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July 13, 2007

CONTACT: Steve Tompkins
(617) 961-6650


Recently, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral visited the Chez Vous Roller–Skating Rink in Dorchester to speak with local teens about youth violence and answer questions about the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law and her position as the Commonwealth’s first African–American female sheriff.

The address was part of an ongoing youth anti–violence program run in collaboration with several state and city agencies, including the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD). The program, held every–other Wednesday night, invites teens from neighboring streets – a handful of whom belong to several of the city’s street gangs – to the rink to skate free–of–charge with the only required payment being that of respect for the multitude of guests and for one–another.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 500 teens, Sheriff Cabral delivered a message of encouragement sprinkled with a healthy dose of caution for youth at–risk.

“What you do today will affect you tomorrow,” said Sheriff Cabral. “You’ll be judged in the future by your past actions and there are severe consequences. You have to be conscious about which direction you take. Your record will follow you through school, your jobs, and later on, though life.”

“You don’t want to come to stay at the House of Correction or the Nashua Street Jail,” Sheriff Cabral continued. “It’s very serious in there. I’m speaking to you now so that you can make intelligent choices that will lead you down the right path so that you’ll never have to be there. I’m here because I want to continue to engage you and encourage you to take the right steps for a positive future.”

At least one teen in attendance who received the message loud and clear was a young woman named Asia.

“I like that she talked about being the first Black female sheriff,” Asia said. “It was good for kids to see someone like her because it shows kids that you can be successful. I think her message was good for kids to hear because she’s trying to keep us from making mistakes that we’ll regret later on.”

Another member of the collaboration, Reverend Sean Harrison of Youth In Crisis Ministries spoke of the profound effect that speakers like Sheriff Cabral and others could have on the lives of youths.

“The Sheriff, like many of our previous speakers, had a powerful message for the kids tonight,” said Reverend Harrison. “I think the impact is made by others sharing stories about their own struggles and how they were able to overcome them to be the people that they are today. I also think that speaking about the CORI and how it will follow you throughout your life is important for these kids to hear.”

As one of the group of organizers for the program, SCSD Coordinator of External Affairs Sandy Zamor Calixte stated that one of the ultimate signs of success for the program would be the level of comfort and safety that teens feel when they visit the rink.

“This is an important piece, because kids need to have a place to come where they feel safe,” Zamore Calixte said. “They can come here and hang out with each other without worrying about anything breaking out. It’s also good because we have the opportunity here to interact with the kids in a positive way and break some of the stereotypes they may have about us and show them that we’re here for them.”

Sergeant Christina Chaney of the SCSD, also a volunteer chaperone for the program, agreed.

“This night is about getting the kids off the streets and giving them something to do,” Sgt. Chaney said. “We’re about trying to reduce youth violence and a lot of these kids, if they didn’t have this, they’d be out in the streets possibly getting into trouble.”

While measuring the actual success of the program may be hard, given the multiplicity of objectives held by many of its facilitators, the final word on the subject might best be given by those for whom it was created to serve.

“This is a good time where we can all get together, like a family,” said Ashley, one member of a trio of young women who successfully completed the SCSD’s Jail Brake program in the past.

“I think it’s important to show kids that adults care about them,” another member of the trio named Angela said of the Sheriff’s address. “You don’t always feel that when people try to talk to you.”

Chiming in with her friends’ previous statements, Laporcha added, “She wants us to be safe and stay out of jail. She doesn’t just want to lock people up, she wants us to do the right thing.”

Members of the collaboration include the Boston Police Department, the MBTA, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, the Black Ministerial Alliance, City of Boston, among several others.

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