A Limestone County Sheriff's Office official said Monday the county's work release program isn't perfect, but the department is seeking ways to strengthen what he believes to be a beneficial program.
The Sheriff's Office administers the program, which has seen four inmates walk off their jobs since the beginning of the year. Two inmates, Bryan Vincent and Jeremy Tucker, left their jobs at Vulcan Plastics on Durham Drive in Athens early Sunday morning.
As of Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office was still seeking Tucker. Vincent was found and recaptured early Sunday evening.
In February, Joseph Lee Davis Jr., who was serving time on burglary charges, walked off from his job at Cast Products Inc. on Alabama 127. He was found the next day and charged with first-degree escape, a Class B felony.
In April, Jeffrey Ryan Davis, who had been jailed on theft charges, walked off from his job at Cast Products Inc. He was recaptured April 7 in Franklin County and charged with escape.
Limestone County Sheriff's Office deputy and spokesman Stephen Young said the Sheriff's Office works with companies that hire work release inmates and trains supervisors at those companies. He said businesses that employ the inmates are also vetted to ensure they are appropriate.
“Work release inmates are not kept separate, so there's always an inherent risk (of escape),” he said. “If you look at the bigger picture at how many work release inmates escape versus how many are working, it's a pretty successful program.”
Still, Young said, there is always room for improvement.
“We're always looking for a way to streamline the process, if for no other reason than we have to expend resources when (an inmate walks off),” he said. “It's not just when this happens that we look at the process, but any time there's an idea on how to (improve the program).”
Young said there are currently six businesses or companies in Athens that employ work release inmates. He added the number at a business at any given time could vary between one and seven per shift.
He wants people to know violent criminals are not eligible to participate in the program.
“There are certain people we don't want out (in the public),” he said. “(Eligible inmates) are those that, by all indications, won't be a problem, but they get on work release and do something stupid.”
Tucker, 25, was arrested in February on a charge of first-degree assault and obstructing government operations because authorities said he attempted to cause the crash of a deputy who was pursuing an acquaintance of Tucker's. He was serving time in jail for failure to pay child support.
Vincent, 40, was serving a split sentence after being convicted on a charge of receiving stolen property.
That being said, he doesn't advise any member of the community to confront an escaped inmate.
“We have a good record of recovering people who do run off,” he said.
Young said the disappearance of Tucker and Vincent was reported 4:30 a.m. Sunday. He said the last confirmed sighting of the pair was at 3 a.m. It's uncertain if the men walked or if someone picked them up.
Vincent was found just south of the dead end of Compton Road on the west side of Lindsay Lane. He flagged down a motorist and asked for a ride, but Young said the motorist refused and instead called 911.
The Athens Police Department responded and spotted Vincent walking into a wooded area. Instead of pursuing him, Young said the Sheriff's Office was contacted and a perimeter was set up. Dogs from the Limestone Correctional Facility were turned loose in the wooded area, and Vincent was found a short time later in some brush.
“It only took five to seven minutes,” Young said, crediting the efforts of the prison tracking dogs. “It was our fastest and most successful track.”
Young hoped Tucker would be found soon. He added Tucker is not considered an “imminent threat” to the community and asked anyone who knows of his whereabouts to call the Sheriff's Office at 256-232-0111.