Your life finally feels like it’s coming together.You meet the man of your dreams. He’s a well-rounded man who fishes on the weekends and volunteers at church. He asks you to marry him and you start a family. Years later you’re raising four kids and balancing your time between report card meetings, grocery shopping and the occasional “date night” you manage to squeeze in whenever your in-laws are up for watching the kids.
One day, you’re folding laundry while The Wendy Williams Show audience laughs on your living room TV and you hear a knock at the door. It’s the police and they inform you they’re at your home to arrest your husband. Not your husband? Not the man who just helped your daughters with their spelling lists no less than 12 hours ago?
Well something similar happened to LaQonna Anderson, when the police came to arrest her husband Cornealious “Mike” Anderson in the summer of 2013. Anderson wasn’t living a secret double-life of crime, but was rather a prisoner of his past. A clerical error prevented him from serving time for an armed robbery conviction in 2000 and in July 2013, Missouri law enforcement officials came to apprehend him so he could begin serving his time.
In 1999, Anderson helped rob a Burger King assistant manager in St. Charles MO with what later was discovered to be a BB gun. He was sentenced to serve 13 years in prison in 2000 but because of a clerical error never served the time.
In an interview on the Today Show Thursday morning, Anderson was asked if worried during those first few years when law enforcement would arrive to arrest him, he responded:
“For the first couple of years, yes. When I’m in the shower, I hear a noise, outside somebody closing the door, I’m thinking it’s them at the door every single day.”
When asked why he didn’t turn himself in, he admitted, “Prison is not me.”
Some may feel that Anderson got exactly what he deserved, but he argues that during the years some missed paperwork kept him out of prison he rehabilitated himself, something that critics would argue most prisons fail at doing. Shortly after his conviction he trained as a carpenter, started a small business and built his home from the ground up. He started a family with LaQonna and was in many ways an ideal citizen. But that doesn’t matter to the state of Missouri who insists he serve the 13 years he was originally sentenced to.
Furthermore, Anderson claims he wasn’t a fugitive and was last told by his lawyer that he wasn’t incarcerated and out on bond. During that time he registered his business in his name, renewed his driver’s license, got married and even voted without ever signaling any red flags to government agencies.
“A fugitive is someone that they’re looking for and that’s running. I never ran, and they weren’t looking for me. … I used to think, ‘Maybe they just wiped the slate clean.’”
Anderson’s lawyer, Patrick Megaro has filed a petition for Anderson to be credited with the 13 years citing the heavily delayed sentence as “cruel and unusual punishment”. He’s filed a separate position requesting Anderson’s release and asking for clemency from Missouri governor Jay Nixon.
On one hand I do feel like Anderson did the crime, so he needs to do the time. But on the other hand a clerical mistake could have been exactly what changed his life for the better. Who knows if Anderson would be the same man he is today if he had actually served time in the prison system. Many inmates end up coming out worse than they were when they went in. And in a country where there are so many people who probably should be serving time that aren’t, we take a man who pays taxes, goes to church and is an involved father and husband and throw him in jail? There’s something that makes me very uncomfortable with that message.
Maybe stories like this, although far and few between, should begin to help us rediscover the lost purpose of prison: to protect the public AND rehabilitate. If the goal is to take those who have made mistakes in the past and help them grow into law abiding, responsible citizens, then you can’t argue that Mike Anderson has done a pretty decent job on his own. What’s worse is how confusing this might be for his children. In their eyes, Daddy was doing everything he was supposed to and is being punished anyway. Anderson sent this message to his family:
“It makes me feel like I’ve abandoned my job as a father and a husband.”
“I just want to tell them I love them. Daddy would never do anything to hurt you guys or do anything to jeopardize seeing you…”
“Just know that Daddy’ll be home soon. And just keep praying, and keep hope.”
Do you think Anderson should be made to serve his original sentence ?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.