TALLAHASSEE – In the midst of holding a series of public town hall meeting, the Florida Department of Corrections is also touting the fact that it just assisted in the re-capture of one of its “Top 10 Most Wanted” absconders – a fugitive sex offender who had been in prison for committing incest.
James Harold Weismore, 19, had been sentenced to prison in 2008 for the crime of incest with a relative. The original charge out of Duval County was sexual battery, no victim injury by force.
Weismore was released to sex offender probation in November 2009, but he absconded his supervision and GPS monitoring in June 2010. A violation of sex offender probation warrant was issued out of Duval County.
An absconder is a felon on probation who has run away.
Weismore was captured in Jacksonville, less than a week after DOC’s announcement that it had formed a new partnership with Crime Stoppers, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Law Enforcement.
“This re-capture and arrest is another example of solid investigation work by our absconder unit staff,” said DOC Secretary Ken Tucker.
It turns out that social media sites played a critical role in this capture.
“While conducting a cold case investigation, a DOC Community Corrections investigator found a woman via a social website who turned out to be Weismore’s roommate,” Tucker noted. “From that discovery, the investigator was able to track down Weismore living in the Jacksonville area.”
A Department of Corrections investigator contacted Jacksonville law enforcement, who picked up Weismore.
“Now our ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list we have with Crime Stoppers will have to be updated,” Tucker said. “That’s a great thing.”
Weismore was captured on June 19. Six days earlier, DOC announced the partnership with Crime Stoppers, aimed at finding ways for inmates, probationers and DOC employees to anonymously provide information to law enforcement to help solve crimes.
The partnership included the creation of an anonymous tip-line that inmates could use to report information; training on the program when inmates first enter the prison system; informational posters about it on bulletin boards in inmate housing units and in community corrections offices; and the images and names of Florida’s five most wanted fugitives and five most wanted absconders advertised on billboards and other media.
“There are hundreds of unsolved cases in Florida,” Tucker said. “We are hoping to close as many of those cases as possible. There are victims in many of these unsolved crimes who are still waiting for justice. We want to help them by solving these cases.”
This has been a year of major change for DOC, which just closed down numerous Florida prisons and work camps in an effort to save money. The closures are expected to save the state nearly $15 million for the rest of this fiscal year, and almost $76 million in the next fiscal year, while 1,293 full-time jobs are being eliminated.
It’s a part of Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to eliminate $1 billion from the state’s prison budget.
Only three of the prisons that got shut down were in Central Florida: Demilly CI in Polk City, Hillsborough CI in Riverview near Tampa, and Levy Forestry Camp, which was close to Ocala in neighboring Marion County.
Inmates at the facilities that got closed were transferred to other prisons, and all the transfers will be completed by July 1.
Among the prisons recently closed were the Caryville Work Camp, the Gainesville Correctional Institution, the Hillsborough CI, the Levy Forestry Camp, the New River East CI, the New River O Unit, and River Junction Work Camp. Inmates are no longer housed there.
With all the changes taking place, DOC announced earlier this month that it would hold a series of public town hall meetings across the state to discuss the department’s efforts to assist inmates re-entering society after their release from prison. Ocala just hosted the first meeting at the Marion County Sheriff’s Jail Interim Building.
The next three will be at Miami-Dade Town Hall on June 26 from 3- 5 p.m. at the Miami Police Department Training Center, 400 N.W. 2nd Ave. Room 327; Palm Beach Town Hall on June 27, same hours, at the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners’ office, Governmental Center 6th Floor, 301 N. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach; and the Broward Town Hall on June 28, same hours, at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 26550 Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
Informational booths will be available, and the town hall meetings are designed to be an opportunity for the department to get input from the public on ways to ensure that inmates successfully reenter society. Long term, the department’s Transition from Prison to Community Initiative is looking to promote public safety by reducing the likelihood that released felons will commit crimes again, engage the community in this process, and establish effective programs to reduce recidivism.
“These town hall meetings provide an opportunity for us to hear the thoughts and suggestions of citizens on how we can work collectively to return inmates to their communities as better people,” Tucker said. “As it is, one-third of the men and women who we release return to us within three years. We want to close that revolving door.”
It’s also about ensuring the inmate can reestablish their lives after prison, he said.
“The majority of inmates will one day be released,” Tucker said. “Some former inmates have support systems and loved ones waiting for them when they return to society, but many do not. When an inmate doesn’t have the ability to successfully obtain employment, education or participate in transitional programs, commission of another crime and victimization increases greatly. Everyone has a role to play in successfully integrating these inmates into our local communities, and we are excited that these town hall meetings are the first step in developing these partnerships.”
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