Reagan Tokes Act passes out of House committee

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COLUMBUS – A House version of a bill named after murdered Ohio State student Reagan Tokes has cleared a major legislative hurdle.

An amended version of the bill passed the House Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday.

It calls for creating indeterminate sentences of violent felons, creating a statewide database of parolees on GPS monitoring, reducing caseload burdens for parole officers and creating a re-entry program for “hard to place” offenders like sex offenders who can end up being released homeless because of residential housing restrictions.

An amendment added to bill Tuesday also calls for creating an ad hoc committee to study issues related to offender supervision.

“I think we have a really good version that we passed out of committee today. I think we are going to continue to work on it, we have the Senate version coming back to us as well, certainly our work isn't done but this is critical next step in the process,” Rep. Kristin Boggs, D – District 18 told 10 Investigates in an interview afterward.

The bill cleared the House committee despite languishing without a hearing for several weeks. Sources had told 10 Investigates that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had voice strong displeasure with language in the substitute House bill (which passed) that stripped ODRC of its power and allows a sentencing court judge to decide if a prison should be released early.

The chairman of the committee has denied that ODRC had asked for the bill to be stalled, but sources told 10 Investigates otherwise.

A Senate version of the bill that passed weeks ago allows ODRC to make the call of which prisoners should be allowed to get out early but allows a judge to have the final say.

Tim Young, Ohio’s Public Defender, voiced concerns with the House version of the bill, calling it “a mistake” and saying it could cost the state of Ohio and its taxpayers $143 million annually and require the construction and operation of four new state prisons.

“This bill does not make Ohioans safe. In terms of cost this is a train wreck of a fiscal policy bill. This bill will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, we as Ohioans don’t have,” Young said.

The bill is named after Reagan Tokes, an OSU senior who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in February of 2017 - just three months shy of graduating. Brian Golsby, a convicted sex offender, admitted to jurors he was responsible and was convicted in March. He’s currently serving a life sentence for the crime.

The bill, which followed a series of reports by 10 Investigates that exposed holes in the state’s parole system, seeks to dramatically change how violent felons are sentenced to prison and how they’re tracked once they are released.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill call for creating indeterminate sentences that would allow a judge to sentence a violent felon to range of years rather than a set term. Proponents of the bill argue this will act as an incentive for prisoners to behave themselves; if they don’t, the could be sentenced to longer terms.

Golsby, who had been released from prison in November of 2016, had accrued 52 sanctions will serving time behind bars. Despite this, he was released from prison after his term was up because Ohio law does not allow prison sentences to be extended.

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