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S8E6: Forced to Return to Prison After Serving 21 Years: The Story of Matthew Charles

At age 30, Matthew was arrested for selling 216 grams of crack cocaine to an informant and illegally possessing a firearm. He was given a 35-year sentence. In prison, Matthew could easily have crawled deeper into his shell of anger, but he didn’t. His prison life was directed at exemplary rehabilitation. He took college courses and became a law clerk. And most importantly, Matthew became “genuinely repentant of his life before encountering the Grace of Christ, not offering empty excuses about his past, but taking ownership,” as a pastor would later describe him. In 2013, Matthew applied for a sentence modification because the Sentencing Commission had lowered guideline ranges for drug offenses. At his re-sentencing hearing, Judge Kevin Sharp commended his rehabilitation and reduced Matthew’s sentence. After spending 21 years in prison on a 35-year sentence, Matthew Charles was released in 2016. However, after a year and half of freedom, the court reversed the reduction in sentence, citing an error in his release. Remarkably, Matthew was sent back to prison in May of 2018 to serve out the rest of his sentence with more than a decade left to go. Then, the First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump on December 21, 2018, included a provision to apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively, which the government agreed would allow for Matthew’s immediate release. On January 3, 2019, Matthew Charles finally left prison for good.


Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a production of Lava For Good™ Podcasts in association with Signal Co. No1 and PRX.

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