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Secretary's Message

March 10, 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



DJJ Releases Resource Guide on School Threats



school threats graphicAs part of our It’s No Joke awareness campaign, DJJ has released a resource guide with tools and tips about discussing school threats with youth and responsible social media use. The It’s No Joke campaign is aimed at addressing school threats made by students and that making threats, even if it is in jest, can have serious consequences.

View the guide and other information about the It’s No Joke campaign on our website: http://bit.ly/2T1n9oJ.






Staff Announcements and Kudos

daryl wolf and justiceCongratulations to Captain Daryl Wolf with the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who is celebrating 15 years with DJJ. Without knowing anyone in Florida, Captain Daryl Wolf moved here 15 years ago to be closer to her elderly parents. In addition to being captain at the Miami RJDC, she is the owner and primary care taker for her “best buddy,” Justice. Captain Wolf has been working with Justice for over seven years. Under the guidance of Captain Wolf, Justice has provided support to 12 different detention facilities. Justice has provided youth with love and emotional support, helped youth overcome their fear of dogs, attended treatment team meetings, responded to codes, and quickly diffused situations. Captain Wolf enjoys working for DJJ and in the Office of Detention Services because she believes that the leadership staff cares about their employees, supports their staff, provides innovative care to youth, and that our team is among the best in the nation.





miami gold shirtsCongratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) II Jenise Benjamin, Sergeant Leslie Ballard, Captain Cheryl Wallace, and Sergeant Cloe Burks who recently joined the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center 30-year club. These ladies serve as an example of hard work and dedication at Miami Detention RJDC.






rachel riveraCongratulations to Facility Assistant Rachel Rivera at Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center for being named Central Region Employee of the Quarter. Ms. Rivera is a valuable asset to the detention center and is appreciated by the entire team for her hard work and dedication!












terrance lopez receiving awardDetention Services South Region Chief Vincent Vurro recently presented Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor (JDOS) Terrance Lopez from the Monroe RJDC with the South Region Employee of the Month award. It is said that JDOS Lopez is the glue that holds MRJDC together. He is not only a supervisor, but a field training coordinator, PAR instructor, and transportation coordinator.  He has been with the DJJ for 14 years, and we would like to congratulate him on this worthy recognition!









Congratulations also to Juvenile Detention Officers Robert Rollins, Irijah Kanoyton , Dimpho Jeter and Marc Reighard all from the Palm Beach RJDC for being recognized as South Region Employees of the Month.



secretary and staff awarding charlie robinsonWe would like to recognize and congratulate retired Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Charlie Robinson, Jr. for his dedication to Florida’s youth and families during his over 47 years of service with DJJ. Mr. Robinson was a recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Florida Public Safety Institute’s Public Safety Hall of Fame for his years of service and work in the state of Florida.  He was recognized at the Public Safety Hall of Fame banquet held in Tallahassee which celebrated public safety and the achievements of public safety personnel.






c9 awardsCongratulations to Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Dequisah Darville and Operations Management Consultant I (OMC I) Marc Thompson on receiving the Circuit 9 Service Recognition Awards for the month of February.  

JPO Darville has continuously demonstrated a great work ethic, attitude and professional demeanor. She is always willing to aid her coworkers and the circuit team in any way she can.  

Our support and facility staff play a huge role in our agency’s daily operations. OMC I Marc Thompson works hard on a daily basis to ensure the Circuit 9 facilities, automobiles, and the property grounds in Orange and Osceola counties are always operational.

Thank you JPO Dequisah Darville and OMC I Marc Thompson for your hard work, diligence and willingness to go above and beyond for the youth and families we serve.



Prevention Staff Participate in Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board Meetings


cab meeting participantsPrevention staff recently took part in meetings of our circuit advisory boards (CAB). The circuit advisory boards and their members serve as community advisors to DJJ and work closely with Department staff to plan for services that meet the identified needs of juveniles and families within the local community.

The Circuit 2 CAB recently conducted a meeting in Tallahassee and Donnie Read, chair of the Circuit 2 CAB, opened the meeting by thanking Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims for inviting him, Chief Audrey Smith (Circuit 2 CAB member) and the Circuit 4 CAB Chair Vicki Waytowich to serve on a panel at the State Advisory Group (SAG) meeting. Mr. Read said he appreciated the opportunity to provide CAB updates to the SAG membership and that he looked forward to other collaborative opportunities to share with the SAG in the future.

Assistant Secretary Sims updated the CAB members on upcoming Prevention initiatives, including the upcoming DJJ Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony in Tallahassee.



cab meetingPrevention Statewide Community Engagement & Outreach Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady recently attended the Circuit 1 Circuit Advisory Board meeting in Crestview. Verla provided an update to all attendees on DJJ’s initiatives and answered questions. She also informed members of upcoming Prevention meetings, the 2020 Youth Summit, Restoring Hope Training Summit and the Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony.

At the meeting, the group discussed the use of civil citation and developed a plan to bring local agencies and organizations together to work collaboratively on reducing crime in the circuit. CAB members are also planning to host a community conversation in the future.  










