TALLAHASSEE – A work release program enables inmates to get out of prison, be returned to the community, and have an opportunity to work at paid employment for the final months of their confinement.
It’s not supposed to be a chance for the inmate to escape – but sometimes that’s what happens.
For one Florida Department of Corrections inmate, though, an attempted escape backfired, and now he’s heading back to prison.
Inmate Juan C. Preval, 26, escaped from the Opalocka Work Release Center in the Miami area on Tuesday, Jan. 17 around 11:30 a.m. His taste of freedom was short-lived, though, and the inmate who sometimes goes by the alias “King Crook,” was recaptured an hour and 40 minutes later by a prison canine squad. It was the dogs who sniffed him out.
Preval’s time on work release was about to end anyway, since he had been awaiting transfer back to prison after getting found in possession of contraband at the work release center. He made his attempted escape the hard way, since he was in leg shackles and hand restraints when he fled.
As DOC noted in its release on Preval’s escape and quick capture, “Work Release Centers are not locked facilities, and the inmates housed there are the department’s lowest custody level. They work out in the community during the day, returning to the center after work.”
Preval was caught by a prison K-9 team from the South Florida Reception Center at 1:10 p.m. The SFRC Canine team — which included K-9 “Max” — found Preval just half a mile west of Opalocka, hiding behind a Burger King restaurant. it appears the inmate was not attempting to place an order there.
He was discovered by the dog team laying half in the canal and half on the bank of the canal. Preval is now being transported by Miami-Dade police to the county jail, where he faces escape charges. He had been serving an 8 year, 11 month and 28 day sentence for burglary, grand theft and resisting an officer with violence.
According to DOC, “He will never again be eligible for work release.”
Although Preval didn’t get far, sometimes inmates who escape from a work release center end up committing other crimes on the outside.
Thomas Parker, 21, of Miami, was arrested on Jan. 6 by Polk County Sheriff’s deputies after he escaped from the Miami-Dade North Work Release Program on Dec. 31. Parker was originally arrested in Polk County in 2008 and sentenced to two years and 10 months on a charge of grand theft motor vehicle and transporting forged bills.
As part of his sentence, DOC transferred Parker to the work release program, but he escaped from it on the last day of the year, made his way to Lakeland, and began targeting the woman who was the mother of his child, calling her and threatening her, deputies noted.
The woman called the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which worked with the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force to apprehend the Miami man. He was charged in Polk County with aggravated stalking, as well as the out-of-county warrant for the escape.
According to DOC, select inmates are made eligible for work release programs as a part of their rehabilitation. Work release, the department notes, provides the offenders with a gradual reintegration into the community, gainful employment, and an ability to accumulate money from their job while also preserving their family and community ties. Work release also gives inmates an opportunity to participate in local self-help programs.
DOC’s canine unit scored another victory this week. On Jan. 15, the canine unit from the Hamilton Correctional institution in Jasper got called out to assist the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office as they searched for a teen-ager who had vandalized a local home.
The suspect got apprehended by the Hamilton CI canine team, which tracked the suspect for a little over a half mile before he was located by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The suspect, whose name is being withheld because he’s a juvenile, was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies.
John Palmer, warden of the Hamilton CI, praised his facility’s canine unit for not only helping to prevent escapes, but also for helping to protect the entire community.
“The professionalism that our canine units show day in and day out, and their willingness to go into harm’s way to protect the public is a testament to their dedication as public servants and law enforcement officers,” Palmer said.
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