Lawmakers ‘disturbed’ after 10 Investigates report on parole officers assigned to parking lot

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COLUMBUS (WBNS) – State lawmakers said they were “surprised” and “disturbed” by the findings of a 10 Investigates special report that found parole officers were assigned to work in a parking lot of an empty building.

10 Investigates chronicled the activities of parole officers for more than three weeks in October and found they were routinely assigned to work in the parking lot of 4545 Fisher Road, a large warehouse building that is slated to become the new headquarters for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

Sources told 10 Investigates that the department had informed ex-prisoners that starting around October 1 they were supposed to report to the Fisher Road location to begin meeting with their parole officers.

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There was just one problem – the building was empty.

Construction delays and plumbing issues have delayed the move of DRC from its current headquarters on Broad Street in Columbus to 4545 Fisher Road.

But the department still decided to assign parole officers to work in the parking lot just in case someone showed up.

“Why do you have people sitting and wasting their time out there when it should be used better to watch these people in the streets and make sure the public is safe,” said State Rep. Jim Hughes, R – Columbus.

The move was surprising to some within the department and supporters of the parole officers who point to numbers showing the parole officers are plagued by overwhelming caseloads. Currently, there are 455 parole officers assigned to cover approximately 37,000 parolees under post-release supervision. Internal DRC audits reviewed by 10 Investigates also showed that parole officers have struggled to sometimes have the required amount of monthly contacts with their parolees.

“If that happened I do find that disturbing. We can't operate like that as a state.
And we will be reaching out to try to find out what happened,” State Senator Kevin Bacon, R – Westerville told 10 Investigates Tuesday.

An email message left Tuesday seeking comment from a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction was not returned.
However, in response to our questions, JoEllen Smith twice sent 10 Investigates the same exact statement:

“For reasons of public safety and out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made to have a Parole Officer on site in order to verify that an offender reported to the Adult Parole Authority as instructed, or on the contrary, to identify any offenders who may have failed to report as instructed.”

And later: “DRC has nothing further to add regarding this matter.”

Over the past 18 months, 10 Investigates has chronicled the cases of three young women who authorities say were killed by violent ex-felons who were under the watch of the Adult Parole Authority.

One of those included Reagan Tokes, an Ohio State student whose 2017 kidnapping, rape and murder came at the hands of Brian Golsby, a convicted sex offender who had been released from prison three months prior to Tokes’ death. 10 Investigates examined prison and parole records

“Yes, it is surprising to me because these numbers right here. If we have learned anything, in terms of the tragedy that started with Reagan Tokes and subsequent cases you talked about is -- we need to make sure our parole officers are watching these people much more closely,” said Rep. Hughes.

Anthony Caldwell, a spokesman for SEIU 1999, the union that represents the parole officers, said: “Our parole officers are out there every day monitoring violent felons in our community, and the last thing they want to do is sit in a car burning a tank of gas telling parolees that the building isn't open yet.”

The state has been granted a partial occupancy permit for the building located at 4545 Fisher Road which it is renting through a shared services agreement with the Department of Youth Services.