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Secretary's Message

March 17, 2020

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is an ever changing situation that has impacted us on a global scale. Here at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, we want to assure you that we always prioritize the wellbeing of youth in our custody and the staff who care for them, and we are taking all necessary precautions. Visitation at our juvenile detention centers and residential commitment programs has been restricted to essential personnel, and we’ve developed a screening tool for parents and guardians who are visiting youth at these programs. We’ve also increased our environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols for all facilities serving DJJ youth based on Center for Disease Control criteria.

As the impacts of COVID-19 change, so must our agency, and we appreciate your patience as we work through this trying situation together as a team. As always, the best source of information on COVID-19 in Florida is the Florida Department of Health’s website at www.floridahealth.gov/covid-19.  Thank you for your help as we work to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.



Secretary Simone Marstiller


Staff Announcements and Kudos

latrice barronKudos to Circuit 5 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Latrice Barron for her act of professionalism during a tense interaction with a youth and family. JPO Barron effectively used verbal commands taught in the PAR module to de-escalate the situation. Her quick response and effective verbal cues helped the youth and family separate, calm down and come back together, calmly, to finish the intake interview and leave the office without any further incident.









c13 award ceremonyCircuit 13 recently hosted their monthly award ceremony to honor their staff. Years of service awards were presented along with recognizing staff that provide circuit training. Supervisors also recognized specific staff members who have gone above and beyond in their daily duties.





Residential Youth Participate in Triathlon

residential youth at triathalonFour youth, Assistant Facility Administrator Damian Dixon, and Recreational Therapist Tori Palma from Bartow Youth Academy, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, recently participated in a community outing focused on community service and restorative justice.  The “Yoga TriathlOM” event was a 5K race, yoga, and meditation activity in Lakeland.  Bartow Youth Academy boys and staff helped build and tear down the event, passed out water during the 5k start and finish lines, helped move signage and vendor tents, cleaned up, and had a good time. The youth went to lunch at Mellow Mushroom after the event.  The boys did an amazing job and received many compliments from people at the event.


miami firefighter lets youth try on uniformIn partnership with the Broward County School Board and the Urban League of Broward County, Pompano Youth Treatment Center, operated by Sequel TSI, was treated to a presentation from City of Miami Firefighter Keith Holmes.  Mr. Holmes presented on his background and career as a firefighter, and he taught the youth about fire safety.  The youth were very attentive during the presentation and had many questions for Mr. Holmes.  Mr. Holmes was even gracious enough to let the youth try on his fire fighters’ uniform (pictured right). Overall, the youth gained a lot of insight into firefighting and now some are even aspiring to become firefighters. 











arts4all program at daytona jrfTwelve youth from Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility (DJRF), operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, participated in their first class of the Spring Arts4All session. Art is a valuable tool for discovering, exploring and interpreting reality.  Exposure to the arts can help youth develop many positive skills and attributes they can use when they transition back to their homes and communities. These skills include things such as persistence, collaboration, creative thinking, problem-solving, and motivation. The youth and staff at DJRF are grateful for the opportunity to participate. This program will help build the youths’ self-awareness and provide the self-esteem necessary to make better decisions and overcome life challenges.


attendees of yoi trainingYouth Opportunity Investments (YOI) President Jim Hill and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Brian Neupaver hosted a face-to-face day-long training on transition services for Youth Opportunity Investment programs across the state.  The training served as a kick-off to enhance transition services and the role of the transition services manager (TSM) for the youth in their care within their guiding vision of Investing in Excellence™, the umbrella under which everything integrates. In attendance were all facility administrators, case management directors, and TSMs from all YOI programs. The goal of this training was to reset and clarify the expectations of how transition begins and what that process and level of engagement looks like over the course of the youth’s stay all the way through their transition back into the community.  Mr. Hill and Mr. Neupaver introduced several new key tools and resources, and revitalized others, including a deeper dive into how YOI can further develop youths’ skills, provide community resources to enhance each youth’s transition portfolio, provide a desktop guide for a TSM’s internal expectations, and develop an on-going internal support network for all TSMs. The level of engagement, dialogue, and brainstorming that occurred throughout the day was incredible. The training was a huge success and participants walked away energized and excited to enhance their roles regarding transition services!




