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Bill would allow for the possibility for parole for juveniles serving life



“My name is Mario Monteiro. I’m a juvenile lifer serving a mandatory consecutive double life sentence.”

Those words were read to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday by 17 year old Anastasia Pattison, Monteiro’s cousin. Pattison continued:

“Over 17 and a half years ago, at the age of 17, I made a regrettable decision that resulted in the death of Rom Peov. Although it was not my intent to cause a loss of life, nor could my 17 year old self comprehend the ramifications of my decisions, I however take full responsibility for my actions and will forever be remorseful and sorry. The reality is that there is no amount of apology or deeds that can atone for my actions.”

Pattison choked back tears as she read about the efforts her cousin has made in prison to educate and rehabilitate himself. Monteiro wants to use his life story as a platform to “discourage other 16 and 17 year old girls and boys from making the same bad choices I’ve made.”

House Bill 5333, introduced by Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) seeks to provide the opportunity for parole to juveniles sentenced to life in prison. The act “would provide that prisoners who committed offenses prior to age 18 and were sentenced as adults would be eligible for parole after completing 15 years of their sentence. This act would not lengthen their parole eligibility should the prisoner be eligible for parole earlier than 15 years.”

Over thirty people crowded the hearing room to support the bill.

“I’ve heard from many juvenile persons who are now incarcerated,” said Ranglin-Vassell. “I have read their stories… I believe people can change. People should be given the opportunity to prove to the rest of us… that they do possess the capacity to be compassionate and to be kind as they get older.”

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The legislation is supported by Black and Pink Providence, “an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and ‘free world’ allies who support each other.” Several members of the organization read testimonies from juvenile lifers, attempting to demonstrate that the children we threw away as teenagers are not the adults we currently incarcerate.

Black and Pink Providence volunteer Trina Powers read the testimony of Mario Montiero’s aunt, Dee Jenson.

Testimony from the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth:

MJ Robinson read testimony on behalf of Roberta Richman, a former warden at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI):

Jacqueline Pattison is Mario Montiero’s aunt. She described his early life. After his parents both died when he was nine, Monteiro and his brothers were left in the care of a friend of his father. Monteiro was abused, used to sell drugs and eventually fell in with a gang, before his crime, arrest for murder, and conviction.

“A little bit about Mario today,” said Pattison. “He is now 35 years old. He’s extremely intelligent, an avid reader. He’s completed his GED. He continues to take classes and is very close to getting his associate’s degree.”

Pattison brought a picture of Mario Montiero to show the committee.

Steve Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU expressed support for the bill:

As did I:

Jessica Gonzalez is the youngest person tried as an adult for murder in Rhode Island. “I was given a life sentence,” said Gonzalez. “And I am here before you. I have a normal life. I was given that opportunity that this bill will give other people like me.”

Justice Gaines is the Queer Justice Coordinator at the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM). “For me this bill is very important because I think of who I was at 14 years old. I think of the things I did. I think of the things I’ve done to people. I wasn’t necessarily always the nicest person. There were times I succumbed to peer pressure. There are many times I might have done things that are shameful or cruel. And I hope things I did would not warrant a life sentence, but I also hope that if I did do something that warranted a life sentence, who I am now would be who I would be judged on, and not on who I was 10 or 15 years ago.”

“I want to echo what everyone has said here tonight,” said David Veliz, “about understanding where a young person is at a certain age and the mistakes that they do shouldn’t define them for the rest of their life.”

If this bill were to pass, “one of the men who would be eligible for parole is a former student of mine,” said Mike King, assistant professor of criminal justice at Bridgewater State University. “Mario Montiero was a student I taught in a course at the ACI… He’s extremely intelligent. He thinks and writes at a graduate level… He exudes quiet leadership throughout the classroom…”

Arya Serenity was recently paroled. Her life was not too dissimilar from the juvenile lifers being talked about in the hearing. “Though I didn’t a commit a murder,” said Serenity, “I wasn’t too far behind from doing that.”

“It was these men [juvenile lifers] that helped turn my life around while I was inside, which allowed the Parole Board to give me the opportunity to be out here.”

Serenity read the testimony of Joao Neves, who has been incarcerate since the age of 16.

Randall Rose pointed out that no one before the committee testified against the bill.

Servio Gomez read testimony on behalf of Marvin Rubio, who is serving a life sentence for a murder he committed at the age of 15.

Javier Perez read the testimony of Stephanie Rubio, the sister of Marvin Rubio.

Zena Neves testified for her brother, who has been incarcerated since he was 16 years old.

Michele Paliotta is a social worker in private practice. She provided valuable science about the development of the human brain. “All of us humans do not develop our frontal lobes fully until we are 25 years old,” said Paliotta.

Please feel free to contact me about names I may have inadvertantly misspelled.

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.