The Rhode Island Senate has approved legislation to require individuals convicted of murder to spend more time behind bars before being eligible for parole.
Introduced by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), the bill, 2015-S 0132A, would require individuals convicted of first- or second-degree murder who have not been sentenced to a life term to serve at least 50 percent of a sentence prior to being eligible for parole.
"Individuals who commit first- or second-degree murder should be expected to serve at least the majority of their sentences, although I firmly believe they should be required to complete the full sentence for these kinds of heinous acts,” said Senator Raptakis. “At the very least, they should have to serve no less than half of the sentence, which has not always been the case.”
Identical legislation introduced by Senator Raptakis during the 2014 legislative session was passed by the Senate but not acted upon when it was sent to the House of Representatives. Senator Raptakis said he hopes the bill again approved by the Senate “will receive a full and fair hearing this time in the other chamber.”
“This is about truth in sentencing and requiring individuals convicted of a horrible crime to serve a significant amount of time in jail,” he said. “The public expects that those convicted of such a violent crime as murder will pay an appropriate price by serving a significant amount of time behind bars.”
Like the legislation approved last year, Senator Raptakis said this year’s legislation calls for changes to several parole guidelines. In addition to calling for first- and second-degree murderers not sentenced to life to serve 50 percent of their prison sentence, the bill will propose that individuals convicted of first- or second-degree murder who are sentenced to life will not be eligible for parole until serving at least 25 years of the life sentence. Similarly, a person sentenced to consecutive would be required to serve at least 25 years of each sentence before being eligible for parole.
The legislation also provided that no person sentenced to life for a crime other than first- or second-degree murder would be eligible for parole until serving at least 20 years of the sentence.
Finally, individuals sentenced to life for first- or second-degree murder and also convicted of escaping or attempting to escape from prison will not be considered for parole until serving at least 35 years in prison.
“How can we talk about being tough on crime when murderers know they will be getting out of prison after serving only a relatively short amount of time, and much less than the sentences they receive? Why pretend we are giving out harsh sentences when we all know, and when the murderers know, they will be getting out in much less time than they have been sentenced to serve?” he asked.
The Raptakis legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Among the co-sponsors are Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence).
A companion House bill, 2015-H 5158, was introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick,Coventry, Warwick) and is before the House Committee on Judiciary.