Prevention Staff Attend Boyz to Kings Festival

Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims recently attended the 8th Annual “Getcha Dukes on Flag Football Tournament & Peace, Love & Joy Community Festival”, sponsored by Boyz to Kings in Madison, FL.

Mr. David Dukes was a civil rights icon in Madison County, and he worked hard within his community to see positive change. Boyz to Kings mimics that by encouraging youth and families to ‘Get their Dukes On,’ by getting up and being the change that they desire to see.

The day consisted of a unity walk, a community prayer, fun activities, great food and knowledge. The amazing thing about this event is that some of the former youth who once played in the tournament, have returned to coach teams in it.

Boyz to Kings Inc. is a program run by Merv Mattair of Madison County.  As a former juvenile residential program director for young men, his organization focuses more on prevention than intervention. Boyz to Kings gives young men an opportunity to be around positive men who serve as role models. Boyz to Kings was started 10 years ago as a grassroots organization with only 3 young men. Today, they serve 40 young men and 35 parents. Boyz to Kings meets with their youth several times a week and it's mandatory for the parents to be involved, and they have a 100% monthly parent participation rate.



gaapDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 12 and 20 Sandra Ferguson recently coordinated and conducted a gender-specific Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives (GAAP) Discussion at Just for Girls, Inc., Palmetto in Manatee County.

The session generated positive dialogue regarding friendly, positive communication, community safety of law enforcement officers and youth, making good choices, responsibility, and healthy character.

The GAAP Discussion was held in collaboration with the DJJ Circuit 12 Advisory Board’s Racial and Ethnic Disparities Subcommittee.

Fifty-three people participated in the session including nine youth and law enforcement partners from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and Bradenton Police Department. Kudos to interns, Natalie Monfils and Mana Shiraha from the Bradenton Probation Office, who were a great support to the session.

johnny sanders speaking to youthDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 11, 15, 16, and 17 Johnny Sanders recently participated in a Black History Month Program at Miami Shores Elementary School.

The theme of the program was “A Living Museum.” The production featured students dressed in costumes and props embodying notable African Americans, sharing their contributions and outstanding historical achievements. 

Johnny Sanders served as the Master of Ceremony and gave a brief presentation on the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Office of Prevention.  

The event was held in the school’s courtyard amphitheater. The entire student body, more than 700 students, faculty, staff and parents attended.





Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Provides Safety and Self-Defense Class

self defense instructorsEckerd Connects Project Bridge has recently launched a new series of activities that will allow their young ladies to receive a variety of gender-specific training and development courses specific to their needs. One of the recent activities allowed our youth to join the team at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to participate in a Women’s Safety and Self-Defense class.

Throughout the course, the youth learned how to be aware of their surroundings as well as self-defense tactics for personal protection against potential attackers.









ami youth with guest speaker jose floresAMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale was recently visited by motivational speaker, Jose Flores. He met youth participating in the program’s culinary group at an event in Tamarac and was so excited about the program he had to come out and see it for himself. Mr. Flores is a speaker, corporate consultant, and coach to businesses across the country, and he shared his message of positive focus to reach goals with the youth.




st leo university letter to cpo melissa fullerJuvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Harold Garves and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Kim Myers from Circuit 6 recently provided a presentation at Saint Leo University.  They provided information on the juvenile justice system and insight on the roles of a JPO.  Emphasis was placed on how DJJ strives to rehabilitate youth in the community and how juvenile probation officers utilize community-based resources to support that process. Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Melissa Fuller received a letter from Associate Professor Debra Mims thanking them for their presentation.









pat members in northeasr regionThe Probation Advisory Team (PAT) for Northeast Region Probation recently held their first meeting of 2020. Circuits 4,5,7 & 8 were all represented, and State PAT members were announced: Circuit 4 Staff Assistant Debbie Williams, Circuit 7 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Niki Arnau, and Circuit 8 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Loni Gibson. The accomplishments of the PAT for 2017-2019 were presented and three new goals for the Northeast team were chosen by the four circuits as the priority items they felt would best benefit both youth and staff in 2020. Thank you to the entire team for giving their extra time to be an active part of PAT this year, sharing good ideas, and making strides to improve the services we provide to youth, their families, our communities.




