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July 16, 2010

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 961-6682


(Left to Right) Kalya Hamlett Murray of The Girls’ Initiative, Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral, State Representative Kay Khan, and two young attendees of The Girls’ Initiative Advocacy Day at the MA State House.

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral recently delivered the keynote address during an event organized to support legislation with the goal of fostering gender responsive programming.

Held at the Massachusetts State House as part of "The Girls’ Initiative Advocacy Day," the purpose of the meeting was to shed light on the need for change with respect to policies and regulations as they relate to system involved girls and young women, and to support Bill H3418.

Presented by State Representative Cheryl Coakley–Rivera and supported by The Girls’ Initiative, Bill H3418 – "an act establishing a special commission on gender responsive programming for system–involved girls" – would appoint a special commission to investigate and study methods of instituting gender responsive programming, and make recommendations to the Governor and General Court to improve the effectiveness of services for system–involved girls.

Joined at the event by State Representative Kay Kahn, The Girls’ Initiative Program Director Kalya Hamlett Murray, and Executive Director of Roxbury Youthworks, Inc. Mia Alvarado, Sheriff Cabral spoke about her success in establishing gender specific programming for the women incarcerated at the House of Correction and the need to implement such programming earlier in the lives of girls and young women as a preventative measure against potential imprisonment.

"I know gender responsive programs work," said Sheriff Cabral. "We’ve seen the results with female inmates at the House of Correction. Imagine the preventative effect they would have if they were in place when these women were juveniles. Waiting until we’re spending $42,000 per year to incarcerate them should not be an option."

As Program Director of The Girls’ Initiative, an organization created to examine and mitigate the growing crisis of young women entering into the juvenile justice system, Hamlett Murray was especially appreciative of Sheriff Cabral’s advocacy on behalf of H3418.

"We are so excited to be able to have Sheriff Cabral here," Hamlett Murray said. "I’ve had the chance to hear her speak on the subject of gender responsive programming, which she implemented in her [Nashua Street] Jail [and House of Correction] and I know she really, really gets it. It’s an honor to have her here."

Along with The Girls’ Initiative, Rep. Coakley–Rivera and Rep. Khan, Bill H3418 has been supported in the House of Representatives by Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry; Elizabeth Malia; Martha Walz; William Brownsberger; Gloria Fox; Carl Sciortino, Jr.; Christine Canavan; Alice Wolf; Ellen Story; Willie Mae Allen; and Karen Spilka.

Initiated by the Hyams Foundation in January of 2003, the Girls’ Initiative is a response to the problem of the growing number of girls entering the juvenile justice system. The long–term goal of the initiative is to promote positive outcomes for high risk and/or already system–involved girls and to reduce the rates of involvement and recidivism of girls in the juvenile justice system, particularly for girls of color.

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