(CNN) — Forged documents allegedly used by two convicted murderers as part of an elaborate escape plan were put together inside the prison in the Florida Panhandle, the state's top law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The details were released during a hearing before the state government subcommittee considering a secure e-filing system to prevent such escapes.
"There is a group, a gang, inside. They worked with people outside," Commissioner Gerald Bailey, head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, both 34, had been serving life terms without parole for unrelated killings at Franklin Correctional Institution in North Carrabelle, south of Tallahassee in Florida's Panhandle, when they allegedly escaped.
Jenkins walked out September 27, while Walker left October 8. Both used legal-looking documents with bogus reproductions of several key players' signatures, including those of the Orlando-area state attorney and Judge Belvin Perry, plus the seal of the Orange County clerk of court's office.
Both men were recaptured and now face escape charges.
Citing confidential sources inside the prison, Bailey told the subcommittee the documents were sent out by the prisoners to people on the outside, who in turn filed the bogus documents.
Bailey did not identify those who allegedly helped the men, telling lawmakers only that there is a list of suspects. There also is no evidence of employee involvement, he said.
State officials have been investigating the scam for about a year and had warned state prosecutors about the schemes over the summer, authorities have said.
The escape has prompted a review of law libraries in state prisons as well as inmate use of computers and processing equipment "to make sure we are not giving them too much," Michael Crews, head of the Florida Department of Corrections, told the committee.
State prisons are also strengthening their review of prisoner releases, he said.
Any future judicial order that changes the release date of an inmate will be verified with the judge who signed it, Crews said.
To date, the state Department of Corrections has reviewed 7,800 of more than 9,300 prison release documents for possible fraud, Crews said. So far, no fraud has been detected, he said.
Perry, the judge whose signature was forged, recommended to the legislature that penalties for doctoring and forging documents be increased.