees at the team’s annual retreat who are celebrating milestone anniversaries with DJJ and the state of Florida.


c11 probation anniversaries

Pictured in the above photos (from left to right):

35 Years of Service- Assistant Chief Probation Officer (ACPO) Concheita Gillum, Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Frank Manning, Secretary Specialist(SS) Stephanie McKay

30 Years of Service- Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Michaelas Ogunlade, SJPO Pamela Peters, SJPO/SPL Margaret Harris, SJPO Roxie Gaines, ACPO Concheita Gillum, CPO Frank Manning, SJPO Irving Jackson, SS Gracie Edwards, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Joann Law, SJPO Iris English-Dunn, JPOS Trallis Allen, JPOS Lana Wilcox

25 Years of Service- Administrative Assistant (AA)II Nikita Pottinger, JPOS Melissa Berroa, ACPO Concheita Gillum, CPO Frank Manning, SJPO Michelle Johnson, SJPO Rodney Harris

20 Years of Service- Government Operations Consultant (GOC) II Maria Gilhooley, JPOS Simplicio Jayma, ACPO Concheita Gillum, CPO Frank Manning, JPOS Nancy Romero, SS Ana Paez

15 Years of Service- SS Alicia Borders, SS Cynteria Robbins, Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Alison Green, JPO Tonya Harper, ACPO Concheita Gillum, CPO Frank Manning, JPO Wendy Rolle, Sr. JPO Clarence Dean, Sr. JPO Richard Walsh

10 Years of Service- SJPO Heningston Hodgson, SS Melvena Orr, JPO Gary Williams, ACPO Concheita Gillum, SJPO Wilmax Damus, JPO Sherly Virgile, JPO Audrey Strachan, JPO Betty Fertil

5 Years of Service-  JPO Michael Cooper, SJPO Vogiel Celestin, ACPO Concheita Gillum, CPO Frank Manning.


central probation employees of the yearDuring the Probation Central Region Supervisors Retreat, Director Cathy Lake recognized three staff as Employees of the Year for Central Region Probation.  These staff were nominated for their dedication and attention given to the roll out of EPICS (Effective Principles in Community Supervision) in Central Region.

Covering six circuits was quite the task in which they effectively followed a plan of implementation and worked cohesively as trainers and coordinators with chief probation officers, assistant chief probation officers, reform specialists and staff. Everyone celebrated their accomplishments and “we can do this” attitude. It was a wonderful opportunity to recognize them with all of the management teams in attendance.  Thank you and congratulations to the honorees – C18 Reform Specialist Tracy Olson, C18 JPOS Michael Neary and C12 Reform Specialist Jarrett Ballo. We recognize you for a job well done!



Staff Development and Training Pilots Poverty Awareness Training

staff attending poverty trainingIn support of Poverty Awareness Month this January, the Office of Staff Development and Training (SD&T) piloted its new Poverty Awareness course in collaboration with Probation and Community Intervention Central Region Probation. Sixty-nine staff including providers from BAYS, Eckerd Connect Pathways, and Youth Advocate Program, Eckerd JJCIS, attended one of four sessions delivered in both St. Petersburg and Orlando. The instructor-led training focused on elements of poverty and its impact on youth/families followed by an online simulation. The overall feedback was favorable. Thanks to Central Region Probation for their support in participation in the pilots.  

SAG Holds First Meeting of 2020


sag membersDJJ State Advisory Group (SAG) recently held its first quarterly meeting of 2020 at DJJ HQ.

Following the Call to Order by SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron, DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller delivered opening remarks where she thanked SAG members for their service and outlined DJJ priorities.

Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims provided an update on Prevention initiatives, updates, and accomplishments.

Legislative Affairs Director Rachel Moscoso delivered an update on the 2020 Legislative session. Sherry Jackson, director of Research and Data Integrity, provided an update on the initiatives of that office.

A circuit advisory board (CAB) panel followed with Circuit 2 CAB Chair Donnie Read, Circuit 2 CAB member Chief Audrey Smith and Circuit 4 CAB Chair Vicki Waytowich discussing their roles as members of CAB leadership.

The SAG meeting also featured a presentation by Dare to Dream Young Girls Inc., which included testimonials from three young ladies who are currently or have received services in the past from the program.

Also presenting: Minnie Bishop, state-level justice reform team coordinator; Shirley Turner, program manager, Juvenile Justice, Correctional Management and Communications Group.

Also presenting: Eugene Morris, state/federal director; Dionne Anderson, federal programs manager; Jacqueline Helms-Singleton, federal grants coordinator; and Brent Musgrove, budget administrator.

