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RI bill would keep convicted murderers in prison for longer

The bill wouldn't impose harsher sentences, but it would require convicted murderers to serve more of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.

After two murders in Providence within 24 hours, a bill is being reconsidered in the Rhode Island Senate that would keep convicted murderers in prison for longer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted the bill down Tuesday night, but as of Wednesday, Sen. Leonidas Raptakis said the bill was being tweaked and reworded.

The bill wouldn't impose harsher sentences, but it would require convicted murderers to serve more of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.

Raptakis called it "truth in sentencing."

The bill is a combination of two bills that have passed the Senate in the last couple of years.

One part is for convicted murderers who get a numeric sentence.

They would have to serve at least half of their prison sentence - instead of the current one-third - before they're eligible for parole or probation.

"You want to ruin families, you want to murder an individual, then you're going to have to pay the consequence," Raptakis said.

The other part of the bill is for life sentences.

Right now, if someone is sentenced to life with parole, he or she must serve 20 years before becoming eligible for parole. This would change it to 30 years.

Carolyn Medeiros of the Alliance for Safe Communities says Rhode Island needs to take murder more seriously.

"What monster does something like this?" Medeiros said, referring to Tuesday night's murder of a 24-year-old woman in Providence.

But, some committee members Tuesday weren't happy with the bill's wording, saying that it wouldn't give judges any leeway.

"We are eroding judicial discretion," Sen. Stephen Archambault said.

According to biographies of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seven of the ten committee members are attorneys themselves.

Raptakis said he thinks with some tweaks, the bill will pass.

"If here's one murder in the capital city, one murder in Rhode Island, it's one murder too many," Raptakis said.

He said the bill will be back before the Judiciary Committee next week.

The companion bill also still needs to make it through the House.

It has faced some opposition from ACLU lawyers, who say extra time in prison costs money.

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