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NEW: Senator-Elect Raptakis To Introduce Stiffer Sentencing Legislation

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

 

Senator-Elect Lou Raptakis (D-33) announced today that he is looking to toughen Rhode Island's stance on criminal sentencing, and will he re-introduce legislation aimed at increasing the prison time of criminals convicted of first- or second-degree murder or carjacking.

Raptakis said he will also introduce a “truth in sentencing” bill to make sure convicted criminals have to serve at least half of their sentences before receiving parole. A recent decision by the Parole Board to grant an early release to Alfred Brissette, a murderer whose crime was described by the State Supreme Court as a “brutal, barbaric and utterly senseless thrill kill” underlines the need for stricter sentencing guidelines to protect the public, Raptakis said.

At the same time, Raptakis is also calling on Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to take a more active approach in seeking to block Parole Board actions that would allow for the early release from prison of such dangerous criminals.

Brissette parole spurs action

“We need to make sure that the sentences handed out to violent criminals by judges and juries in our state have meaning,” said Raptakis.  “The Parole Board shouldn’t be able to approve a request for parole for someone like Alfred Brissette, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for beating a woman to death with a shovel.  He wasn’t scheduled for release until 2034 and now he’s going to be out on parole next month without having served even half of his prison time.”

As a State Representative, Raptakis successfully pushed for a murder parole bill in 1995 which raised the minimum time served requirement for murders sentenced to life in prison from 15 years to 20 years before being eligible for parole.  As a State Senator, Raptakis won Senate passage of legislation to move that time frame to 30 years, but the measures died in the House of Representatives. 

Brissette received a 60 year sentence, with 35 to serve, for the 1999 slaying of Jeanette Descoteaux.  The Parole Board did not receive any requests to deny parole from the victim’s family or from the Attorney General’s office and claimed that they were “impressed by the inmate’s program participation and his documented plan for change” noting that “the board was impressed with the presentation during the hearing.”

After receiving inquiries about his office’s failure to contact the Parole Board on the Brissette hearing, a spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office said that the office does not write the Parole Board unless their comments will offer a different perspective other than what is contained in the case file.

“If we have a parole board that is going to be swayed by a supposedly heartwarming presentation by a violent criminal while ignoring the fact he beat a terrified woman to death with a shovel, I think it’s time for the Attorney General Kilmartin to weigh in on more of these cases and use his office to call attention to such nonsense,” said Raptakis.  “I’m going to introduce my legislation and hope that in the meantime, the Attorney General’s office will play a more proactive role in recognizing that his office may sometimes need to speak for the victims of violent crime before the Parole Board.”

 

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