Violent convicted felon was one of 2,600 ex-cons allowed to check-in with parole officers via phone

Roshawn Cumberlander (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – A months-long investigation by 10 Investigates is raising questions about a new pilot program that allows ex-prisoners to check-in with their parole officers over the phone.

10 Investigates discovered that a Columbus man now charged with murder was among approximately 2,600 other ex-offenders under post release control assigned to an automated telephone reporting program – commonly referred to as ATR.

When you factor in other offenders like those who avoided prison time, are serving probation or former prisoners who served time in other states but returned to Ohio to serve out their probation – the figure balloons to more than 6,000 people assigned to telephone reporting in Ohio.

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Critics say the program is meant for “low risk” offenders and does not require face-to-face check-ins with parole officers -- making it difficult to know if they’re holding down a job, using drugs or committing other crimes.

But after a man with a violent criminal history was assigned to the program and later charged with murder, critics are wondering if the program should exclude violent offenders.

10 Investigates the latest investigation “Phoning it in” is raising questions about how the state assesses its criminals before they’re released from prison and how they’re monitored once they get out.

Roshawn Cumberlander, charged with the October 2019 shooting death of his on-again-off-again girlfriend Tomika Turner, was assigned to telephone reporting despite having multiple convictions for felonies including aggravated assaulted and cocaine possession

Cumberlander has pleaded not guilty to his current murder charge and remains in jail.

10 Investigates spoke to Mark Collins, Cumberlander’s attorney, who said neither he nor his client would be able to do an interview at this time citing Cumberlander’s pending case.

The question is: how did someone with Cumberlander’s record get assigned to this program meant for “low risk” offenders?

In 2012, court records show that Cumberlander was accused of raping and kidnapping a woman at gunpoint. The case never went to trial and Cumberlander pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault.

In 2015, he was convicted for felony cocaine possession; the next year in 2016, he was convicted of aggravated assault. The year after that, in 2017, Cumberlander was convicted of felony cocaine possession again.

He was released from state prison in March of 2018 and later assigned to ATR on June 8, 2019.

Four days later, Tomika Turner called Columbus Police to complain that Cumberlander had smashed the windshield of her son’s car. The police report says the case was referred to the prosecutor’s office. But online court records do not show any charges were filed.

It is not clear if either incidents were ever reported to Cumberlander’s parole officer.

Tomika Turner's brother, Tyren, was surprised to learn that Cumberlander had been assigned to the telephone reporting program.

"I didn't know they did that. That's not cool at all. If they would have had a way where he had to be seen twice a month by a probation officer, parole officer pulling up on him, and making sure he was doing the right things, I don't think this every would've happened,” Tyren Turner said during an interview with 10 Investigates.

When asked if he thought his sister would still be alive, Tyren Turner said: “Definitely. Definitely.”

Tyren Turner said after Cumberlander’s most recent stint in prison, he witnessed him using drugs and making general threats of violence.

"He never hit her but he always said violent stuff. Like ‘I'm going kill somebody’ or 'where's a gun at I'm about to go rob these dudes,’” Turner said.
“And he did drugs at the same time.”

Collins said his client would dispute the allegation that he made threats of violence but Collins said he could not comment on the allegation of drug use.

On October 6 – more than a week before the Tomika Turner’s shooting death -- Whitehall Police pulled over Roshawn Cumberlander and charged him with marijuana possession. The charges were later dismissed.

Specific records detailing Roshawn Cumberlander’s assessment by parole officers and how often he checked in are not disclosable under the state’s open records laws. 10 Investigates’ open records requests seeking those documents were denied.

But critics of the current program say Cumberlander’s past should exclude him and others from participating.

Anthony Caldwell, a spokesman for the union that represents parole officers, says while ATR could be put to good use for certain offenses, those with violent histories should not be participating.

“As someone who lives in this community, I don't feel any more safe knowing that this ATR system is being used,” Caldwell said.

“The point of the parole authority is to make sure folks are staying on that path. That they are holding down a job. And doing all the things that they need to do.

When you put them on a telephone system there is no way to verify that that’s what they are doing.”

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction the automated telephone reporting or ATR is a pilot program, first introduced in 2018.

“Once the grant cycle has concluded, its use as a supervision tool will be evaluated,” said JoEllen Smith in an email to 10 Investigates.

10 Investigates took our questions about ATR to Annette Chambers-Smith, the director of DRC and co-chair of Governor Mike DeWine’s working group looking into ways to improve how parolees are monitored once they’re released.

"Here's the thing, just because someone qualifies for telephone reporting does not mean that they will never do anything wrong,” said Annette Chambers-Smith, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “If you are thinking that there is some kind of 100 percent accuracy – that you can get out of human behavior where that my behavior up until now qualifies me for this — and I'm never going to do anything wrong after that. That's not how people work. Could there be someone do something bad on any level of supervision? The answer is yes.”

This discovery by 10 Investigates comes at a critical time for the state as Governor Mike DeWine has assigned a working group to come up with ways to better monitor ex-prisoners once they’re released.

DeWine’s executive order last fall came after a number of high-profile murders in Ohio – including the 2018 murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes and the 2019 murder of Rachael Anderson – both killed by men who were under the watch of the state’s Adult Parole Authority.

“I have serious concerns that some post-release control policies aren’t strong enough to adequately monitor offender reentry and also protect the public,” said Governor DeWine in a statement released in October. “It’s time that Ohio takes a good look at improving the post-release control process to help offenders positively transition back into society and to swiftly hold them accountable if they commit a violation of their supervision.”

UPDATE: This story was updated to included additional figures showing other ex-offenders assigned to the telephone reporting program in Ohio.

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