The next SAG meeting will take place in Gainesville on May 18-19.    

Office of Probation Launches EPICS Project


The Office of Probation and Community Intervention recently launched its Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) Restructuring Project. As of January 1st, 2020, the use of EPICS was scaled back to four specific circuits to allow easier data collection with a clearer scope. Probation Regional Directors, Gwen Steverson, Cathy Lake, Terria Flakes, and Regional Manager Jill Wells each hand-selected one circuit from their region to pilot the two-year project; the pilot sites included circuits one, five, seventeen, and eighteen. Florida is a vast state with 67 unique counties, each offering their own distinct challenges. Due to this fact, the circuit selection process was very important; each selected circuit offers a wide-range of demographics, socio-economic levels, population sizes, and common crime types.

The updated policy will empower each circuit by allowing circuit management teams to curate an individualized service delivery structure while adhering to the fidelity of the model. Circuit staff will have the added ability to review and select the best EPICS candidates, determine how long a youth should receive EPICS, and choose which EPICS interventions a youth should focus on. Each policy update was discussed with, and vetted by, Jennifer Pealer, Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati – Corrections Institute (UCCI). Probation is extremely confident this new pilot will provide the Department with enough relevant data to develop a rollout to meet the needs of Florida’s at-risk youth on a statewide level.

jpo's at chattahoochee lions clubThe path to becoming a juvenile probation officer (JPO) is not just coursework and exams alone.  The Juvenile Probation Officer Academy offers a blended education that includes meaningful social and interpersonal skills as well.  For example, the trainees learn restorative justice communication skills and trauma-informed care—two skills vital for the job.  They are exposed to topics of physical aptitude such as Protective Action Response, CPR and First Aid.  Another integral part of training is not so tangible, but equally worthy; the trainees are encouraged to create positive connections within the community by actively supporting it, even before they graduate.

Recently, Class 97 of the Juvenile Probation Academy did just that.  Tasked to work together as a team on a community service project, they decided to link up with the non-profit Chattahoochee Lions Club.  This club is one of 47,000 Lions Clubs’ which began over 100 years ago with a mission to help communities by offering humanitarian assistance through service projects and grants.  “We serve” is their motto and it fits perfectly in line with the role JPOs hold in the community as well.  One of the Lions’ first missions was introduced by Helen Keller who challenged the Lions to assist in vision-related work.  To this day, it is still a major campaign which the Lions work towards. 

Through the coordinated efforts of JPO Academy Class 97, Chattahoochee Lions Club President, Paul Mazzotta and club member Jim Folds were presented a monetary donation of $150.00.  These funds will go towards the purchase of prescription eyeglasses for those who cannot afford it to improve their quality of life.  Following the donation, Mr. Folds led the class on a tour of the Apalachicola Arsenal Museum to share local history and artifacts. 


sandra pinkney at resource tableCircuit 13 Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney participated in Keiser University Criminal Justice Day this month. The event familiarizes Keiser University students and Hillsborough County high school seniors with career opportunities in the criminal justice system.









volunteer partnershipStaff from Circuit 8 Probation, AMIkids Gainesville and Project Connect (Circuits 3 and 8) recently participated in an innovative community outreach event in Gainesville, FL with the Athletic Department at Santa Fe College.

Nine youth were chosen to attend both the men’s and women’s basketball games for the Santa Fe teams.  These lucky youth were provided a pizza party following each game and then given the opportunity to meet the student athletes from both teams.  This was a great way to expose youth to a positive environment of teamwork and community spirit.  When people work together for a common cause, great things can happen!  Due to the success of this event, Santa Fe College and DJJ are looking forward to expanding this into additional sporting events throughout the year. 


polk teen pregnancy allianceCircuit 10 Reform Specialist Natalie Montgomery represented DJJ at the Polk Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance (TPPA) community meetings.  TPPA recently hosted its annual faith leaders event, “Festival of Faith”.  This event is for faith leaders and community members who are interested in participating in their prevention efforts to make teens as healthy and happy as possible.  The event was free to attend and open to all ages.   There were featured entertainment by youth and adults, a panel discussion with local faith leaders, community partners as vendors and a delicious dinner.  The event had great community attendance with an estimate of 75 people.



circuit 5 youth volunteersCircuit 5 recently held a community service opportunity for youth and staff to come out and participate in a “facelift” project for the Circuit 5 Screening Unit.  The building exterior got a complete overhaul with new primer, paint, and new signs, including the metal roof overhang, doors, barricades, and window panes.  The parking lot also was improved with new asphalt.  Pizza and drinks were provided to the youth and staff who rolled up their sleeves in this joint team-building event.  All of Circuit 5’s efforts and workmanship will show on the screening unit building and will be a source of pride for youth, staff and the community, for many years to come. Thank you to everyone who participated in making a difference!




valentines day at c17Circuit 17 planned a week-long celebration for Valentine’s day. Each day had themed activities for staff to participate in including pink/red shirt days, Sweets and Treats, and notes of appreciation.









