SB 333/HB 5144
What this would do
SB 333 and HB 5144 would grant offenders who are incarcerated for crimes committed as juveniles parole eligibility after completing 15 years of incarceration.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of the general or public laws to the contrary,
29 including, but not limited to, §§ 13-8-9 and 13-8-10, but specifically excluding any sentence
30 received under chapter 19.2 of title 12, and unless a prisoner is entitled to earlier eligibility for
31 parole pursuant to any other provision of law, a prisoner sentenced as an adult for any offense or
32 offenses committed prior to the prisoner’s eighteenth birthday, shall be eligible for parole review
33 and a parole permit may be issued after the prisoner has served no fewer than fifteen (15) years
Bold text added.
SB 333-Senate Judiciary
Senate Judiciary Committee members
|Senator Cynthia A. Coyne||Chairfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Stephen R. Archambault||Vice Chairemail@example.com|
|Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis||Secretaryfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator John P. Burke||Memberemail@example.com|
|Senator Dawn Euer||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Frank S. Lombardi||Memberemail@example.com|
|Senator Ana B. Quezada||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Gordon E. Rogers||Memberemail@example.com|
HB 5144-House Judiciary Committee
|Representative Robert E. Craven, Sr.||Chairfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Carol Hagan McEntee||First Vice Chairemail@example.com|
|Representative Jason Knight||Second Vice Chairfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Edith H. Ajello||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative Jose F. Batista||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative David A. Bennett||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative Justine A. Caldwell||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Julie A. Casimiro||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative Arthur J. Corvese||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Leonela Felix||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative John J. Lombardi||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Thomas E. Noret||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative David J. Place||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Representative Sherry Roberts||Memberemail@example.com|
|Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson||Memberfirstname.lastname@example.org|
What you can do
Email members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Email members of the House Judiciary Committee
Email the Rhode Island Senate
An email list can be found here
Or copy from this list of emails
Email the Rhode Island House
Letter to Rhode Island Representatives
Dear Rhode Island Legislature,
We are the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers. We represent nearly 400 victims around the country. We are emailing to express our strong opposition to SB 333, which would grant parole eligibility to juvenile criminals after only 15 years.
Allowing parole after 15 years or less may be appropriate in many cases involving juvenile offenders. However, there remain some crimes committed by juveniles that warrant longer sentences than 15 years. NOVJM asks that, at the very least, this legislation be amended to allow more appropriate sentences for these kinds of exceedingly heinous crimes.
One example of an extraordinarily horrific juvenile crime is the 1975 kidnapping and murder of Jason Foreman in South Kingstown. The details read like a horror novel. Michael Woodmansee, 16, kidnapped five-year-old Jason and stabbed him to death. The horror doesn’t end there. According to Woodmansee’s journal, he ate part of Jason’s flesh. He also cleaned Jason’s bones and stored them on his dresser, telling his father that they were theatrical props. Woodmansee was apprehended in 1982 after he tried to murder another boy–one can only imagine the horror this victim would have been subjected to, had he not escaped. Woodmansee was released on good behavior after 28 years. He was then committed to a psychiatric hospital.
More examples of heinous juvenile crimes come out of Warwick. In 1987, Craig Price, then 13, invaded the home of Rebecca Spencer, 27. He proceeded to stab her to death, inflicting 58 stab wounds on the mother of two. In 1989, Price committed a similar crime with 3x the number of victims. He invaded the home shared by Joan Heaton, 39, and her two daughters–Jennifer Heaton, 10, and Melissa Heaton, eight. He murdered the mother and children, stabbing each victim dozens of times. Pursuant to RI law at the time, Price was tried in juvenile court and was sentenced to incarceration until his 21st birthday-the maximum sentence available. He earned additional prison time after committing more violent crimes. Price is still in prison today.
We tell you these stories to emphasize this point–some juveniles commit evil crimes with a complete understanding of the results and with the desire to bring about those results. 15 years is an insultingly light sentence for such terrifying crimes.
NOVJM will also bring attention to the impact SB 333 would have on victims. Many victims whose family members are horrifically murdered oppose the killers’ release–and this is completely understandable. If your five-year-old son or grandson was kidnapped, stabbed to death, and his body partially eaten, would you want the murderer to be released? You would likely feel how John Foreman, Jason’s father, felt after he learned that Woodmansee would be released on good behavior–angry and distraught. The parole process forces victims like John to re-live the acts of horror. Nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks torment victims as they endure this process. To inflict this kind of pain on innocent victims is nothing short of cruel.
Advocates of SB 333 will argue that juveniles should be treated with leniency due to the “hallmarks of youth” which include impulsivity, immaturity, recklessness, and failure to appreciate risks. But these traits are not involved in all juvenile crimes. For example, Woodmansee’s murder of Jason was planned and criminally sophisticated. Woodmansee completely understood the wrongfulness of stabbing and partially eating Jason. To reduce the sentence of a man like him based on the characteristics of most other people in his age group is absurd.
And finally, NOVJM would like to bring to your attention the danger of SB 333. It is no secret that recidivism rates remain high, including in Rhode Island. A May 2018 U.S. Department of Justice report on state prisoner recidivism followed a sample of over 400,000 prisoners released by 30 states in 2005. Nearly 45% of the released offenders were re-arrested within one year of release. About 68% were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years. According to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 50%. It would be asinine to believe that mandating parole hearings for even the most depraved and dangerous killers after only a decade and a half would be in the interests of public safety. Read about statistics regarding juvenile criminals recidivism here.
SB 333, while perhaps well-intentioned, would result in massive injustice, significant suffering for victims, and the endangerment of society. NOVJM asks that it not be made law. At the very least, SB 333 should be amended to allow for more appropriate sentences for the Michael Woodmansees and Craig Prices of the world.
If you would like to discuss ways to improve this legislation please email us at email@example.com.