If you have yet to hear the story of Sara Kruzan, this is your sign to look her up. Sara has a harrowing story with a bittersweet ending. She was groomed by her abuser to be trafficked at the tender age of 11. Forced to live a life of prostitution until she was 16-years-old, Sara killed her trafficker to escape her abuse. She was then sentenced as an adult to life in prison without parole.
After 20 years behind bars, Sara’s sentence was commuted and reduced by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and she has since dedicated her life to advocating for minors convicted of crimes against their abusers.
I had the honor of meeting Sara and was inspired to introduce H.R. 2858, “Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act,” which would reform juvenile sentencing. My bill will prevent children caught in situations like Sara’s from being sentenced to life without parole. The bill would also give judges discretion when sentencing minors by reducing the mandatory minimum sentence by up to 35%.
Under current law, sexually abused children who commit violent crimes against their abuser often receive a harsh sentence, furthering their trauma. Children should not grow up in prison. They must have a chance to grow, change, and reenter society. I am grateful to be joined with bipartisan support from colleagues in California and Maryland. Justice is not a partisan issue— it is an American value. I look forward to the bill making its way through the legislative process and becoming law.
Bruce Westerman is a U.S. Congressman representing the 4th District of Arkansas. He is a Republican.