Former Parole Official: Ex-Convict's Case Could Affect Paroles

CLEVELAND (AP) - The former chairwoman of the Ohio Parole Board says the release of a convicted rapist accused last month of dismembering a 14-year-old girl could make the board more hesitant to release sex offenders, The Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

"This makes them tighten their belts, just like there were new laws passed to keep people from driving drunk after so many people died," said Margarette Ghee, who retired in March after 19 years on the board.

Joel Yockey, 46, of Wooster, will go to trial March 3 to face charges in the death of Kristen Jackson, who was kidnapped and raped after she left the Wayne County Fair in September. The charges were filed months after he was released from prison for raping a teenager. He had served 15 years of a 10- to 25-year sentence.

"Mr. Yockey is not the first person to leave prison and be accused of committing a dastardly offense," said Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "All we can do is make good decisions based on the information that we have."

The parole board has "no instructions not to release sex offenders," Wilkinson said.

Some advocates fear inmates who are denied parole will become angrier with the system and become greater threats to society when they are released.

"I'm sure it will have an impact, a negative impact," said Jana Schroeder, an Ohio prison advocate for the American Friends Service Committee.

The parole board bases inmates' releases on their history in prison, the programs they went through, the likelihood of committing another crime, family support, job opportunities and letters from victims.

The board's records show Yockey (pictured, above) had trouble adjusting to prison and became enraged over the most minor of circumstances. He was sent to isolation in 1999 and 2000, spending 25 days there because he refused guards' orders to move chairs and get rid of property in his cell.

Parole records show Yockey went through assertiveness and anger management programs. He also completed an 18-month sex abusers program, which Ghee called the best in the state. After he finished that program in 1990, Yockey joined informal group workshops on rage and rape.

As chairwoman of the parole board for 10 years, Ghee saw thousands of inmates. Yockey's parole was one of her last, though she does not remember his case.

"It's absolutely awful what happened," Ghee said. "Rape cases are some of the hardest cases to call. We have had people do more time for rape than for homicide. But this is one of those unfortunate things. We don't have a crystal ball."

Wilkinson said one of every four sex offenders released from Ohio prisons commits crimes again, a rate that Wilkinson praised.

A Justice Department sex-offender project cites national studies that show about 45 percent of sex offenders commit crimes after being released, the newspaper reported.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)