Probation Staff Participate in Skyway 10K Race


probation staffMembers of the Circuit 13 team recently participated in the Skyway 10K race. Justice Reform Coordinator Natalie Steiner and Administrative Assistant Maria Matias-Franco completed the 6.2-mile course, which spanned across Pinellas and Manatee counties. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the race were donated to the Armed Forces Families Foundation (AFFF), which works locally with families of deployed soldiers to provide resources and support while their loved ones are away. Since 2018, the Skyway 10K has raised over $1.2 million to support military families.




c13Circuit 13 Probation staff also celebrated Black History Month. Each Friday, there was a trivia question about black history sent out to the entire circuit. The first who responded with the correct answer received a WAWA gift card. Circuit 13 ended Black History Month with a luncheon. Everyone had a great time!






c13 black history programSenior Juvenile Probation Officer Tonya Emsweller along with Juvenile Probation Officers Tearra Berry, Jimmy Close, and Ofelia Dennis from Circuit 13 attended the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office 2020 Black History Month program entitled “Black History: A Legacy of Strength, A Future of Hope.” Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, along with prominent members of the community including the Honorable Judge Daryl Manning, gave inspiring speeches. It was a celebration that was full of food, laughter, dance, and inspirational messages from diverse members of the Hillsborough County community.












c6 black history postersCircuit 6 Probation Celebrated February as Black History Month by recognizing African Americans who have made an impact on their lives, the country, and the world.  Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Takeria Peterson came up with the idea to adorn doors with those who have impacted the way we live today as a team building and morale boosting activity.  JPOS Peterson’s unit, Unit 203, really took this activity to heart and created inspirational demonstrations that were colorful and moving.











c6 tabling eventCircuit 6 Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell recently hosted a resource table at Largo Middle School’s family engagement night. This event provided parents and kids with information on the wide array of community resources available to them. Reform Specialist Conwell was able to speak with several parents and youth about the Department's It’s No Joke Resource Guide on School Threats. 

One sixth grade student was shocked to hear that he could be arrested for making school threats.  Many parents were very appreciative that DJJ took the time to speak to their children about the It’s No Joke awareness campaign.


amikids youth with donated laptopsCoca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC (Coke Florida) recently donated dozens of laptops to AMIkids Volusia and the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, which is operated by AMIkids Space Coast. This donation was part of a statewide effort by Coke Florida to partner with nonprofits working with at-risk youth to supply technology donations to support educational gains.




national job shadow dayYouth from AMIkids Gadsden recently participated in National Job Shadow Day, an annual day where students learn about local businesses. Ja’Nyre Battles shadowed Ronterrius Green of the Greenery Florida and Tuxedo Place.

Other students visited Gadsden Technical Institute, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Aviation Center.












Miami Firefighters Inspire Youth at Miami RJDC

Major Thelon, Major Fance and Miami firefighters.      src=Miami-Dade County and City of Miami firefighters recently visited Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center to speak to the youth. The meeting was arranged through the Miami-Dade County Public Schools to connect the youth with positive role models and to provide a better understanding of the work of our first responders. The kids enjoyed the visit and had plenty of questions for the firefighters.




duval youthThe Duval Regional Detention Center teachers and staff celebrated Black History Month with a pop-up museum featuring the Black Panthers, Maya Angelou, and Mary McCloud Bethune.  During each class for the month of February, the youth learned about various black historians with a “Moment in Black History” segment. The youth also observed various visual arts pieces of influential leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, and Rosa Parks. The youth rotated through the museum as the teachers brought the figures to life, all while they honored and celebrated the achievements of black men and women throughout history.



Alachua Academy Youth Celebrate Mardi Gras

youth and staff in mardi gras masksThe girls at Alachua Academy, a non-secure program operated by Sequel TSI, were joined by the Department of Juvenile Justice Circuit 8 Probation team and the local Public Defender’s Office for a Mardi Gras themed event.  Led by Chief Probation Officer Chris Massey and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Sandi Brannan and their team, the girls made Mardi Gras themed masks. This activity promoted a positive relationship between our agency, our stakeholders, the residential program, and the youth. The girls really appreciate having these events as they allow the girls share and express their individuality. Alachua Academy is grateful for the ongoing support and partnership. 



okeechobee craft projectRecently, the students at Okeechobee Girls Academy participated in a cardboard challenge by creating games of skill found in an arcade. The object of the cardboard challenge is for the students, through use of their critical thinking skills and imagination, to collaborate with each other as they learn and create from a multi instructional approach. The students used their imagination to create the “arcade,” and they enjoyed challenging each other and visitors to a game of foosball. This challenge was made possible through the partnership between the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS)’s Unjammed initiative and Okeechobee Girls Academy Lead Educator Hope Shepard and the program’s Match and Science Teacher Angie Desorro.


dove academy youthDove Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, recently took a field trip to the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum in Dothan, Alabama.  The museum is focused on educating individuals of all ages, races, and creeds on the rich historical contributions of African Americans. The youth received a guided tour and were able to participate in an exploratory science project.  Afterwards, the youth got to enjoy a buffet style lunch at a local restaurant.  A big thanks to Education Director Kristin Jones for heading up this great opportunity.




cypress academy youth of the monthCypress Creek Treatment Center, a secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, celebrates education by having the program educators vote for a Youth of the Month.  In selecting a youth, educators use criteria such as perfect attendance, minimal behavior issues, positive participation, and passing grades.  The young men often come from environments where school is not seen as a benefit for them, and youth V.J. was selected for the month of February.  His reward included being able to spend time away from his dorm socializing with the teachers while eating popcorn and snacks.