Westerman Introduces Youth Sentencing Reform Legislation
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04), along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, introduced legislation Tuesday (June 5) that would eliminate federal sentences of life without the possibility of release for child offenders.
The bill – co-sponsored by Democrats Karen Bass (CA-37), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), and Republican Lynn Jenkins (KS-02) – ensures that a child convicted of a serious crime in federal court is given the opportunity to have the sentence reviewed by a parole board after serving 20 years, demonstrating rehabilitation as one condition of potential release.
At present, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar legislation to ensure children convicted of serious crimes have the opportunity to receive a review by a judge or parole board to determine whether a release is warranted. Arkansas is one of those states. The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that children are constitutionally different from adults and should not be subject to the nation’s harshest punishments.
“This legislation does not guarantee release. Instead, it provides the opportunity for a rehabilitated individual whose crime was committed in his or her youth and who has served a minimum of 20 years to have a sentence reviewed by a judge to determine whether a second chance is merited,” Westerman said. “I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining with me in this effort to provide the opportunity for a second chance for individuals who strayed from the law during adolescence.”