attendees of child protection conferenceCircuit 5 Lake County Probation recently participated in the 2020 Child Protection Conference.  This conference was held at the Father’s House in Leesburg and was an amazing gathering of services that brought awareness, information, and resources to the community.  The day consisted of speakers who discussed topics such as current alcohol, drug, and concealment trends and a framework for understanding poverty. There was a wide array of resource tables for attendees to obtain information on the services provided in Lake County.  Each juvenile probation officer who attended spoke of how successful this conference was and how much knowledge they gained through their participation. 






brunch in circuit 2In recognition and celebration of Circuit 2 Probation staff, an employee appreciation brunch held to honor the team. Circuit 2 appreciates their staff for all of their hard work and dedication to serving the youth, families and communities.








Detention Heroes Spotlight: Corporal Kattrina Walker


kattrina walkerThe Office of Detention Services has many unsung heroes who work tirelessly to provide custody and care for the youth inside our 21 detention centers. We want to highlight our detention staff that go above and beyond in their duties and personify the mission and vision of DJJ. 

Special thanks to Corporal Kattrina Walker for being an amazing and dedicated asset to Detention Services. Corporal Walker has been employed at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) for 22 years and is known for always having a smile and a positive attitude. She is always willing to assist with trainings while working in intake, release, transportation, and court duties as needed. She enjoys working for Detention because she enjoys working with youth and wishes to make a difference in their lives.

Outside of DJJ, she enjoys cooking, dancing with her nieces, reading, playing games on her tablet, and spending time with her family. Thank you for being an essential part of the DJJ team.



pinellasThe Zonta Club of Pinellas County celebrated International Women’s Day by recognizing members of the community who inspire the young women of Pinellas County. International Women’s Day is celebrated March 8th of every year and is a focal point in the movement of women’s rights. Sergeant Gena Clark and Major Reginald T. Allen from the Pinellas RJDC were recognized by the Zonta Club. The Zonta Club also partners with our detention center by working with the young women on self-esteem building and life skills.




Pinellas RJDC has received an additional sponsor to support their Level 3 behavior management meals. Irena Sladojevic, owner of the Little Greek Fresh Grill, has agreed to provide one meal a month to the Level 3 weekly dinner. Level 3 meals are served on Thursday afternoons at Pinellas RJDC. Pinellas RJDC thanks the Little Greek Fresh Grill for their support and community outreach for our youth.













detention services at rbt classRecently, Detention staff attended the second Detention Services Registered Behavior Technician class taught by Adapt and Transform Behavior, LLC. The class was graciously hosted by Major Ell Fance at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center. There was a great deal of information learned and bonds made between those who share the same goal of serving our youth.




staff at day of serviceThe Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Advisory Board recently hosted the Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Day of Service. The project consisted of beautification of the front of the facility. Advisory Board Chairman Elvin Martinez partnered with the Florida Nursery Growers & Landscaping Association and the facility was donated over 60 plants for the project. A special thanks to Southern Garden Solutions for their generous donations to the facility’s beautification project. There were several volunteers and organizations that helped with the project. Major Jason Grice also wants to say a special thank you to BAYS, Safe & Sound, the PACE Center for Girls Hillsborough, Yung Ho Taekwondo, the Circuit 13 Public Defender’s Office, Men of Vision Organization, and Crossover Church for their contributions.  








broward guestsBroward Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently hosted students from Nova Southeastern University who spoke to the youth regarding life skills and better decision making. All youth who participated walked away with feelings of hope about their future and tools to help turn their lives around.






marion youthMarion RJDC celebrated Black History Month with a program for their youth. The youth participated by reading poems and black history facts.  Additionally, Marion County Firefighter Frederick Bowers gave a very inspirational speech to the youth and staff about the challenges he has faced and overcoming obstacles in his life.