Thousands Like Me: The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Juvenile Life Without Parole

Thousands Like Me: The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Juvenile Life Without Parole
Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
Xavier McElrath-Bey
January 29, 2016

On January 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court gave hope to thousands of individuals when they declared that Miller v Alabama is retroactively effective—meaning that life without parole for children can apply in only the rarest of cases. For the first time they found themselves facing similar odds as I once did.

Within moments, social media was flooded with hope, appreciation, thankfulness, and relief from families who had barely allowed themselves to dream of such a day.

This @SCOTUS ruling is a reminder to protect all children & provide an environment to become their best selves. http://bit.ly/1P21tge

The next night, my organization, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth held an impromptu conference call with many family members of young people serving to life without parole and other extreme sentences. Along with the hope and optimism came many unanswered questions: “How soon will my loved one be resentenced? Will she have a parole hearing?”  

What we do know is that there is now hope, an opportunity for some to recognize their humanity, their ability to change and their potential to become someone positive in society.

We know that thousands of young people can imagine a second chance in life like the one I was given.

Twenty five years ago, at the age of 15, I was in a small holding area at the Cook County adult criminal court waiting for the outcome of a plea deal conference between my public defender, a state’s attorney and my judge.

Although I was 13 at the time of my arrest in a gang-related murder, my case had been transferred over to the adult criminal court. My codefendant, who was 14 at the time of the offence, had just received 40 years in prison for his involvement in the crime. He had one prior conviction; I had 19 arrest and 7 convictions in my juvenile arrest history. I was certain that I would receive more time than my codefendant.

I remember Mrs. Herschella Conyers, my public defender, coming back to my holding area in tears with an offer of 25 years—which, under the old law, meant that I would have a chance at freedom after serving half the time. The truth is, it hurt her to see me go to prison. But at least she knew I would be free someday; that I wouldn’t grow old in the system and remain void of the hope for freedom

Because I had an advocate in the courtroom, who both recognized that I was a child and believed in my capacity for positive change, I was given an opportunity to be held accountable for the harm I caused and also earn another chance at life.

As a result of that chance, I have matured, changed, and fully accepted responsibility for my actions. I spend each day working in memory of the victim in my case.

Today I am a national spokesperson and youth justice advocate with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. I travel the nation to speak with heads of national organization, legislators, judges, attorneys, juvenile justice practitioners, and other stakeholders in juvenile justice.

I am also the coordinator of a first of its kind national network of youth advocates who were formerly incarcerated as youth, the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN). ICAN is a racially diverse network of men and women from 16 states who were once deemed as the worst of the worst when they were sentenced for homicide related offences in their childhood. But today they stand as living examples of positive change, as strong youth advocates, and as the reason why we say to the world that “no child is born bad.”  

Facing a Future

So far 2016 is off to a good start for those of us who care about youth justice. Not only do we have the Montgomery decision, but we also have President Obama’s order ending solitary confinement for youth in federal prisons, and the possibility that Congress may reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)—the main federal law that protects young people in state systems.

Our justices have reaffirmed that children are different and we have a duty as a society to treat them as such. It is a step in the right direction toward recognizing what recent science tells us: that children’s brains are not fully formed, and that there is great potential for children to grow in maturity and experience transformative remorse after making mistakes. All children have the capacity for positive change.

This ruling is a reminder that it is incumbent on all of us to protect the integrity of all children and to provide safe, loving, and nurturing environments where they can live, thrive, and become their best selves. We must never throw them away forever, even when they make horrible decisions and mistakes.

After all, no child is born bad. All children deserve a chance for positive change. For those charged as adults who stand deserving of another opportunity, there is hope.

Listen to powerful stories from young advocates part of ICAN as they speak before the Nevada legislature. 


Xavier McElrath-Bey is youth justice advocate at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

 

 

This post is part of the JJDPA Matters blog, a project of the Act4JJ Campaign with help from SparkAction. 

jjdpa

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, is up for reauthorization. As legislative changes are being made to bring this law up-to-date, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.

 

 
Share this SparkAction Link: click here to shorten
copy http://sparkaction.org/content/supreme-courts-ruling-juvenile
28 Comments
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

The things are very clear in your website for giving us right information at right time thanks for share with us.
paypal money adder

May 3 at 07:07pm

Web to visit, and the design is also very creative.
Manfaat Pepaya untuk Anak

December 12 at 11:25pm

Be careful with the tilted bed position, because that would result in tingling wake-up time.
Obat Sering Kesemutan Saat Bangun Tidur

October 2 at 11:21pm

O God, please return again the keywords I all to number 1 in google.
Kesemutan Terus-menerus

October 1 at 04:44am

thank you present information that is very useful for you, and themes that you use today is very nice and interesting to see and I also have to learn from you.

gejala dan penyebab maag kronis

September 29 at 10:51pm
September 29 at 03:50am

Murder cases in Indonesia, which until now has not been completed.
Jessica Wongso dipenjara

September 28 at 02:45am

Everybody gets high sometimes, you know. What else can we do when we're feeling low?
Obat Tipes
Obat Sakit Pinggang
Penyubur Pria
Obat Herbal Kanker Hati
Chitosan Capsule

September 27 at 03:57am

wow, the theme you are using is very interesting and nice views and the information you present is very helpful. thank you
Obat herbal alami qnc jelly gamat

September 24 at 12:02am

Well done author, you shared your mind, greatly written and knowldge based. Thank you so much
Click here

September 23 at 07:24am

Steady information and indeed extraordinary page glad to visit each other in the yard as good as this I found your site on google

Obat Herbal Penyakit Herpes Zoster Dan Genital
Obat Penyakit Albino Menambah Imun Sistem Kekebalan
Obat Tradisional Asma

September 20 at 09:46pm

the information you present is very helpful and gave me the motivation and your website look attractive views, thanks

Obat Maag Kronis Herbal
Obat Herbal Magg Akut

September 19 at 08:58pm

The information you present is very helpful, and the look of your website attractive to look at. thank you

Pengobatan biri-Biri Secara Alami
Cara Mengobati Kekurangan Trombosit

September 19 at 03:50am

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.
list of emoticons

September 16 at 09:28am
August 12 at 04:40am

This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!.

- okay google
- emoticons
- lenny face
- five nights at freddy's

June 30 at 03:34am

I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work
Grosir Kasur Busa Grosir Payung Promosi Murah Jual Besi Baja CNP Murah Jual Genset Murah Malang Parfum Cinta Choirose Original

June 20 at 12:01am
May 22 at 10:19pm

I could not resist commenting. Very well written! clash pros

April 27 at 09:02pm

This is a topic which is close to my heart... Many thanks! Exactly where are your contact details though? followers team

April 27 at 08:24pm

that is a major step! regards enjoy the status and beautiful status

April 22 at 08:19am

Thanks, you guys that is a great explanation. keep up the good work in your granite blog.
agario ,
happy wheels ,
car games ,
pacman ,
plants vs zombies ,
solitaire ,

March 25 at 09:40pm

Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it! - FNAF World

March 14 at 11:27pm

Nice to know. Check KSRTC Buses Time Table to not miss any bus ever.

February 9 at 11:16pm

Different viewpoint over subject! The detailed explanation is so much referencing and based on the unique concept.
Deadpool Costume

February 1 at 06:18am

connect

receive our updates

Spark Tweets