Interview: Leaving Violence Behind

Interview: Leaving Violence Behind by Alex Nitkin

To read this article on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website, click here.

Since getting out of prison in 2002 McElrath-Bey has been on a mission to help youth in the area leave the monuments of their own violent lives behind them. Between touring different cities for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and helping gather data for a Feinberg School of Medicine study on street behavior, he volunteers with local teens at the Precious Blood Blood Ministry of Reconciliation here in Back of the Yards.

The sharp about-face in his life attracted documentarian Julia Peterson to begin producing a film chronicling McElrath-Bey’s life and his efforts to reform the criminal justice system for juveniles. Peterson said she hopes the documentary, called Born Bad? will “change people’s attitudes so they can understand stories like Xavier’s, so that kids who make these mistakes won’t continue to be demonized.”

The Chicago Bureau sat with both inside Precious Blood, and we asked McElrath-Bey about the system that landed landed him in prison, and the efforts his organization is making to try and reform it.