Closing criminal justice loopholes

By Gary Scherer - Contributing Columnist

A few months ago, I was honored to be appointed a member of the Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The task force met through the month of October, and was a bipartisan committee that included lawmakers as well as healthcare professionals. The task force was formed because, as many Ohioans know from personal experience, both Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are devastating to those they affect, and unfortunately, families across the state are greatly impacted by the challenges these diseases can bring.

It was our goal to gain a better understanding of where our state is with regard to general knowledge and comprehension of these diseases. We also aimed to create an increased awareness of dementia within Ohio’s communities through outreach efforts and education, which will prepare and educate young people who are poised to take care of diagnosed family members or who may suffer from it themselves.

Another recent development in the legislature is the authorship of House Bill 365, also known as the Reagan Tokes Act. This legislation will provide crucial changes in Ohio’s criminal justice system and was brought about in response to a tragic event on Feb. 9th, 2017. Tokes, a 21-year-old Ohio State senior, was abducted, raped, and shot after departing from her evening job in Columbus. Her murderer was a recently released felon with a poor behavioral track record from his time behind bars that included 52 infractions.

Tokes’ murderer knew his sentence was ending, giving him no motivation to improve his behavior before release. The act looks to ensure that offenders with first degree, second degree, or violent felonies get indeterminate sentences.

Many reentry programs for released felons reject those they consider too dangerous. Tokes’ attacker was one such felon. The bill seeks to create a reentry program for those offenders. The act would also create stricter protocol for GPS device monitoring, including the formation of a GPS tracking database and the ability for parole officers to access that data without a subpoena. Tokes’ attacker wore a GPS device and still committed several crimes in a short amount of time before attacking Tokes.

HB 365 would address these discrepancies in Ohio’s criminal justice system, helping to prevent a tragedy like this one from happening again. The bill is currently being vetted in the Criminal Justice Committee, and as the year progresses, I look forward to the further developments and positive changes this and other legislation will bring to the state of Ohio.

Gary Scherer is a State Representative.

By Gary Scherer

Contributing Columnist