MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama Supreme Court Attorney Steve Marshall issued an opinion Friday that prisoner escape from work-release programs is a felony and not a misdemeanor.

Whitney Jones, 54, of Mobile County was an inmate in the Mobile County Metro Jail and a participant in its work-release program. In Jan. 2018, Jones was working at a business in Creola when she and another inmate left the business and did not return to the work-release barracks. In Oct. 2018, she was charged with second-degree escape and was convicted.

Jones contended at trial and on appeal that she could only have been guilty of a misdemeanor due to a provision in Alabama’s work-release escape statute. The Alabama Supreme Court rejected that claim and established that Alabama’s felony escape statutes apply not only to escapes from jails, but also escapes from work-release programs.

Marshall praised the Supreme Court’s decision and noted that it will provide law enforcement, as well as prosecutors, tools with which to ensure the safety and efficacy of work release and community corrections programs.