How was a tattoo-covered sex offender able to walk free?

13News Now Jemie Lee has the story

VIRGINIA - The search for a tattoo-covered sex offender on the run ended yesterday in Washington D.C. But now many are asking how Matthew Ezekiel Stager escaped.

On February 2, Stager was released by a federal prison and given permission to self-report to a halfway house in Texas, where he was supposed to serve the rest of his sentence. But when he was released, he ran.

Federal prison expert and attorney Alan Ellis said it's perfectly normal for prisons to allow inmates to self-report. 

“I’ve never heard of anybody being taken to a halfway house in custody or even with an ankle bracelet,” he said. 

Stager was being held at a medium security prison in Petersburg, Virginia for failing to register as a sex offender. In the last year of his sentence, he was issued a furlough transfer to serve the rest of his sentence at the halfway house. A furlough transfer gives inmates permission to self-report to transitional facilities by a certain time.

Ellis said this is part of a normal process to reintegrate convicts back into society.

“It’s part of the Federal Bureau of Prison’s pre-release program and the decision is made by staff at the prison,” he said.

Ellis said unless the inmate has a record of bad behavior, most will be released and granted permission to self-report.

“It’s standard operating procedure, and the purpose is to help reintegrate people back into the community so they don’t reoffend,” he said. 

Unfortunately in this case, Stager took advantage of this privilege and will now have to face an escape charge.

Normally, the prison that releases the inmate is supposed to pay for his/her transportation to the halfway house. We asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons if this was arranged in Stager's case. A spokesperson said he is working on getting us that information.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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