Prisoners on buses

Are you taking a Greyhound to Gramma's for the holidays? Using Peter Pan to get your family gathering? Check out the person sitting next to you – he could be a federal prisoner!

Harry Jay, Ex Con

"Nobody would know at all, you're on a bus just like a regular person."

Harry Jay is an ex-con. Half way through his sentence for tax fraud he was transferred from a federal prison in Texas to one in California.

But Harry’s transfer wasn’t anything like the movie Con Air.

He just got on a Greyhound bus alone. Federal Bureau of Prison officials gave him regular clothing and dropped him off at the local bus station.

Harry Jay, Ex Con

"The level of oversight was absolutely zero."

No supervision, no chaperone – just a one-way ticket and a bon voyage. And we found it’s happening in Massachusetts too! Over the past three years, the Federal Bureau of Prison allowed 5300 inmates to travel the nation’s highways all by themselves! Thirty of those convicted criminals came or went? from the prison here at Fort Devens.

What’s to keep these prisoners from escaping you’re wondering? Well some of them had the same idea – just getting off the bus and disappearing.

Dwayne Fitzen. Convicted coke dealer. Supposed to go from Minnesota to California in 2004. He hopped off in Las Vegas–and is still on the run.

Alvin Lewis. Counterfeiter. Scheduled to go from Tennessee to California in 2003. He's still MIA.

Drug trafficker Richard Gray bused out of California in 2003—but U.S. marshals say he didn't show up in Florida.

Jimel Griffin, US Marshall:

"We think the temptation was just too great for him and he just got off the bus."

He's since been caught– but law-abiding bus riders worry it’s a system that opens the door to trouble.

Bus Passenger

"I think it's crazy."

Bus Passenger

"I think it’s a potential for disaster."

The bus companies agree. Especially since their drivers have no clue if there's a con on board. Prison officials don’t tell them!

The American Bus Association fired off this angry letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons a few years ago saying they were "outraged" and demanding the "dangerous policy" of unescorted bus travel "cease and desist immediately."

It didn't.

Peter J. Pantuso, President & CEO, American Bus Association

"It leaves us wondering who is riding, what the situations are, what kind of screening is going on”.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons refused to talk to us on-camera but told us unescorted prisoners are "pre-screened" to make sure they are "low risk". The Bureau also points out traveling by bus is "low cost" – so it’s a frugal use of your tax dollars.

And the Bureau insists walk-aways from buses are "rare.” But when we asked: How many have escaped? How many are still at large? They told us "We have no way of tracking that information."

The bus-riding prisoners are warned an escape attempt will add time to their sentence – but of course, that's only if they get caught.

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