After reading about Marie Walsh, a woman who broke out of prison in 1976, built a comfortable suburban life in San Diego, and hid her identity for 32 years until her 2008 arrest, I searched for similar stories online. Here are a few I found:
- Paula Carroll–sentenced to 5 years for having stolen property in her apartment, escaped from an Ocala, Florida prison in 1975 to Melbourne, Florida, married, had three sons, volunteered for the Boy Scouts and Brevard Public Schools, arrested 34 years later in 2009 at age 56.
- Enrico Ponzo–mafia hit man who escaped from Boston to Marsing, Idaho in 1994 after being arrested for drug charges, became a cow rancher and helpful neighbor, had two kids, arrested 17 years later in 2011 at age 42, currently accused of an attempted murder that occurred in 1989.
- Ian Jackson MacDonald–arrested in 1980 for drug smuggling, escaped from Miami jail to rural Pennsylvania with his wife, became a horse caretaker and appliance store owner, arrested 30 years later in 2011 at age 71.
Reading these stories makes me feel bad for the fugitives. I believe that if you have the ambition and intelligence to escape prison, forge a productive, crime-free life, and evade the cops for more than a decade, you should be issued a get-out-of-jail-free card (or at least be given the option of going to prison, paying a fine, or performing community service) if you’re arrested. At most, if you were guilty of killing or maiming someone, you should provide financial compensation to the victim’s family members. I say this because a) I think living in fear for decades is punishment enough and b) I simply don’t believe that throwing perfectly sane, tax-paying citizens back into prison will help anyone. There are more fruitful (and equally punitive) ways of making smart, motivated people pay for their crimes than putting them in jail, especially after they’ve been good for a long time.