In our world, tragedies and crimes are unavoidable, as much as we wish they weren’t. As a state representative, sometimes the only way to respond to unfortunate events is to research the issue and support legislation that can prevent something similar from happening again.

Franklin County experienced one of these appalling offenses in February of this year with the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a college student, Reagan Tokes. Reagan’s death came at the hands of a violent felon who had recently been released from prison and rejected by multiple reentry programs. On top of that, although he was furnished with a GPS tracking device, the technology was not sufficiently monitored and failed to prevent him from not only committing another crime, but taking a life.

With this horrible crime came the realization that there are loopholes in Ohio’s criminal justice system. That’s why I voted for House Bill 365—also known as the Reagan Tokes Act—which seeks to close these loopholes and add protections against violent felons. First, the bill will give judges greater sentencing discretion by making sentences indeterminate for certain felonies, a move that will incentivize rehabilitation behind bars.

The other reforms will address discrepancies in the law when offenders are released from prison. The bill will: require the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to create a reentry program for violent felons not accepted into other programs, require the DRC to establish more stringent parole officer guidelines, and create a new policy regarding the monitoring of offender GPS devices.

House Bill 365 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that is needed to make Ohio’s criminal justice system stronger and better equipped to observe and rehabilitate violent felons upon their release from prison. As the Ohio House considers this bill, it is difficult not to wonder if Reagan’s death could have been prevented if some of these policies had already been put in place. It is a tough thought to have, but with this legislation, we can hope to prevent further crimes like this from happening.

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