SOUTH KINGTOWN â€“ For a second time, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear a bill to revise the good time law, prohibiting people for committing certain crimes from earning time off for good behavior.
Last week Senator Susan Sosnowski (Dist. 37 â€“ South Kingstown, New Shoreham) introduced a bill on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin that would make it impossible for anyone serving one or multiple terms for murder, kidnapping of a minor, first degree sexual assault, or first or second degree child molestation from being eligible for a reduced sentence by earning good time credits.
The bill was sparked last year after convicted child killer Michael Woodmansee was set to be released from prison last August, after only serving 28 years of a 40 year prison sentence for earning good time credits. Woodmansee was convicted in 1982 of killing South Kingstownâ€™s Jason Foreman, a five year old, on his way home from playing in the neighborhood in 1972. It wasnâ€™t until seven years later when Woodmansee attempted to strangle a second boy, Dale Sherman, that police discovered Foremanâ€™s shellacked bones in Woodmanseeâ€™s bedroom. After his release in the fall, Woodmansee agreed to be transferred to Eleanor Slater Hospital, which falls under the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
"I know this is a very emotional issue for a lot of people," Sosnowski said. "This is something that's very close to my heart. When one of my constituents loses an innocent child and his killer is set to be released years before paying his full dues to society, I know I must do my duty as a lawmaker in this state and stand up for what's right. This bill will ensure that criminals who are convicted of violent crimes are rightly punished, taking into consideration the severity of their actions."
The news of Woodmanseeâ€™s earlier release last year sparked outrage in the community, prompting local legislators to craft bills revising the good time law. This yearâ€™s bill is the second attempt by Sosnowski to submit a bill to change the law on behalf of the attorney general. Last yearâ€™s bill included the same prohibitions for certain crimes, but also included a community supervision portion that would allow the state to take back good time credits if a former convict violates parole. Similarly, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown) submitted an equivalent bill to the House last year. Last yearâ€™s bill passed the senate floor, but due to the price tag attached to keeping prisoners in jail, $12.2 million, itâ€™s house counterpart was pulled from the floor. Instead, the General Assembly passed a bill for the Criminal Justice Oversight Committee (CJOC) to review the good time law and provide a recommendation. That recommendation was set for this month, but the CJOC requested a deadline extension of four months to gather more in depth information, which the General Assembly approved during the second week of session this year.
If the bill becomes law, the act would take effect on July 1, 2012 and would only apply to prisoners' good time credits awarded after that date.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill Thursday night. Check out Wednesday's paper for full story on the committee meeting last night.