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Reagan Tokes Act to be announced, detailed Wednesday

Reagan Tokes, left, poses with Brutus Buckeye and her sister, Mackenzie. Credit: Screengrab via Twitter

The Reagan Tokes Act will be announced Wednesday by state Reps. Kristin Boggs and Jim Hughes in a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse.

The act — named after Reagan Tokes, the Ohio State student who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in February — will not be detailed until Wednesday, but a memo from Boggs and Hughes seeking co-sponsors has shed light on the goals of the legislation.

The memo, which was made public last week and provided to The Lantern by Boggs’ office, outlines ”four key shortfalls in the criminal justice system” that the legislation will focus on: sentencing, re-entry programs, workload of parole officers and GPS monitoring.

Boggs is a Democrat whose district includes Ohio State while Hughes is a Republican who represents Columbus suburbs including Upper Arlington and Worthington.

“The entire OSU and Columbus community was devastated by the news of Reagan’s death. As a bright, young, intelligent, hardworking student, she was taken from this earth much too early,” Hughes, said. “Through various updates to Ohio’s criminal-justice system, it is our goal that the Reagan Tokes Act will prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”

The first point addressed in the memo is indeterminate sentencing, which is a “recommendation set forth” by the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee on how long a prison sentence should be. Indeterminate sentencing provides a range of time, not an exact duration.

Moritz College of Law professor Douglas A. Berman, who specializes in criminal law and sentencing, said indeterminate sentences follow a broader trend in Ohio.

“That first provision calling for indeterminate sentences with max and minimums is part of a broader criminal justice recodification effort that’s going on in the state that is about trying to work through all our criminal laws and make them function better,” Berman said.

“Offenders convicted of a felony of the first or second degree or a felony of the third degree that is an offense of violence (murder, rape, etc.) will be sentenced to an indeterminate sentence,” the memo said.

The second provision set out by the memo is that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction creates a re-entry program for “violent and dangerous felons” who are being released and have been denied by private re-entry programs.

This was a problem identified in the Tokes case as the man accused of killing Tokes, Brian Golsby, was released as a convicted felon and lived in a halfway house.

“Currently, violent felons, the individuals who need to [have] the most oversight, are released homeless, without any guardrails to help them assimilate back into society and ensure that the community remains safe,” the memo said.

Berman said this initiative is in line with a larger ongoing process in the state.

“This idea of creating re-entry programs is part and parcel of a broader realization that we’re not always helping former offenders get back on a law-abiding path effectively,” he said. “That strikes me as a sensible thing to be looking at and, to react to this case, is a sign that more work needs to be done there.”

The third focus of the memo is to manage the workload of parole officers. It calls for guidelines to establish maximum workloads for parole officers as well as minimum number of hours that a parole officer should dedicate to a parolee “based on the parolee’s risk classification.”

The final component of the memo is to create a policy to regulate GPS monitoring. This monitoring was of particular interest in the Tokes case as Golsby was on GPS monitoring, which connects him to six robberies in the area, but did nothing in preventing those crimes or the murder.

“GPS tracking is about recognizing just because you slap a GPS bracelet on an offender as they leave prison that doesn’t magically solve all problems or ensure they won’t go on and commit crimes,” Berman said.

There are three guidelines in the memo for policy regarding GPS monitoring, the first of which is that each GPS monitor assigned to an offender released from prison should have an inclusionary restriction, meaning there will be places the offender is and is not allowed to go.

The second change to GPS monitoring is requiring the DRC to create a database that third-party vendors will also be able to work with.

“Within two years, DRC must establish a statewide database that keeps the information regarding each parolee’s GPS monitor,” the memo said. “[It] requires all third party vendors that provide GPS monitoring to utilize some form of crime scene correlation software that is capable of interfacing with the statewide database.”

Finally, the memo lays out that law enforcement will have real-time access to the information on the DRC database, without having to request a subpoena to “obtain the necessary information to investigate criminal activity.”

Berman said accessing this information without a subpoena is plausible because it is generally understood that parolees do not have a regular citizen’s privacy rights.

“The general reality has been, and the Supreme Court has upheld, that when a person is on parole or supervised release, some kind of formal part of their sentence, which presumably this has in mind, then there are no privacy rights for that individual,” Berman said. “The challenge is balancing that; what’s the exact point at which an offender after they’ve served their time in prison get their privacy rights back?”

Hughes said in an emailed statement that this act is about avoiding this kind of loss occurring again.

“What happened to Reagan is a tragedy, and it’s shame that it takes such a horrific incident to motivate making the necessary changes to keep our communities safe,” Boggs said in an email. “It is my hope that the Reagan Tokes Act not only addresses the shortfalls identified in our criminal-justice system, but develops the infrastructure to continually review and improve upon our policies before another senseless tragedy occurs.”

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