Reagan Tokes Act still under debate behind the scenes

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COLUMBUS - At one point earlier this month, convicted killer Brian Golsby was still alleged killer.

It was during the middle of his March murder trial for the rape, kidnapping and fatal shooting of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes.

It was around the same time that lawmakers in the Ohio House criminal justice committee adopted a substitute version of the Reagan Tokes Act. That's the bill named after Tokes, which seeks to dramatically change how violent felons are sentenced to prison and how they are watched once they are released.

The bill was borne out of a series of 10 Investigates reports that illustrated how the state's parole system failed to closely monitor Brian Golsby, a convicted sex offender, who misbehaved while in prison and despite this was released from prison three months before Tokes' murder and assigned a GPS ankle monitor.

Despite this, Golsby was free to roam wherever he pleased. And we know the end result. He later admitted to and was convicted of her murder.

This substitute bill still holds onto many of the same provisions as the first bill:

  • Creating new indeterminate sentencing guidelines for violent felons. Under the bill, judges would assign a range of years for a prison convicted of a violent crime instead of a determined sentence. If prisoners behave well during their term, their sentence could be reduced. (Currently, there's no good time credit in Ohio. That disappeared in 1996. It's also why Golsby, despite acquiring 42 sanctions during his most recent prison term, was not given additional time. This bill could change that landscape).
  • Creating a re-entry program for hard-to-place offenders.
  • Creating a statewide GPS database
  • Reducing the burden of caseloads on parole officers.

One of the major changes in the new bill has to do with early release.

Under the original language in the bill, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have unilateral authority to decide if a prisoner was eligible for early release - meaning if the prisoner behaved well and he/she would be eligible to get out early. Some of the stakeholders (namely prosecutors and defense attorneys) had a problem with this because they felt it usurped the sentencing court's authority, sources close to the matters tell 10 Investigates.

So under the substitute bill, the language has changed such that the ODRC Director is tasked with notifying the sentencing court of the desire to reduce a sentence. This takes the sole power away from ODRC and puts it back in the hands of the courts (which originally sentenced the person).

Apparently, ODRC doesn't like the change - as in - really doesn't like it, according to 10 Investigates' sources who asked not to be identified. ODRC spokespeople have not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Rep. Nathan Manning, who chairs the committee, downplayed this in a phone interview with 10 Investigates last week. Manning told 10 Investigates that the parties are "still working through it."

When pressed further on what our sources told us - that ODRC does not like that provision - Manning said: "(ODRC) expressed concern about certain aspects of it and that's certainly one of them."

Manning said the bill is still very much in the "committee process" and denied allegations that he had been asked not to move the bill forward. Manning did not return a follow-up calling seeking comment Friday.

He did tell us last week that he had not yet polled the members of the committee about the bill and didn't want to rush the bill.

As of this writing, there is no hearing scheduled on the House calendar for the substitute bill. That doesn't mean there won't be, it's just that a lot of these negotiations aren't happening in front of the public in an open committee room.

They're happening behind closed doors.

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