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.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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