Peterman New Head of DJJ

St. Petersburg, FL -

As Representative Frank Peterman finishes his final term in the State House, Governor Crist called Friday 'a proud day for Florida.' The governor appointed the Democrat secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

After several local school children's presentations celebrating Black History Month, Crist officially announced the appointment to a crowd of about 200 at the St. Petersburg's Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum.

'It's because of his experience and because of his great heart and his kindness, and the way about this man that I decided he was the best man for the job now,' Crist said.

The department has had its troubles in the past several years, including the closure of boot camps after the death of teenager Martin Lee Anderson in 2006. Peterman said the DJJ needs a culture shift.

'Part of changing the culture is to meet some things face to face and up front,' he said. 'The only way you cure a situation is that you be forthright and you let folks know how you feel about certain issues and where you want the agency to go.'

The new secretary said he plans to follow the advice of the 'Blueprint Commission' report in the coming year--52 recommendations presented by a DJJ-appointed commission to review the department's policies and practices.

Specifically, Peterman named using $2.6 million for gender-specific programming for girls, $2 million dollars to ensure all detention centers are staffed with registered nurses and ensuring juveniles have public defenders beginning with their first hearings.

Peterman also said he plans to follow former secretary Walt McNeil's theme of prevention, by keeping first-time misdemeanor offenders out of the system by giving more authority to local review boards and councils to use community-based punishments, and reviewing schools' uses of the zero-tolerance policy.

The St. Petersburg native will leave his job at a local nonprofit youth organization and his District 55 legislative seat to lead the DJJ. A special election is expected to be held to fill the position.

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