9 Investigates prisoners walking away from work-release programs



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - 9 Investigates has learned that more inmates escape onto Florida streets than you might think.

Convicted murderer Richard Weber walked away from his work-release telemarketing job in Orlando on Tuesday night and hasn't been seen since.

Channel 9's Christopher Heath checked with investigators and learned that convicted criminals, even some with a history of violence, walk away from work-release on a regular basis.

According to Florida state records, every two days someone walks away from a work-release program.

So far this year, 14 people have fled from work-release across the state.

While most are eventually caught, some stay on the run for weeks and even months.

The multi-agency search for Richard Weber moved into its second day Thursday.

Weber had been at the Bridges of Orlando.

Weber had a lengthy rap sheet, which includes a conviction for third-degree murder.

Weber's rap sheet was cleared by the State Department of Corrections , which then allowed him to enter the work release program.

Judges can make recommendations, but the DOC has total authority over which inmates are in the program.

Inmates convicted of sexual crimes and those who have a history of escape are disqualified.

Work-release is designed to be for low-risk offenders about to finish their time.

Since July, 82 inmates have walked away from work release centers across the state. Weber is the most recent.

Weber is not the only inmate to walk away in the last few weeks in central Florida.

Coi Williams walked away from his facility last month. He's still on the run.

Williams had been living at a DOC facility in Kissimmee when he walked away Jan. 27.

Williams has a series of convictions on his rap sheet. Like Weber, he escaped from work-release.

Because the system is designed to be open, it's hard to know if a felon has escaped until he fails to show up, DOC officials said.

The Orlando Police Department said it has a fugitive unit dedicated to tracking down people like Weber and Williams.