Advocate opposed to life without parole for youths asks legislators to give children a chance


SALT LAKE CITY — Carried by testimony of reform from a juvenile justice advocate who was convicted of murder when he was just 13, legislative committee members unanimously advanced a bill that would prohibit sending youth offenders to prison without a possibility of parole.

Xavier McElrath-Bey, an advocate with the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, told the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that he believes even the most troubled children and teens can change. He did.

Extreme sentencing of children needs to end, advocate says


By the time Xavier McElrath-Bey was 13, he'd been shuttled back and forth between several homes, including that of his mother and stepfather, a foster mother and a group home. He had lived on the streets in his Back of the Yards neighborhood and in abandoned buildings where he felt safest among his fellow gang members.

Redeemed Juveniles Like Me Are Not the Exception


Today is special for me for several reasons.

For starters, I will have the honor of spending much of the day in a symposium at San Quentin State Prison in California. I especially look forward to sharing time with the members of KID C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together), a group of individuals who were sentenced to life without parole when they were children. After years of incarceration, they created their own support group with a mission to organize acts of community service and goodwill.

I was jailed as a child. I know it's possible to reintegrate into society with support


he United States has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that sentences children to life without the possibility of parole. As someone who spent over a decade in prison for my involvement in a gang-related murder when I was 13 but now carries deep remorse, works as a youth sentencing reform advocate, and lives a productive life as a free adult, this issue is something I think about and work on every day.Add News Story here


CHICAGO — Xavier McElrath-Bey drives past the dilapidated houses, liquor stores and vacant lots in his old neighborhood and sees the landmarks of his youth.

Much evidence already supports the observations of Xavier McElrath-Bey, a data gatherer for the study, about the importance of caring adults, peers and communities in helping youths make critical decisions that can affect the rest of their lives.


My childhood traumas of living in poverty, having a mother diagnosed with mental illness, living in fear of an abusive step-father, and being placed in and out of foster care made me ripe for the occasions of impulsive and destructive behavior -- especially gang involvement which gave me the sense of having a new family.

McElrath-Bey’s transformation is so profound it could have been crafted by TV execs as an after-school special. These days, however, success stories like McElrath-Bey’s are nearly impossible.

Interviewer Xavier McElrath-Bey also gains immense satisfaction as a staff member with the Northwestern Project. “I feel good about what we do and the purpose and cause behind our study,” says McElrath-Bey...

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