More than 240 inmates have slipped away from federal custody in the past three years while traveling to halfway houses, including several who committed bank robberies and a carjacking while on the lam, according to documents obtained by the AP. Some of the inmates who absconded from 2012 through 2014 were reported by prison officials to have histories of violence and misconduct while in prison, the records show. The federal Bureau of Prisons each year permits thousands of inmates it considers low risk to serve the final months of their sentences at halfway houses where counseling, job placement, and other services are offered. These inmates travel unescorted, often by bus, as part of the process of transitioning back into the community.
Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that 327 inmates were placed on escaped status during those years. About 65 of them were simply late arrivals, though the circumstances of their tardiness are not detailed. Most of the escapes occurred as inmates were traveling without escort from a prison to a halfway house. The remaining few took place during travel for social, medical, or other purposes that were not specified. The bureau could not say how many who fled have since been apprehended. The escapees are a fraction of the roughly 30,000 who travel unescorted to halfway houses each year. But the data nonetheless expose lingering imperfections in a system that's come under scrutiny from the Justice Department's watchdog and which relies on trust that inmates nearing the end of their sentences will arrive at their destinations as scheduled. Click for more, including details of crimes committed by inmates on furlough. (Read more prisoners stories.)