When federal prison officials decided to transfer drug dealer Dwayne Fitzen from one prison to another, they bought him a one-way bus ticket from Minnesota to California. They trusted that the convict known as “Shadow” would check himself into Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution at the end of the two-day trip last fall. What happened next may come as no surprise. Fitzen got off the bus in Las Vegas and vanished. The U.S. Marshals Service considers him “armed and dangerous” and has added him to its growing list of convicts who escaped while traveling alone by bus.
Already in San Diego County this year, the Marshals Service has launched manhunts for two prisoners who failed to turn themselves in after being put aboard buses bound for halfway houses here. Since 1996, when the bus transfer program began, eight San Diego-bound prisoners have escaped, reports the Copley News Service. The little-known furlough program, also known as “voluntary surrenders,” was started by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to save money and relieve prison crowding. The program is usually reserved for prisoners being transferred to low security facilities, which typically house nonviolent inmates. Bureau officials would not discuss the program or provide information about the number of prisoners who travel alone by bus or the number who have escaped. But a spokeswoman for Greyhound Lines Inc. said the company had no idea unescorted prisoners were being put on its buses until it was contacted by The San Diego Union-Tribune.