Inmates Caught, Hunt Shifts To Who Faked Release Order

Inmates Caught, Hunt Shifts To Who Faked Release Order

You’ve got to give them credit for trying. Florida inmates Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker “almost got away with it.” Instead of digging the traditional tunnel under the prison or impersonating a correctional officer and walking out of prison as free men, these felons came up with a strategy more ingenious than storylines for prison outbreak movies.

Jenkins and Walker came close to pulling off forging documents that granted them an early release. The escapees both 34 were serving life sentences for murder at the Franklin Correctional Facility in the Florida Panhandle. The duo must have decided a life sentence was too long, so they somehow produced official-looking documents that go them an early release, 15 years early. The fraudulent certificates passed as plausible with an authentic-looking forged judge’s signature along with case numbers. Mr. Jenkins was released on Sept. 27 and registered as a felon on Sept. 30. Mr. Walker was released on Oct. 8 and registered with the authorities three days later.

The ploy came to an abrupt end Saturday evening at Cocoanut Grove Motor Inn located in the touristy town of Panama City Beach, Florida just hours after family members of the men publicly pleaded for their surrender.

The capture occurred just in time because Jenkins and Walker were waiting for a ride from Atlanta to pick them up and take them across the state line. The two men were arrested peacefully and are now in custody. They were unarmed and had a small amount of cash on them.

 Questions are being raised by authorities. The three magic questions authorities are asking are:

  • “How did this scheme make it this far without help?”
  • “How did the paperwork get through the system unchecked?”
  • “How many times has this happened before with more clever escapees?

“Humiliated” isn’t a strong enough word to describe the position of Florida courts and corrections officials.

If it hadn’t have been for the families of the murder victims contacting the prosecutor when they were informed of the early discharges of Mr. Jenkins and Walker, the atrocious blunder may have gone off without a hitch.

Authorities are now backpedaling to find out who else was involved in the escapade.

Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is convinced more arrests are in order. An unidentified person is lurking behind the scenes who signed the papers that freed Wilkins and Walker. Someone helped the men run from the police and a mysterious individual from Alabama was scheduled to pick up the men at the motel to take them out of state. Mr. Bailey is also interested in who may have harbored the fugitives in between being released and picked up in Panama City, Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into a tip that someone offered forged release documents for an $8,000 fee.

Mr. Bailey confirms there have been two other incidences where inmates have attempted to use bogus documents to escape, but they were caught before they left the prison.

Michael Crews, the corrections secretary, scheduled a meeting with court clerks to discuss methods of preventing inmates from faking documents to escape from prison.

Mr. Crews had already ordered his department to begin verifying early-release orders with a judge, not just court clerks. He said his department receives a few thousand such orders each year but acknowledged that reduced sentences in murder cases are rare.

Mr. Crews is relieved to say that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Walker are back in custody. He expressed grave concerns for the safety of the state of Florida because after all, these were two hardened criminals out wandering loose because they were able to bluff the system.