The Florida Department of Corrections is cracking down on rules involving inmate releases after two convicted murderers walked out of a Panhandle-area prison with forged documents in late September and in October.
In a letter dated Friday and addressed to Florida's Circuit Court judges, Michael Crews, secretary of the state Department of Corrections, writes that effective Friday, the department would require verification of any order from a sentencing judge that results in early release of an inmate.
The inmate will not be released until verification is received, Crews writes. "In light of the potential for fraudulent use of court papers, we believe that the additional step of providing verification of sentence modification court orders is an important safeguard in ensuring the integrity of the judicial process," the letter continues.
The letter follows revelations that came earlier Friday that the convicted murderers, Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, checked in as required by Florida law with a jail after they gained their freedom from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle, Fla.
On separate days, the men reported to the booking lobby of the Orange County Jail in Orlando, where they were photographed and fingerprinted for a state database, and where they filled out registration forms, jail spokesman Allen Moore says. During this process, an Orange County sheriff's deputy typically checks for outstanding warrants and if there is none to be found, the person is free to go, according to Moore's office.
Florida law requires felons to register with a local sheriff's office when they move to a new county.
The case has drawn attention to the state in recent days, since it was first revealed both men were voluntarily released from the prison with years to go on their sentences.
Jenkins was released Sept. 27th. He was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the 1998 killing and botched robbery of an Orlando man.
Walker was released Oct. 8. He was convicted of second-degree murder in a 1999 slaying in Orange County, Fla. He also was serving a life sentence.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office is seeking help from residents in capturing the two men and asks anyone who sees either of them to call 911 right away.
"These men have been convicted of major felony crimes and should not be approached as they are considered to be very dangerous," Jeff Williamson, public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Chief Circuit Court Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over the Casey Anthony trial, has criticized the inmate release process as being lax.
"One of the things we have never taken a close look at is the verification of a particular document to make sure it's the real McCoy," the Associated Press quoted Perry as saying.
Florida state attorney Jeff Ashton, who also played a role in the Casey Anthony case, said
The case has been brewing over the last few days, since it was first revealed that both men