PROVIDENCE – The recent parole granted to convicted “thrill killer” Alfred Brissette Jr. of Woonsocket – which shocked the populace and angered law enforcement and correctional officers — is generating proposed legislation to shake up the membership of the state Parole Board and to prevent such early releases in the future.
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday authored by Pawtucket Sen. James Doyle that will require all Parole Board members appointed by the governor to be subject to confirmation by the Senate and to restrict members to three three-year terms. That measure will now go to the full Senate.
Later this week, the same committee will hear a bill by Sen. Leonidas Raptakis of Coventry that would require any prisoner convicted of first or second degree murder to serve at least half of his or her original sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Doyle told the panel he was “appalled” and “disgusted” that the board granted parole to Brissette last June “more than 20 years before his original release date.” The panel briefly reconsidered the decision after it caused a media and public firestorm when it became known late in 2012 after a television news report. The RI Brotherhood of Correctional Officers launched an ad campaign criticizing the Parole Board for the Brissette parole and the release of other prisoners – including Jason Pleau – who went on to kill after they got out of jail. Nonetheless, the board reaffirmed its decision to release Brissette earlier this month.
Brissette and Marc Girard were convicted of killing Jeanette Desouteaux in Burrilville’s George Washington Park in 1999, an act a Superior Court judge called “brutal, barbaric and senseless.”
Court testimony told of how Brissette and Girard lured Descoteaux into the park by offering her cocaine, then bludgeoning her to death with a lug wrench and a shovel. The court determined that the murder was committed simply for the thrill of the kill.
Prosecutors said Brissette and Girard had planned a year and a half earlier to kill and bury a woman at random.
Saying that Brissette was released “after only 13 or so years served on a 35 year sentence,” Doyle added, “I just can not except that the thrill killer was granted parole having not served at least half of his sentence. I was more than appalled; I was, and am, thoroughly disgusted by this.
“Advice and consent (the confirmation process) allows the Senate to exercise its constitutional right and ask the hard questions that need to be asked to ensure that the individuals chosen by the governor are not only (questioned) in respect to their beliefs on incarceration, rehabilitation and public safety, but also reviewed in light that reflects the important responsibilities they are to be given if confirmed,” Doyle told his colleagues. “When you look at the important role this board plays regarding public safety and individual liberties, this is something we should do as soon as we can.”
By limiting the amount of time each Parole Board member can serve, Doyle added, “we are also ensuring the board remains fresh and focused upon its mission to protect the public and parole those individuals who are truly deserving and not a threat to society.”
David Mellon, president of the RI Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, told the committee “there are too many examples – Alfred Brissette is just the tip of the iceberg” of murderers being released on parole after serving a small portion of their sentences.
“We believe this is the first step – between the advice and consent and term limits – to add a little accountability” to the Parole Board.
Outside the hearing, Doyle told The Times, “the people that are on the Parole Board have been there a long time, they are stagnant, they’ve been so comfortable being there, there’s probably a change that needs to happen.”