Newly appointed secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice Frank Peterman Jr., explained his action plan to many students during his visit to FAMU on Thursday. Peterman spoke to a class from the University’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.
Peterman has had an active role within Florida’s juvenile justice system for many years and was appointed secretary Feb. 8.
Peterman’s early activities include founding Blacks Against Dangerous Drugs. BADD is a mentorship program that works through the Pinellas County’s Urban League and is geared toward young black males. This program, among many others, has been a highlight during Peterman’s public career.
Peterman served as a State of Florida Representative for District 55 before taking his current position. His district included areas within Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties, according to the state’s House of Representatives Web site.
Until Peterman has completed “tying up loose ends,” Jennifer Parker will work in interim. Parker has worked with the Department of Juvenile Justice for 15 years.
At FAMU, Peterman spoke to a classroom filled with students about issues such as the Martin Lee Anderson court case and the Jena Six case. Peterman also answered questions from the audience.
One student, for clarification, asked whether a law is being created that would open the criminal history of juveniles in Florida.
“They are trying to create a law that would allow them to go into your past,” Peterman said. “We don’t think that’s right.”
Peterman said if this law were passed many individuals could be prohibited from getting jobs within the state, therefore creating more crime.
“We’re fighting this,” he said.
He reiterated by stating that if the bill had been passed when he was a child he may have had some issues as well. “By the grace of God I stayed out of the system by just that much,” he said.
Peterman told the class of his plans for DJJ to collaborate with FAMU to conduct further research concerning black youth within Florida. He held his hopes high when contemplating the research capabilities that would be possible if DJJ partnered with FAMU.
“The biggest effect would be we would have a wonderful dedicated base of research here on this campus that will tie their research to the Minority Over Representation issue,” Peterman said.
The secretary’s campus visit elated students and faculty alike.
“I just felt it was important for him to come down on the people’s level, to let us know what he was about,” said Marhia Howell, 20, a sophomore biology student from Miami.
Some say they are confident about Peterman being DJJ secretary.
“He seems like he has a set goal for the juvenile justice program,” said Dontae Martin, 20, a junior criminal justice student from Tallahassee.
Aside from the issues discussed in Peterman’s visit, Martin said he would like to see interaction between those who have had problems with the juvenile justice system and FAMU.
“I believe they should try to set up a buddy system and bring them around other college students so that they can see you don’t have to live that hood life,” Martin said.
Faculty members saw Peterman’s visit as an opportunity for students to communicate with those who made decisions concerning the state.
“It allows the students to be able to see the real power brokers in the system,” faculty member Yousif Dokurugu said. “He talked about research he wanted FAMU to partner in. This gives our students opportunities not only with internships but also working in the system.”