Wansley Walters of Miami to lead state juvenile justice office
A Miami woman known for innovative reform methods has been chosen to head the state's
Department of Juvenile Justice.
BY HANNAH SAMPSON
Wansley Walters was a headstrong kid, full of sass and ready for a fight.
Which might explain how she ended up Friday as Gov.-elect Rick Scott's choice to take charge of the Florida
Department of Juvenile Justice.
``As a child, I was in trouble every day of my life and I never understood how it happened,'' said Walters, 57, head of
the Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department. ``I see so much of that in juvenile justice that I feel great passion for
these kids who find themselves in these situations.''
Walters, who lives in Miami Shores but will relocate to Tallahassee, will be the first woman to lead the department.
In a statement, Scott called Walters ``one of the country's leading juvenile justice reformers'' and lauded her record of
lowering arrests, detention and recidivism among youths.
Scott said Walters' successes include reducing Miami-Dade's juvenile arrests by 51 percent, re-arrests by 80 percent
and juvenile detention 66 percent in the past 10 years while saving the county $33 million every year.
``She's probably the most qualified person in the entire state to lead the Department of Juvenile Justice,'' said
Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez. ``If she can make some of those innovative practices that we've tried in
Miami work throughout the state, I think that bodes well for all of us.''
Walters spearheaded the effort in to open a Juvenile Assessment Center in 1997, where underage offenders are
processed and provided services.
``She was a real force to reckon with,'' recalled Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, recalling
Walters' drive to open the center and efforts to secure grant money.
Under Walters, the center developed a civil citation program that deals with first-time juvenile offenders by diverting
them to counseling services and doesn't land them in handcuffs or leave them with a record.
She has also paid special attention to the youngest offenders, those under the age of 12 who need extra attention
Recently, her department also started a program that keeps track of misdemeanor offenders through a bracelet with
GPS rather than putting them in a detention center.
``The vast majority of these children are not serious criminals,'' Walters said. ``And many of them have issues in their
lives that we have found in Miami that if you address them as soon as you find out they're at risk, or after they've
gotten in trouble, you literally can keep them from going deeper into the system.''
Walters helmed Scott's juvenile justice transition team, which issued a 203-page report that suggested many of the
reforms already tested in Miami. The team pushed for statewide civil citations for misdemeanor offenders; using a
GPS bracelet for monitoring misdemeanor offenders rather than placing them in residential programs and
encouraging and developing Juvenile Assessment Centers throughout the state.
``Wansley is one of the nation's most prominent juvenile justice experts,'' Scott said in his announcement, ``and I am
excited to bring her experience and passion for juvenile justice reform to our state government.''
Walters, who is married with a grown daughter, told The Miami Herald Friday that she intends to bring reforms that
have been successful in Miami to a larger stage.
``The system has sort of developed with the best of intentions. But it in many cases is not doing these kids any
good,'' she said. ``What we have to do is just apply a little common sense. If we all sort of collaborate like we've done
in Miami, we have seen incredible results.''
Walters will replace Frank Peterman, who became secretary in 2008 and resigned earlier this month. He had come
under fire for taking taxpayer-funded trips between Tallahassee and his St. Petersburg home.
Scott's appointment of Walters earned praise from those working in the criminal justice system as well as outside
groups like Florida TaxWatch. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said Friday that she couldn't think of
anyone better to run the department. ``I think that she changed the face of juvenile justice in South Florida by putting
an emphasis on where it needs to be: keeping children out of the juvenile justice system and providing services to
them and their families,'' Lederman said.
She added: ``I'm just thrilled today. It's a happy new year.''
Miami Herald staff writer Carol Marbin Miller and the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this
Rick Scott is the 45th Governor of the great State of Florida. Rick
campaigned on creating jobs and turning Florida’s economy around.
Born in Bloomington, Illinois and raised in Kansas City, Missouri,
Richard Scott is considered one of America’s foremost entrepreneurs.
The son of a truck driver and JC Penney clerk, Rick is known as an
innovator in business, health care, and politics, and has developed a
reputation in the health care industry for providing affordable, high
quality services through a patient-centric approach to cost and care.
Rick is the founder of two health care providers, Columbia Hospital
Corporation and Solantic Corporation, which builds and operates
urgent care facilities throughout Florida. Rick also started
Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, an organization founded to defend
free market principles in health care that focused successfully on
defeating President Obama’s government-run public option plan.
Rick has been married to his high school sweetheart, Ann, for 39
years. They have two wonderful daughters, Jordan and Allison.
Meet the Lt. Governor
Jennifer Carroll is Florida’s 18th Lieutenant Governor. She was a
state legislator for over seven years, a small business owner,
former Executive Director of Florida Department of Veterans’
Affairs and a Navy veteran. Carroll is an example of the American
Dream come true.
She was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad West Indies, emigrated to
the United States as a young child and served her adopted
nation honorably and with distinction. Carroll enlisted in the
United States Navy in 1979 rising from the ranks of an enlisted jet
mechanic to retire as a Lieutenant Commander Aviation
Maintenance Officer after 20 years. During her time in the Navy
she was awarded numerous awards that include: Navy “E” Good
Conduct Ribbon, Meritorious Service Medal, two Navy
Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals, two Sea
Service Ribbons, National Defense Service Medal, two Coast
Guard Special Operation Ribbons, and an Expert Pistol Medal.
Carroll graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in
Political Science and received her M.B.A. from St. Leo University.
Carroll moved to Florida in 1986 and since living in the state
started a business, 3N. & J.C. Corp.
She ran for the Florida House of Representatives in 2003 and after winning she became the first African American
female Republican elected in the Florida Legislature’s history. As a legislator, she was appointed Deputy Majority
Leader from 2003-2004 and served as Majority Whip from 2004-2006. She Chaired the Finance Committee from
2006-2008 and Chaired the Economic and Development from 2008-2010. She was awarded the Florida Chamber of
Commerce Honor Roll consecutively since 2004, Faith and Family Award from the Christian Coalition of Florida
Committee, 2005 & 2008, Florida Veterans Service Officers Association, Legislator of the year 2009 and Federated
Retail Association Representative of the Year 2010.
Carroll shares Rick Scott’s vision for the state of Florida and his conservative values. She believes in smaller
government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, and personal freedom. Carroll is married to Nolan Carroll of Miami
and they have three children, Nolan II, Nyckie and Necho.
Here are the people that shake the world.
I believe that Governor Scott, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll & DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters will bring the former
darkness that was the abusive youth prisons that have stagnated amid ignorance and incompassionate care, kicking
and screaming into the bright light of a new day. This will not happen overnight, but bold moves are already taking
place to repair the obvious, as was the closing of The Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Squandering millions on
antiquated systems that can be better spent elsewhere is only common sense. I believe better, more friendly
counseling centers and outreach programs can do more good than simply leaving Florida's wayward youth to lives of
disparity behind bars. Without hope life is meaningless: Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road,
but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. ~Lin Yutang