'Lost Boys' may get help with life skills
Youths ousted from polygamous groups 'go wild' without limits
WASHINGTON, Washington County They are teenage boys who have been forced out of the Fundamentalist LDS Church in Hildale and Colorado City. Advocates say they have documented hundreds of cases of the so-called "Lost Boys," who have been booted from the polygamous church for committing "sins" such as kissing a girl or wearing shirtsleeves that are too short.

Now the "sins" some of them are committing include drug possession, public intoxication and assault.

"They get kicked out and they just go wild," said Elaine Tyler of The Hope Organization, an advocacy group for people who are leaving or have been cast out of polygamy. "They don't have decisionmaking skills and they're just making dumb choices."

Now, the group is urging southern Utah prosecutors to help the "Lost Boys" who are getting caught up in the criminal justice system by offering alternatives to jail or prison when they're sentenced.

"We're totally receptive to this idea," Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said. "We're seeking to implement it. I'd like to see them gain the sort of skills that can help them succeed with jobs, education and in their personal lives."

The Deseret Morning News has obtained a list of names culled from the Purgatory Jail and court records of people that advocates consider to be "Lost Boys." The ones in the adult system are no older than 21. Police have said the youngest they've referred to juvenile court is 14.

"They're pretty good kids, they just have no supervision," said Hurricane Police Lt. Shayne Copeland. Officers have dealt with teenagers from the polygamous border towns, citing them numerous times last year with minor consumption of alcohol, tobacco violations and loud parties.

Utah's attorney general has said the "Lost Boys" have been kicked out of Hildale and Colorado City simply because of the need for older men to have women as plural wives, making the young men unwanted excess males. The boys who get kicked out of the polygamist communities often find themselves on the streets with no home, little money and no future. It's far different from the rigid structure of life within the FLDS Church, Tyler said.

"I think all of a sudden they've got so much temptation that they've never had before and they've got freedom," she said, adding that some of the kids have started using drugs or alcohol. Others commit more serious crimes.

The Hope Organization recently asked the Washington County Attorney to intervene in the "Lost Boys" criminal cases, by pushing judges to enroll the young men in the Job Corps instead of having them sent to jail. Job Corps is a government-administered program that helps young people learn trades and gain an education.

"What we're going to seek to do is ask for sentencing to include life skills classes, counseling, GED, having full-time employment or going to school full time, getting enrolled in Job Corps," Belnap said. "Those are the kinds of things we want included for anyone emerging from a closed society."

With thousands of cases prosecuted every year, Belnap said his office would consider pushing for the alternative sentences on a case-by-case basis, relying on The Hope Organization to notify him of any "Lost Boys" who get arrested. Tyler acknowledged that some of the more serious crimes would have to result in a jail sentence.

"But some of these kids that are walking the fence, if they picked up for alcohol consumption, Job Corps may be a good option for them," she said.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. will sign legislation May 2 that will allow the "Lost Boys" to emancipate themselves at 16 years of age. HB30 was co-sponsored by Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem. It would allow minors to obtain legal financial standing if they petition a juvenile court judge and show they are capable of living independently under the circumstances they are in.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com
Originally published Tuesday, April 25, 2006