Xavier McElrath-Bey is a national spokesperson that serves as the Youth Justice Advocate with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth: a national collaboration and clearinghouse that coordinates, develops and supports efforts to implement age-appropriate alternatives to the extreme sentencing of America’s youth—with a focus to abolish “juvenile life without parole”. Xavier is also a co-founder and coordinator of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN), which is a national network of formerly incarcerated youth who seek to humanize the justice system for all children.
When Xavier was 13 years old he was arrested, charged and later convicted to serve a 25 year sentence in prison for his involvement in a gang related first degree murder. After 13 years in prison he came out with a remorseful heart, a bachelor degree in Social Science from Roosevelt University and a mission to advocate for poor, disadvantaged and at-risk youth.
Soon after his release he earned a Master of Arts in Roosevelt University’s Counseling and Human Services Program. Prior to his current position with CFSY he worked for Ceasefire as an outreach worker, as a street intervention specialist for Catholic Charities, as the Juvenile Justice Diversion Program Coordinator for Alternatives Inc., and as a Clinical Research Interviewer for Northwestern University’s Juvenile Project—a longitudinal study which assessed the mental health needs and outcomes of formerly incarcerated youth.
Much of Xavier’s advocacy efforts has been highlighted by various media sources and news outlets, such as New York Times, Chicago Tribune, PBS NewsHour, The Steve Wilkos Show, Huffington Post, MPR, Al Jazeera America, and many others. Xavier also delivered a powerful TEDx Talk at Northwestern University, titled “No Child is Born Bad”, in which he shared about his childhood experiences of abuse, neglect, incarceration and the unique capacity for change that exists within all children—demonstrating that children should never be defined by their worse act.