“Ohio’s Parole officers are committed to their duty of protecting the public,” the words scroll across the screen. “But Ohio’s system is broken – with extreme breaches due to under-staffing and the lack of active GPS tracking of violent offenders.”
The online advertisement is popping up on Facebook, and on various games and apps when logged in to them using a Facebook account. Click on the link in the ad and viewers are taken to a web page with the text of the ad. They are also asked for contact information and to share their thoughts on “why we need to support Ohio’s parole officers and the work they do to keep our communities safe.”
The ad is from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199. They represent parole officers across the state, along with other workers in 17 other state agencies and departments.
They are part of a bipartisan group of supporters urging passage of Senate Bill 133, the Reagan Tokes Act. Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-32) and Sen. Nathan Manning (R-13) are co-sponsoring the bill.
The bill is named for The Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Brian Golsby in 2017. Golsby had been released from prison three months prior to her murder. He was on parole but was not placed into a halfway house because of his status as a sex offender.
The first part of the Reagan Tokes Act, signed by Gov. John Kasich in December, changes how violent offenders are sentenced to prison. The law allows violent felons to be sentenced to a range of years in prison rather than a set term. Felons can earn a shorter sentence for model behavior, but can have sentences of up to 50 percent longer if they misbehave while incarcerated.
“While there were many breakdowns in Ohio’s justice system that led to the murder of Reagan Tokes, the issue addressed by SB 133 is the failure of Ohio’s system of post-release monitoring protocols to prevent her violent abduction and murder,” the sponsors told the Senate Judiciary Committee in their testimony.
The legislation would require the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to establish a reentry program for offenders who are not accepted at halfway houses or similar facilities. It would also require the Adult Parole Authority (APA) to adopt maximum workload and caseload standards for parole and field officers. Lastly, it would require GPS monitoring for such offenders, including zones where they must be and cannot be during certain times of the day, and correlate the positions with crime scene locations in a system that law enforcement officers can access.
“One of the most important things we can do as a state is to give families greater peace of mind knowing that when violent felons are released from prison they are properly supervised,” said Anthony Caldwell, SEIU District 1199 director of public affairs, in committee testimony.
That means addressing a number of problems within Ohio’s Adult Parole Authority, he explained, adding that “caseload and workload standards are a welcome change from the lack of current standards which have led to extreme caseloads for parole officers in both rural and urban parts of the state.”
Caldwell told Senate Justice Committee members that the number of offenders under supervision by an individual officer should not exceed 100, or 60 for officers with less than 12 months of experience. He also said that no more than 20 percent of a parole officer’s cases should be comprised of very high risk or sex offenders.
He also recommended that each region in the state have a dedicated unit to respond to and investigate violations by offenders outside of typical work hours.
According to the state Legislative Service Commission (LSC), as of the end of May 2019, the APA had 446 active officers (defined as those assigned with a workload) with a total workload of 35,007 offenders under supervision. That’s 78.5 offenders per officer. LSC also estimates additional officers would cost $75,000 per year in wages and benefits.
S.B. 133 is currently pending in committee where it has received sponsor and proponent testimony. Any opponent testimony and a committee vote won’t be scheduled until members return from their summer recess in September.
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