Portion of Reagan Tokes Act clears Ohio Senate

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A bill named after murdered Ohio State student Reagan Tokes took a major step forward Wednesday as one of two Senate bills passed out of the Ohio Senate by a vote of 33 to 0.

Senate Bill 201 would dramatically change how violent felons are sentenced to prison and how they are released.

Another Senate bill, SB 202, which would address problems with GPS monitoring of offenders, overburdened parole officers and creating a re-entry program for "hard-to-place offenders" has seen little movement. The same is true with a newly adopted House version of the bill.

Wednesday's progress on the Senate version of the Reagan Tokes Act can largely be viewed as a compromise between prosecutors and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction which had expressed concerns behind closed doors about a House version of the bill.

The original bill called for dramatically changing how violent felons are sentenced to prison. The initial bill as introduced also allowed ODRC to decide if a prisoner should get out of prison early.

A substitute version adopted by a House committee in March stripped that language out and allowed a judge to make that decision. Sources tell 10 Investigates that ODRC had concerns about that. The House version of the bill has not moved since that time, but House criminal justice committee chairman Rep. Nathan Manning, R - North Ridgeville, denied that he had been asked to stall the bill in committee.

The Senate version meets somewhere in the middle. It allows ODRC to make a recommendation that a prisoner could get out early, if they behave themselves, but still allows a judge to have the final say.

"I think it's a middle ground between what our preference would be and what DRC's preference would be," said Lou Tobin with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. "We didn't want bureaucrats, unelected bureaucrats making decisions about releasing some very serious felons.
We want the sentencing judge to make that decision. The change would let the sentencing judge make that decision. about early release. but it creates a presumption in favor of the release, so we are presuming that the felon is going to get out early."

ODRC has not responded to repeated requests for comment about the legislation or other questions regarding its policies posed by 10 Investigates.

Tokes was killed in February of 2017. Her was body was found in Scioto Grove Metro Park. Police say she was shot in the head at close range.

Brian Golsby, who was convicted by a jury last month for Tokes' rape, kidnapping and murder, was sentenced to life in prison last month. Golsby, who was already a convicted sexual predator at the time of the crime, had been released from prison just three months earlier and assigned a GPS ankle monitor.

But a series of 10 Investigates' reports exposed how Golsby and other violent felons have not been closely watched.

The passage of Senate Bill 201 was the first vote on any piece of legislation related to the Reagan Tokes Act. The bill came about after a series of 10 Investigates reports exposed flaws and failures within Ohio's parole system.

"This was a huge step forward I know the Tokes family .They are ecstatic. They have been very engaged in this. We have been working with them and they very much believe in this bill," said Senator Kevin Bacon, R- Westerville, one of two sponsors of the Senate bills.

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