Local News

Prisoner: Go Greyhound and Get Out of Jail

Posted February 21, 1999

— A federal prisoner is on the loose somewhere between Goldsboro and West Virginia. He walked away while being transferred to a West Virginia prison.

Authorities put the inmate on a Greyhound bus by himself. Now, federal prison officials in Goldsboro are trying to explain why the inmate was allowed to get on the bus and travel to an out-of-state prison without any supervision.

Billy Maurice ``Dollar Bill'' Simmons was allowed to ride the bus by himself as part of a federal prison transfer program designed to save money. His disappearance has many people asking questions.

Minimum security federal inmates ride from prison to prison on the same buses as anyone else. Officials say the practice is perfectly legal.

"The Bureau of Prisons does have a policy to transfer minimum security, non-violent inmates to other minimum security, camp institutions," says Rodney Tabron, spokesman for the Goldsboro prison camp.

Simmons, of Jacksonville, was serving a 41-month sentence for conspiracy to convert postal money orders to his own use. He is not considered dangerous.

A prisoner at Seymour Johnson Federal Prison Camp in Goldsboro, Simmons was supposed to transfer to the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution and Prison Camp in West Virginia last Friday. But he got off the bus somewhere along the route.

Simmons was dropped off at the Goldsboro bus station all alone; no guard, no handcuffs, no uniform. In fact, bus station owner Lisa Hokuf says traveling inmates do not have to tell other passengers who they are.

"They usually look like anyone else. They are in their street clothes because they are going to a minimum security-type facility. There is usually not any way to identify them," says Hokuf.

Hokuf says her records do not show that federal agents even bought a ticket for Simmons. Regardless, prison officials say the inmates they let travel unescorted are not dangerous. The prison at Seymour Johnson does not even have a fence outside.

The Feds say Bill Simmons and the other inmates are not a threat to other riders or to anyone else.

"We screen them very well because protection of the public is our number one concern. We screen these individuals very thoroughly to ensure that it is safe," says Tabron.

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