Ohio legislator working on bill to change parole laws after murder of Reagan Tokes

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An Ohio lawmaker is planning to introduce a bill bearing the name of murdered Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes.

The bill would change laws based on system failures that 10 Investigates uncovered in May.

Ohio House Representative Kristen Boggs is planning to introduce the Reagan Tokes Act.

Investigators say on February 8, Brian Golsby kidnapped Tokes as she left work at Bodega in the Short North.

They say he forced her into a car, made her withdraw cash from an ATM, then raped her and shot her. Her body was found the next day at Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City.

Investigators say DNA from a cigarette butt in Reagan's car led them to Golsby and that GPS data from an ankle monitor plotted his location during the attack.

The Reagan Tokes Act would address system failures such as inmates being released from prison regardless of their behavior behind bars. Golsby had a laundry list of infractions while serving time for rape.

Rep. Boggs says there’s no re-entry program for violent offenders transitioning from prison to society.

The law would also put more parole officers on violent offender cases.

Rep. Boggs wants a better system than GPS monitoring for violent parolees.

Rep. Boggs wrote the letter below based on her research:

How is a man, recently released from prison, supervised on parole, and monitored by a GPS tracker allegedly able to commit six violent robberies and then kidnap, rape, and murder an innocent young woman walking to her car?

This is the question that my community and my colleagues have been asking for the last six months, since the gruesome and heinous acts committed against Reagan Tokes on February 8, 2017. The unfortunate answer to this question is that the State has failed in its duty to create and implement common sense policies to keep our neighborhoods safe from the most violent and dangerous criminals being released from prison. Below is an explanation of some of these failures, and hopefully a roadmap of the legislation that I am working on to address these systemic failures.

Failure #1: Ohio’s Truth In Sentencing Laws, which went into effect in 1996, requires the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to release inmates regardless of their behavior while incarcerated. Brian Golsby was released on November 13, 2016. He served six years for armed robbery and rape. While in prison he had over 50 infractions and was transferred to five different institutions. Yet, ODRC was forced to release Golsby despite infractions that indicated he was not rehabilitated and that he may pose a threat to society. No low-level, non-violent offender should continue to be incarcerated for longer than necessary, but an inmate found guilty of committing a violent rape should not be released if his behavior while incarcerated demonstrates that he has continued to be violent and dangerous.

Failure #2: Ohio has no reentry program in place to transition its most violent and dangerous inmates back into society. When Golsby was released from prison, he did not have a home. Although, Ohio contracts with several private companies to house and provide programing for former inmates, these companies can reject any inmate from their program that doesn’t have the right profile. Golsby was rejected because of his violent history. So, in Ohio, low-level inmates, with good records while incarcerated, will have housing and services to support their rehabilitation and assimilation back into society. But, violent and dangerous inmates—rejected for the violence and danger they pose—will be released with no support, no guardrails, and little oversight. At a minimum Ohio should provide the same level of oversight and support it gives to low-level offenders reentering society as it does for the most violent and dangerous felons released in Ohio.

Failure #3: Ohio has abdicated its duty to employ enough parole officers to safely oversee the number of violent and dangerous parolees that are being released from prison. The American Probation and Parole Association recommends that a parole officer should not have more than 20 high/ intensive risk cases. Cleveland employs 91 parole officers and has 1,386 cases that the Adult Parole Authority has classified as “very high/high”. The ratio for parole officer to very high/high parolee is 1:16, which is within appropriate limits. However, Cleveland has an additional 4,655 parolees classified in the moderate to high risk range that it must also distribute among its 91 parole officers. If divided evenly each parole officer would be responsible for supervising 15 very high/ high risk parolees, and then an additional 50 parolees that are high to moderate risk. This caseload size is nearly double the recommended standard set forth by the American Probation and Parole Association. Imagine the responsibility of trying to supervise and instruct 15 students that are high risk with special needs, and then add an additional 50 students to your classroom. What kind of meaningful oversight and support would you be able to provide those 15 high risk children? We can all understand the chaos and dysfunction a classroom that large would create, and that is the same chaos and dysfunction happening within our parole system.

Failure #4: GPS monitoring in Ohio is not a tool to prevent crime and merely provides a false sense of security to the public. Golsby allegedly committed 6 violent acts of robbery while being monitored by GPS before murdering Reagan Tokes. How is this possible? First, inclusionary and exclusionary zones are not always placed on GPS monitors. These zones are necessary to provide the company overseeing the monitor with information about where a parolee should be, and where he cannot be. For example, an inclusionary zone could be the parolee’s residence from 9 pm to 7 am. If the parolee leaves his residence during that time, the company overseeing the GPS monitor would be notified. An exclusionary zone could be 500 feet within a victim’s home, or a school. If the parolee enters an exclusionary zone the company overseeing the GPS would be notified. Without inclusionary and exclusionary zones GPS tracking is practically meaningless for crime prevention purposes, yet Ohio has paid for this monitoring without such restrictions in place. Also, the sharing of GPS information with law enforcement is tangled with bureaucratic restrictions. As it stands now, law enforcement officers do not have the ability to access GPS information while investigating criminal activity without having a subpoena. In situations where there is an unusual uptick in criminal activity within a definite area, investigators should have every resource available including GPS information of recently released parolees. Columbus, the smartest city, should be at the forefront of using GPS technology as innovate tool to also becoming the safest city.

The tragic death of Reagan Tokes cannot go unanswered. I believe state lawmakers have a duty to create policy and dedicate the appropriate resources to keep our communities safe. These failures can be solved through action, and our first step is to enact the necessary legislation to prevent this from happening again.

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