‘We Make Mistakes': Inmate Pens Letter About Social Security Error Uncovered by NBC10 Boston

An NBC10 Boston investigative producer had reached out to Willie Brown, an inmate at a prison in Norfolk, to discuss a case of mistaken identity that involved him

A piece of mail postmarked from the Pondville Correctional Center in Norfolk arrived at our station on Friday.

It's not uncommon for our investigative unit to receive mail from prison. Inmates regularly write to reporters, arguing they were wrongly incarcerated or asking for some form of legal assistance.

But this letter was different.

It was from Willie Brown, an inmate who the Social Security Administration confused for a local Marine veteran living in Rockland.

As a result of the mix-up, the similarly-named William Brown erroneously had his benefit payments cut off because the federal agency believed he was actually the person serving time behind bars.

We recently reported on William Brown's case of mistaken identity, a story that came our way during our "Talk to Ten" phone-a-thon.

Despite his repeated attempts to cut through the bureaucracy, the married Vietnam veteran could not get the situation corrected until we intervened.

In advance of the story, NBC10 Boston investigative producer Jim Haddadin reached out to Willie Brown to see if he was aware of the dilemma. The 70-year-old inmate is serving time at the Norfolk institution after a larceny conviction on the Cape.

In his return letter, Brown thanked us for bringing the situation to his attention. He also reflected on the massive federal agency and the potential for errors.

"Oversights occur as data entry is at the hands of man," Brown wrote. "We make mistakes. With your assistance, hopefully, Mr. Brown has been righted and not seriously [sic] effected, in his daily life during the error."

Brown added that he would know who to contact if a similar mistaken identity issue happened to him in the future.

"I wish Mr. Brown good health," the other Brown concluded.

The letter provided an unexpected and welcome Friday surprise in our newsroom.

Ryan Kath can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

Contact Us