Security for prisoners on work release programs from the Edgartown house of correction is likely to be tightened up following an incident this week in which a prisoner caught a bus to visit a friend and girlfriend instead of going to work.

Quincy A. Young, who was serving a 30-month sentence for drug and firearms offenses, was allowed out on Sunday to attend a work program at the Farm Institute in Katama. He was supposed to catch a public bus to get there.

But instead he boarded another bus to West Tisbury, where he visited a friend whom he hoped would house him after his release from jail. He then visited his girlfriend, who lived nearby.

Mr. Young was apprehended peacefully within hours after he failed to turn up at work, by police and prison and sheriff’s department officers who surrounded the house on Meadow Farms Road.

Mr. Young now faces a charge of escaping from custody and has lost his work release privileges, but yesterday Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack said he believed Mr. Young planned to return to jail all along.

He said Mr. Young missed the bus which was supposed to take him to Katama. The next bus was bound for West Tisbury.

“The information I have from the officers who interviewed him was that it was purely a spur of the moment thing, and that he figured he would take advantage of being out, to secure his housing once he was released, and then see his girlfriend real quick,” Sheriff McCormack said.

“I don’t believe there was any intention not to return to the jail. He was taking advantage of being outside, to take care of some personal business.

“The girlfriend was urging him to get back to work. He was planning on doing that, I believe, but we got him before that.”

Sheriff McCormack admitted it was unusual that a work-release prisoner was allowed to take public transport to a job.

“With most of the individuals who are on work release, the employer is required to pick them up. But the Farm Institute didn’t have the ability to do that, so the alternate plan of taking the bus was put in place,” he said.

There was one other prisoner also allowed to catch the bus, he said, to work at an Edgartown plant nursery.

“But I think the bus is off the table, from this point on,” he said. “We are reviewing the situation, but I think the outcome will be that we’ll go back to the normal practice that an employer will have to pick them up and then return them.

“And if the employer can’t do that, then they are not going to be deemed suitable,” he said.

Mr. Young, 29, was sentenced in late July after pleading guilty to charges of distributing cocaine, receiving stolen property and defacing the serial number on a firearm.

The escape came less than two weeks after Sheriff McCormack was re-elected, following a campaign in which jail security, particularly in relation to work-release prisoners, was made an issue by his main opponent, former state police Sgt. Neal Maciel.

Mr. Maciel claimed lax oversight had resulted in prisoners returning to the jail with contraband, mainly drugs. He advocated routine strip searches of returning day-release prisoners.

Sheriff McCormack denied the need for such a measure, saying it would breach the trust built up with prisoners preparing to go back into society. He defended the work-release programs as a step toward re-integration and a means for prisoners to earn some money toward their needs when they got out.

Sheriff McCormack said after his apprehension, Mr. Young was found to be clean.

“He was tested on his return and there was no indication that he had taken any sort of drugs,” he said.

“It was apparently just a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend to some personal business. He wasn’t thinking, that’s the bottom line.

“The thing is, if he had run it by us, we would have been happy to assist him in securing some housing. Housing is one of the key things that we are concerned about when somebody gets released.”