Criminal Justice

Prison gang helped escapees get fake court orders granting early release, official says

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It wasn’t just phony court orders reducing their Florida prison sentences that helped Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker escape recently.

A contraband cellphone also was found in the Orange County prison cell in which one of the two men had been housed, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

But officials don’t believe court or prison workers participated in the escape scheme, according to Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Instead, it appears that jailhouse lawyers affiliated with a prison gang prepared the seemingly legitimate motions for sentence reductions and court orders under which Jenkins and Walker were released. Then the documents were filed with the county clerk of courts, with the help of outside gang members, Bailey explained during testimony Wednesday before a state senate committee, reports another Orlando Sentinel story.

Although it has been reported that calls will be made to Florida judges purportedly issuing such sentence-reduction orders before prisoners are released in the future, it isn’t clear that either the state Department of Corrections or clerk of court offices throughout the state will actually do so.

So Secretary Michael Crews of the Department of Corrections said the DOC will send letters to judges to confirm “emergency release” orders and will not actually release inmates until confirmation is received. “I don’t know what legal ground I’m on … and I’m fine with that,” he stated.

At least one senator on the committee says lawmakers might propose a bill to legally require such letters.

See also:”7 prisoners may have used phony court papers in escape attempts; $20K reward offered for information”

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