I think this raises some questions, not only about this man's story but about the effectiveness and function of prison. Essentially he's a man who was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison but never serve because of administrative error. He didn't hide. He wasn't a fugitive. It was a court error. In that intervening time, he has turned his life around, got married, had kids, had an entire life but is now serving his sentence after the court discovered his mistake. Even the victim thinks that he should not be punished, imprisoned now for what the court overlooked.

Even more so, the judgement of a 22 year old and a man in his 30s is vastly different and like many people, as he ages, he sees the world differently, being less reactive and likely to commit crimes. He rebuilt his life outside. Not in prison— which makes you wonder whether we are not accounting for the maturational process that might lead to rehabilitation to all sorts of young men who spend their youth in prison and their adulthood being punished by a system that will never let them forget that they were convicted of a felony.

Some excerpts:

Just after dawn on July 25, a phalanx of vehicles parked and blocked traffic on a quiet residential street in Webster Groves. Moments later a team of U.S. marshals piled out, pounded on the door of an unremarkable-looking suburban home and rousted Cornealious "Mike" Anderson from inside.

"You've got the wrong guy," blurted the 36-year-old contractor as the marshals, outfitted in tactical gear and helmets, swept his two-story home. The only person inside was two-year-old Nevaeh, Anderson's youngest daughter, asleep in her crib in the master bedroom. A marshal lifted her out, confused and crying, and carried her downstairs.


"Baby, I'm sorry," he told her. "This is something from thirteen years ago. I thought that this was over."


A few hours later Anderson arrived at Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center, a facility 100 miles west of St. Louis that accepts new inmates and sorts them for their eventual permanent homes within the Missouri Department of Corrections. He's been there ever since.

Regardless of the mistake, the DOC now says Anderson still owes time. To his friends and family, Anderson is an ideal father, church member and football coach, and he bears no resemblance to the 22-year-old who was convicted so many years ago. They say he belongs at home.

No one, not Anderson's attorneys nor several legal experts contacted by the Riverfront Times, is quite sure what Anderson's options are, or even if he has any.


Links to stories, here and here and this American Life's episode here.