- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - First- and second-degree murderers would have to serve at least half of their sentence before being eligible for parole in Rhode Island under legislation endorsed by the state Senate Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, of Coventry, says too many convicted murderers are getting out of prison early. He cites the example of Alfred Brissette, who was released last year after serving 13 years of a 35-year sentence for killing Jeanette Descoteaux, a Woonsocket woman he and an accomplice picked at random.

Raptakis said he personally believes convicted murderers shouldn’t be eligible for early release.

“At the very least, they should serve no less than half of their term,” he said. “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 sentence they receive”

The proposal wouldn’t affect offenders already serving a sentence for murder but would only apply to those convicted going forward.

The same legislation passed the Senate last year but did not get a vote in the House. A vote on the measure in the House has not been scheduled.

Another bill pending in the state’s General Assembly would require convicted murderers to register with local police when they are released from prison. The registry would be similar to the existing sex offender registry.

The Senate also passed legislation that would require nominees for the state’s parole board to be confirmed by the state Senate. Currently, the governor appoints members to the board without legislative oversight.

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