In Florida, a person who gets sentenced to jail might be able to take advantage of a work release program for inmates if the jail offers such a program. For instance, in Jacksonville, the Duval County jail allows certain inmates to leave the facility to go to an approved job during normal work hours. The inmate must have the job and the company pre-approved by the people running the work release program. Once approved, the inmate is allowed to leave the jail in the morning, work all day and return to the jail in the evening after work. It is a great way for an inmate to keep his/her job while incarcerated and also to spend a good portion of his/her jail sentence outside of the jail.
There are risks to entering such a program. An inmate who does not follow the rules of the work release program can be charged with escape, which is a serious felony crime in Florida. Hopefully, if the inmate is late to work or late getting back to the jail every now and then due to traffic, the bus schedule or some other legitimate reason, there are no adverse consequences. However, if an inmate in the work release program commits a more serious and intentional violation, it could result in a more serious penalty.
When a person is in the work release program and at his/her job, that person is still considered an inmate under Florida law, and the time at work is still considered confinement. Any person who escapes confinement or does not stay within the limits of his/her confinement is guilty of escape in Florida.
In a recent case just south of Jacksonville, Florida, an inmate qualified for the work release program. He was permitted to leave the jail early in the morning, report to work and then return to the jail in the early evening after he was finished with his workday. On one particular day, he left the jail and went to work as usual, but then he left work all day. He returned to work at the end of the day before planning on going back to jail at the usual time. When he returned to work, he was arrested for escape.
The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charge. He argued that the defendant did not escape because he was not in the jail at the time. He was at work and could not be convicted of escape for leaving work.
The court disagreed with the criminal defense lawyer’s argument. The work release program, and the place of employment that is approved for the inmate, is considered an extension of the jail. If an inmate does not stay where he is supposed to be while on work release, i.e. at work (unless he has the employer’s permission to leave for work related purposes), then it is considered an escape just as if he left the jail.