It has been nearly 20 years since my 3-year-old son, Casson Xavier “Biscuit” Evans, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Denver. Back then, I wanted the three teenagers charged with his death to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Today, I believe it serves no good to sentence a child to die in prison. It doesn’t bring back our lost loved ones and it fails to acknowledge that we are all better than the worst thing we have done. I want to see the young people involved in Casson’s death rehabilitated and, when they are ready, returned to society.

As we observe Victim Rights Awareness Week, I want to share the story of how I came to develop a relationship with the boy — who is now a young man — accused of pulling the trigger in Casson’s death and why I have agreed to take an important role in his life.

It was Dec. 21, 1995. There had been shootings by rival gangs the night before in my niece’s neighborhood in Denver and I had gone by to pick up her child. Casson was sleeping, so I left him and his 6-year-old brother Calvin in the car with two older cousins – one 17 and the other 22. I had been inside only briefly when I heard gunshots. Casson had been shot in the crossfire. He died in my arms.

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By Sharletta Evans April 21, 2015