Justice the Therapy Dog Visits Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center

justice visits bay detentionJustice went to Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) this month and immediately began working and making friends with the youth. On his first day he attended passive recreation, a mental health group, medical, and searched out those youth who needed some extra love.

He ran to a code and immediately went to the youth who was upset and began to kiss him. He diffused the situation in minutes and the youth was then able to smile and return to the group.






fsu football players vsiting leon detentionSeveral FSU football players recently visited Leon Detention and spoke with a group of youth. Some of the players expressed interest in mentoring the youth and requested to return to the center to visit again.








judge lynn tepper with quilt donationsThe honorable Judge Lynn Tepper (pictured center), stopped by Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center (PRJDC) to speak with youth last week and brought more of her sewing group’s handmade quilts for the young ladies at Pasco. The young ladies make up their beds with the quilts and are then allowed to take them home.





fsd with homemade cupcakesAlso, at Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center (PRJDC), James Vansycoc and his kitchen staff created beautiful homemade cupcakes for the center’s youth to enjoy on Valentine's Day.













nfl player NealAlachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center (ARJDC) had a visit from retired NFL, AFL & CFL player Jeff Neal who played pro ball for the Houston Oilers. Mr. Neal travels with the program PROSHARE and visits juvenile detention centers, county jails, and work camps to talk to the residents about his career in the NFL and sharing the gospel and its message of hope.  Mr. Neal talked with the youth for about an hour sharing the gospel and answering questions from the youth about his NFL career and offering hope for the youth after they leave DJJ.



alachua valentines treatsAlachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center (ARJDC) A Shift recently held a Valentine’s Day celebration for their staff. The celebration was organized by Corporal Sandra Griffin and Corporal Jennifer Wilson-Jones who not only decorated for the event but also planned the menu. The A shift staff were asked to bring a dish that was assigned to them which consisted of hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, rotel dip, chips and deserts. Staff also invited the Circuit 8 screeners as well as Chief Christopher Massey . Thank you, Cpl. Griffin and Cpl. Wilson-Jones, for your efforts.


st lucie youth with valentines day shirtsSt. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) also held a Valentine’s Day party. The youth had an awesome time, dancing, singing, rapping and showing off their talent.  Food, drinks, cake and other goodies were also provided for the youth.  Detention staff had a good time with the youth and some of the level three youth decorated Valentines T-shirts to wear to the event.





community alliance volunteersCommunity Alliance for ORJDC sponsored a Valentine’s Day party during the weekly Level 3 Honors Dinner.  Volunteers, Tammy Druley (Right) and Diane Paterson (Left), served chicken wings, chips, strawberries and Valentine’s Day punch, while students decorated Emoji cookies and participated in Valentine’s themed Mad Libs. The Community Alliance also provided Valentine’s Day candy bags for all of the students at Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center.








orange visitor from iron workersBobby Corley, president, training director and apprentice coordinator from Iron Workers Local Union 808, spoke with Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (ORJDC) students about the earn while you learn Iron Workers Apprenticeship Training program, the multiple career sectors as an Iron Worker, benefits of earning nationally recognized certifications and being an Iron Workers Union member.  The students were engaged and asked Mr. Corley some great questions.



kula for karma volunteersOrange Detention would like to thank Haley Hunt and Coach Brad Ash from Rollins College in Winter Park for volunteering and speaking with all of the youth at Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (ORJDC). Coach Ash brought some inspiring speeches and motivation to the youth and Haley Hunt brought cupcakes, cookies and candy for the youth as it was Valentine’s Day.




southwest haircut volunteersVolunteer Luis Pagan and Lieutenant Laura Ortiz from Southwest Detention Center have set up a schedule for the level III youth to receive haircuts for displaying positive behaviors as a reward and part of the behavior management system.  Luis Pagan is a licensed barber for over six years and brings in his supplies to offer his services.  The youth love the reward and look forward to getting pampered while at detention.  This is just one of the special rewards that are being offered to the youth for following the rules that helps promotes the health and well-being of the youth by providing an environment that fosters social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.







