Trying again on new parole reforms in wake of Tokes murder

COLUMBUS — Half of the reforms sought in the wake of the 2017 murder of former Monclova Township resident Reagan Tokes recently became law, but lawmakers were back Thursday seeking action on more complicated and expensive changes left undone last year regarding the state parole system.

The 21-year-old psychology senior at Ohio State University was kidnapped, robbed, raped, and shot twice in the head on Feb. 8, 2017, by Brian Lee Golsby, who recently had been released from prison after completing a sentence for attempted rape.

“We cannot undo the Tokes’ family’s suffering, but what we can try to do is derive some meaning from what happened,” Rep. Rick Carfagna (R., Westerville), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the House Criminal Justice Committee.

“This tragedy exposed a number of vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, and just as the previous General Assembly addressed the sentencing components, it is now time for us to do the other part and that’s the system of post-release controls,” he said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) leaves the chamber after passing the Equality Act of 2019, sweeping anti-discrimination legislation that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

Golsby was equipped with an ankle GPS monitor that recorded his movements but was not monitored in real time. As a result, he was able to commit a series of assaults and robberies in the days leading up to the night he ran into Ms. Tokes as she left work at a Columbus restaurant.

The GPS data was later used to place him at the scene of each crime, and he is serving multiple life sentences related to the death of Ms. Tokes.

The Tokes family succeeded in getting lawmakers to enact sentencing reforms that allow the state to keep some offenders behind bars longer if they fail to behave or take advantage of programs offered them that would improve their odds of reintegrating back into society.

That law took effect on March 22, but other proposed reforms have proven a heavier lift because of the hefty potential price tag:

Maximum parole officer caseloads and adequate staffing, with each additional parole officer costing about $75,000 a year each.
A computer system to cross-reference offenders’ GPS data with criminal activity.
Restrictions such as curfew and travel limitations on offenders’ GPS monitors.
Mandatory housing programs for released inmates who’ve been rejected by private halfway houses.
All of these were areas where the Tokes family has argued the state’s current system let Reagan down.

“We have significantly less parole officers today than we did 10 years ago, and unfortunately we do not have less people on parole,” said the bill’s other sponsor, Rep. Kristin Boggs (D., Columbus). “Our parole and probation officers are the only proactive law enforcement we have. Their goal is to prevent crime, not react to crime.”

In addition to House Bill 215, a similar measure, Senate Bill 133, has been introduced in the upper chamber by Sens. Sean O’Brien (D., Cortland) and Nathan Manning (R., North Ridgeville). Many of the provisions passed the House nearly unanimously last session with the sentencing reforms, so the real test may again be in the Senate.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is interviewed at The Blade May 7, 2019, in Toledo.

The bill is also expected to be used, at the request of the Ohio Judicial Conference, to refine aspects of the new sentencing law that have been matters of interpretation.

“I would hope … that we fix ‘Reagan Tokes 1’ as part of the enactment of ‘Reagan Tokes 2,’ ” Rep. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) said.

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