A Republican congressman introduced a bill to end life-without-parole and defacto life sentences for children in the federal criminal justice system.

The bill, known as HR 6011, was introduced by congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), according to an opinion piece published on September 16 in The Hill by Marc Levin (vice president of criminal justice policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and its Right on Crime initiative) and Jody Kent Lavy (executive director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth).

“Should it pass, HR 6011 would ensure that children sentenced in the federal system would have the opportunity to petition a judge to review their sentence after they have served 20 years in prison,” the article said.

“The (petitioners) would then be afforded counsel at each of their review hearings—a maximum of three—where the judge would consider, among other factors, their demonstrated maturity, rehabilitation, and fitness to re-enter society.

“In other words, this bill does not guarantee release for anyone but would ensure that children prosecuted and convicted of serious crimes in the federal system are afforded an opportunity to demonstrate whether they are deserving of a second chance.”

In the last five years, conservative states like North Dakota, Utah and Arkansas have banned life-without-parole for children, according to the article.

“While children must be held accountable for their actions, every parent knows that children are not the same as adults. Their understanding of risk and consequences are limited and they often have more difficulty resisting pressure from peers and adults,” the article said.

“Every parent also knows that children have a unique capacity for positive growth and change.”

Other co-sponsors of the bill are Karen Bass (D- Calif.), Tony Cardenas (D- Calif.) and Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas).

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