Push to keep convicted murderers in prison longer

After several gruesome murders, some advocates are proposing changes to Rhode Island laws that would keep convicted murderers in prison for longer.

"Not only did [these families] lose someone that they loved that was murdered in a heinous fashion, but the body was defiled," Carolyn Medeiros, executive director of the Alliance for Safe Communities, said. "I don't know how you move on from there."

If Medeiros has her way, no family will go through that ever again. She's pushing to make convicted murderers serve more time before they're up for parole.

She described Rhode Island as a "throwaway" state, referring to the way some murder victims' bodies were dismembered, set on fire or thrown away like trash.

At a House judiciary hearing Tuesday, Medeiros and others testified before a committee, asking lawmakers to consider making convicted murderers serve half their sentences before they're eligible for parole.

Currently, Medeiros said, murderers are only serving about one third of their sentences.

"That's just not right," Medeiros said, "especially when we start to see this level of depravity."

The most recent example Medeiros gave was the murder of Aretha Beard, whose body was found in Roger Williams Park in November.

At the time, Beard's sister said she couldn't understand why anyone would do that to her sister.

"Just to toss her - that was someone's mother, that was my baby sister," Shelia Calderon said.

In most cases, though, longer sentences mean several additional years in prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, told NBC 10 each year comes at a cost.

"It's an extra $40,000 [each year] to the state of Rhode island to pay for that individual's incarceration," Hillary Davis, a policy associate at the RI ACLU, said. "If we're talking about a situation where we've seen a pattern where letting people out early is creating a problem, then that's a different story. But at this point in time, we just don't have that."

The arguments inside the Statehouse can be complicated. For victims' families, reality is simpler.

"[I'm] totally heartbroken and I have no answers," Calderon told NBC 10 in November.

The bill's supporters say they hope this will become law this year.

Opponents like the ACLU are hoping to block the bill and other similar sentencing bills.

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