Amendments in store of Reagan Tokes Act dealing with criminal sentences

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COLUMBUS – Changes are likely in store for the bill named after murdered Ohio State student Reagan Tokes, a key sponsor in the Senate confirmed to 10 Investigates Tuesday.

The Reagan Tokes Act calls for making sweeping changes to how criminals convicted of violent or serious crimes are sentenced to prison and how they are watched once they’re released.

The proposed changes to the bill, according to Sen. Kevin Bacon, R – District 3, would deal with the indefinite prison sentences, which are covered under SB 201.

The issue arose after Brian Golsby, the man accused of killing Reagan Tokes, was released from prison in November 2016 after serving 6 years for robbery and attempted rape. Golsby was released after serving his time despite the fact he had 52 infractions for acting out behind bars.

Current Ohio law does not allow for additional time to be given to prisoners for poor behavior.

The legislation – which is divided into two Senate bills and one in the House – is still being considered in various committees.

Senate Bill 201 calls for indeterminate sentences that would allow a judge to sentence a criminal convicted of a violent or serious crime to a range of years rather than a finite prison term.

Bacon says they are willing to make changes to the bill. There's discussion right now of allowing a judge to decide if a prisoner should be let out early rather than the state corrections officials, according to Bacon.

"There is some disagreement over whether that should be agency driven or judicial. But right now we are working on an amendment to have judicial review before that could happen,” Sen. Bacon said.

“We don’t have the process finalized but it’s been a good dialogue. What we are doing here is that if someone goes to prison and they are at risk of having to serve more time, then they are more likely to try to reform themselves, they are more likely to behave in prison. It’s another tool for the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to use.”

The legislation, which was filed in response to the death of Reagan Tokes and a series of 10 Investigates reports that highlighted failures within the Ohio parole system, including how the man charged with Tokes’ murder, Brian Golsby, was not closely watched once he was released from prison despite being assigned a GPS ankle monitor.

Only one party rose to speak during Tuesday’s opposition hearing before the Senate Government Oversight committee – the Office of the Ohio Public Defender.

Niki Clum, who has expressed concern about the bill at other legislative hearings, raised similar concerns during Tuesday’s hearing – including that the formula for punishing the prisons in the Reagan Tokes Act may be too harsh and would exacerbate Ohio’s overcrowded prisons.

Bacon said he is optimistic that the bill could be moved out of committee soon, but he was hesitant to name an exact timeline.

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