Volusia County Sheriff's Office turning around troubled teens

Volusia sheriff: Ankle monitoring bracelets alone not working

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – When Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was chief of the Daytona Beach Police Department, he said he saw a problem -- and a solution.

"We noticed there was a lot of juvenile crime occurring in Daytona Beach," Chitwood said. "The Department of Juvenile Justice is understaffed and under-financed."

Chitwood said DJJ monitors most of the at-risk juvenile offenders in the state using GPS-based electronic monitoring bracelets. Juveniles are required to adhere to the terms of monitoring and check in at DJJ offices.

Chitwood decided that wasn't enough. He obtained a federal grant to buy his own monitoring bracelets.

"We went to the state attorney, public defender and juvenile judge and said this [the monitoring bracelets] is what we have at our disposal -- we want to catch these kids when they first make their turn down and we didn't wait for them to go into a secure facility," Chitwood said. "We want to stop them now."

So Chitwood turned to his grant writer, Carla Quann, for help.

"I'm not sure why he picked me, other than he looked at me and said you're a mother and a grandmother, and you're compassionate for kids," Quann said. 

Chitwood then promoted Quann to be director of Daytona Beach's Juvenile Services.

Quann almost immediately discovered that troubled children need more than just monitoring.

"I noticed that the kids we were putting on the court orders were unable to read, they had mental health issues," Quann said. "We may have a 15-year-old that's in the seventh grade. He's over age to be in middle school, but why's he in middle school, he's struggling to read with comprehension. So therefore instead of admitting that he needs help, he begins to act out, with behavior issues, committing crimes, but no one's really getting to the root of the problem. I'm trying. One kid at a time."

Quann took an all-encompassing approach. She began providing counseling, tutoring and other services for the juveniles.

"So when a young man or young lady comes before a judge, they do a head-to-toe assessment -- anger management, drugs, schooling, what's going on at home -- and then, as a behavior modification, they put them on the ankle monitor and tell them here's what they need to do to get off: You need to go to tutoring, school every day, drug counseling, anger management, whatever it is," Chitwood said. "And the hope is it turns that kid away from delinquency. In Daytona, we're running about 60 percent of the kids do not re-offend the first year."

Quann is now the Director of Juvenile Services for Volusia County. Chitwood brought her with him when he was elected. 

"She is 1001 percent passionate and committed to helping our youth in our community," Chitwood said about Quann.

Quann has four different cellphones from the different agencies she works with.

 "I'm available 24/7 for any kid, even if they're not on a monitor," Quann said. "I'm here when nobody else is here, I'm here in the middle of the night. And I have kids [that I worked with] six years ago but they'll still call me. I have four cell phones but there's one I will never give away because I know too many kids have that number. And that's a lifeline for some of them."

Quann starts her day around 5:30 a.m. and works regularly until midnight, meeting juveniles where they are -- at school, home, counseling, or even juvenile detention.

"Carla's kids," her colleagues affectionately call the juveniles she mentors. 

Chitwood described Quann as a mother figure.

"We get results in that what you see is kids who've never had 1-on-1 attention other than running with gangs, they now get this focused attention from teachers, counselors and at the end, they cry when they come off the monitor," Chitwood said. "If I can see the success of one child who can go through the system, get off of probation and enroll in junior college and get a job, that's a success. You see a kid that's a D student, you see him getting C's and B's because they have special 1-on-1 attention paid to them that normally doesn't happen."

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