Oak Grove Youth Participate in 4-H Day at the Capitol

oak grove at capitolLast week, members of the Oak Grove Academy, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by Rite of Passage, 4-H Club participated in the largest 4-H Day at the Capitol in Florida’s history. Around 1,000 youth, volunteers, family members, faculty, and staff were in attendance creating a sea of green in Tallahassee. Students toured the Capitol buildings (both old and new), met with their legislators, learned about the government process, and participated in a mock bill passing. The students were also treated to a private tour of the Tallahassee Automotive Museum and Florida State University as well as the FSU stadium. The mission going into the day was to grow their citizenship skills, but they came back with much more. Each student came back with their own story filled with multiple “firsts” and genuinely feeling excited about all that they had experienced. 


pasco toiletries collectionLast week, Steadfast Mentoring, assisted Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, with putting together 300 toiletry bags for women in Guatemala; these bags will be delivered during a mission trip in July. Steadfast Mentoring and Central Pasco Girls Academy have partnered with One Ball One Village for many years, providing clean water systems and donations such as bags that go to Haiti, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. Hundreds of lives are impacted.

Deborah Sternett of Steadfast Mentoring fondly referred to as “Ms. Deb” by the girls, reflects on the impact that these projects have on youth morale: “When the girls get to do a lot of service projects and volunteer in the community, the whole facility changes. It’s so cool to watch the girls work so hard as a team to help others in need. No drama. No issues.”




okeechobee cupcakes“Times Up”, echoed through Okeechobee Girls Academy’s, a non-secure program for girls, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, café to alert the girls that they had to walk away from their master creations. The girls who earned their weekly incentive decorated cupcakes to show their creative side; this incentive allowed the girls to express their creative side with each other. Some of the girls challenged each other while others attempted to duplicate staff cupcakes. All the young ladies were able to think outside of the box and express themselves. It was not an easy task for the judges to place the different creations ranging from magical unicorn dragon, beach theme, rainbow splash, and more.



valentine's day at residential hqOn Valentine’s Day, Residential Services HQ showed their staff appreciation by hosting a breakfast.  Breakfast items included red berries, strawberry pancakes and other heart shaped foods!  This breakfast was a time of fellowship and an opportunity to support staff.  It is evident that the staff put their heart into the work they do. Thank you to everyone who helped make this event full of love!



northeast director receiving award for teamDJJ Residential Regional Director Billy Starke held a meeting with the Northeast Region facility administrators. Mr. Kenneth Owens, facility administrator at Redwood Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, attended this meeting. During the meeting, Mr. Owens accepted an award, on behalf of his staff for utilizing verbal interventions with youth throughout the quarter.  No physical interventions were used during that time.  Mr. Owens and his team have been working hard and it shows! Congratulations to the Redwood Youth Academy team!




browards graduatesAt Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, it is always a proud day when there are graduating youth to celebrate. Broward Youth Treatment Center must congratulate two of the youth for graduating with their high school diplomas. These two youth worked very hard and maintained their focus to be able to achieve their goals in graduating. The youth’s parents were elated to see their children improving even in the program. Broward Youth Treatment Center explained to all the youth that no matter where your journey may lead you it solely depends on what you make out of your situation.



john long with staffJohn Long, who is program director with the US Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), and a member of the Community Advisory Board for Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, which is operated by Sequel, spoke with the staff this month about awareness and recognizing victims of human trafficking.  Mr. Long operates the only juvenile male safe house for human trafficking victims in the nation.  He provided a wealth of knowledge and understanding on how to identify potential victims of human trafficking, as well as steps towards intervention for victims.  Columbus Youth Academy staff appreciate this information to improve services provided to our youth!



book youth are reading at okeechobeeThrough the continuing collaboration between Okeechobee Girls Academy's Lead Educator, Ms. Hope Sheppard and the South Regional DJJ Education Coordinator Peter Keelan, the Local Author's Project recently occurred. This project which will bring a local author to this program on a monthly basis and will allow the writers to offer inspiration as well as an explanation of the methodologies they used to create their individual works. The inaugural event featured Ms. Mosezella Williams who has just finished her first book entitled “Nola Sky.” The various topics that Ms. Williams touched upon included: dedication, responsibility and discipline. One of the highlights of her presentation was her statement "Everyone has a story, write yours, no matter what it is".





displays of african american contributionsStudents of Walton Academy for Growth and Changes are reflecting upon U.S. history viewed through a lens of African American contributions and pride.  The students created exhibits highlighting the accomplishments, struggles, and legacies of African American inventors, entrepreneurs, world leaders, writers, astronauts, entertainers, and activists who have shaped the world today.

 This activity corresponds with Black History Month, which traces its roots to 1926 when the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) sponsored a week-long celebration of achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.  The ASNLH chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  The week-long event was highly successful and inspired communities across the US to hold similar events, a tradition which the students of Walton Academy have continued.