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Anthony Short thought he was doing everything right, but he’s forced back to prison after a clerical error led to a mistaken early release.

“I’m here at the Grace House, which is a recovery center. I’ve established a job. I’m really getting my life back together. I just got a vehicle. And then this morning I actually had DCS court and got my rights to my kids back.”

It was after that visitation hearing Wednesday morning, that Short’s Community Transition Program counselor from Madison County Community Correction came to him with some bad news.

“She’s like, ‘You’re not supposed to be out.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean I’m not supposed to be out?’ She’s like, ‘You’re not supposed to be out. You fell through the cracks,’” said Short.

He was released from prison three weeks ago.

In 2019 Short was sentenced to serve six years in prison, two years suspended, on a theft conviction.

“Unfortunately, at the time, I was pretty strung out on drugs, I ended up getting a theft case, burglary,” he said. “Once I got locked up in DOC, I worked on my education, I got my GED and then I also went through the Purposeful Living program.”

Short was due to leave the Putnamville Correctional Facility April 22nd, but applied late last year for the Department of Correction’s Community Transition Program to finish serving out his sentence back home in Anderson.

“The judge made a decision pretty quick and it was just a straight no,” he said. “I asked for a hearing and I submitted a bunch of stuff and asked to talk to the Court but he denied the hearing and made a decision of no.”

Madison Circuit Judge Andrew Hopper made that decision January 5th and sent out paper and electronic notices to everyone involved the next day. However, Short was stunned a month later when his counselor at Putnamville told him to pack his bags to get out.

“My counselor came to me and said, ‘You’ve been granted CTP, you leave Monday,’ and I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me, right now?’ and she’s like, ‘Nope. Everything’s just been filed. Everything’s going through,’” said Short.

“I came out. Now I got accepted at Ball State. I been accepted at Ivy Tech.”

After three years in prison, Short was committed to leaving his bad, old ways behind.

“Coming out I actually had a purpose,” he said. “I found a purpose. I wanted to get reconnected with my children. I didn’t want to be high anymore. I really wanted to make a difference with my life.”

That course headed toward a new life took a detour Thursday morning when Short’s Community Correction counselor took him back into custody for delivery to the Madison County Jail and eventual replacement with the Indiana Department of Correction.

“I’m just gonna have to do this and put this behind me but I’m like, how did I fall through the cracks? How did this just happen?” Short asked during a virtual interview Wednesday afternoon.

How it happened was a source of investigation by the DOC, Madison County Community Correction, Madison Circuit Court 3 and FOX59 all day today.

The Court said it followed “standard operating procedure” when it posted Judge Hopper’s January 5th order into the mycase system. The DOC said it was never told that the judge turned down Short’s application for CTP placement so that’s why he was released a month later.

MCCC Executive Director David Kane told FOX59 that the ENotice of the judge’s ruling never made it to his staff counselor though there were other docket and paper filings that should have been cross referenced to confirm the order.

Kane said he will instruct his staff to consider procedural changes to avoid such future mistakes.

All of which leaves Anthony Short right back where he was a month ago, doing everything right, and still looking at a late April release date from prison.

“I’ve been out the last month changing my life and establishing myself and then now I have to turn around and go right back,” he said. “I’ve worked on my sobriety every single day to continue moving forward and do the next right thing every single day and now this.”

I asked Short’s sober living advocate, Karl Lazar, founder of Grace Recovery and Wellness, if Short can bounce back from this.

“I think he can,” said Lazar. “I believe his mindset, at least with speaking to him yesterday, and all the men in my program rallying behind him and saying, ‘Look, you got this, you can come back,’ I believe he can.

“’Don’t let this speed bump ruin what you’ve started,’” Lazar said he told Short after he found out he was headed back to prison. “’Bed’s waiting for you when you get back out. Job’s waiting for you when you get back out, so don’t let it crush you and all the progress that you’ve made.’”

Short said resisting the urge to break his sobriety may be the toughest test of this latest setback.

“The biggest thing, people change. Incarceration is hard. It truly is. Individuals that make mistakes, and especially in today’s world with the drug epidemic that’s going on, people truly change, and they want to make a difference in their lives and the people around them.

“When I got out, I knew that I was done with that lifestyle, I didn’t want to be a part of that anymore. My life was changed and I knew I wasn’t going back to DOC because that criminal behavior was gone and now I’m going back to DOC.”