When his brother was sentenced to death and wrongly accused of murder he got himself locked up in Fox River to help him break out and evade the execution.
Born in 1974 in Illinois, Michael Scofield had a rough time growing up. His father deserted his family prior to his birth, and his mother died when he was only 11. This resulted in him and his brother, Lincoln Burrows, jumping around through various foster homes. During this time Lincoln got caught up in a life of crime to try and make some money to help protect Michael from falling down the same path that he was on. With Lincoln's help, Michael went on to university where he demonstrated his genius and earned a master's degree in civil engineering. He then landed a job with a prestigious architecture firm where he lived a wealthy and successful life.
When Lincoln gets sent to prison and death row for the assassination of the vice-presidents brother, Michael thinks that this is just Lincoln continuing to ruin his own life. However after he visits him at the prison, Michael realizes that his brother is actually innocent and that he is going to be sent to the electric chair for nothing. Michael feels the need to save his brother, the only parent figure he ever had, yet Lincoln has been professionally setup so all the evidence points to him doing it. The only idea Michael has to save his brother, is to get purposefully get himself sent to the maximum security prison Fox River where his brother is being held, and to break out of there with him.
When Michael finds that his brother has been wrongfully convicted for the murder of Terrence Steadman, the vice-president's brother, he immediately drops everything he's doing in his life and gets to planning on how he can break him out of the maximum security prison Fox River. He acquires the blueprints for the prison and starts to plan out every single step of his escape from the moment he arrives, to where they have to go when they get out. He looks into information about the prison's current inmates, staff and anything that will aid him in his escape. Once he has all his plans laid out, he maps out a tattoo to get on his body which will secretly contain the prison's blueprints and all of the other plans he has for the escape. After all the planning is done, he goes and lets himself get caught by the police at a bank that he is holding up with a gun. His first part of the plan is successful as he gets sentenced to Fox River prison for 5 years.
Once in Fox River, Michael begins to setup all his alliances and plans he needs to break out of the prison. One of which consists of repeated trips to the infirmary where the breakout will eventually take place through the room's window. To keep coming back to the infirmary, Michael must pretend he has diabetes. At first the doses of insulin which he receives have negative side effects for him since he doesn't actually need it, but he later gets another inmate, "C-Note", to give him medicine which he can take to suppress the side-effects. The doctor who looks after Michael is Sara Tancredi. Michael and Sara slowly develop a type of relationship with each other, but Sara tries not to let it go too far since she isn't allowed to fall in love with inmates. Over the course of a couple weeks, Michael, with the help of his cellmate Fernando Sucre, begin to carve a hole through the wall behind their toilet which will be where their escape will begin. During the course of the preparation for the escape Michael needs more and more people to help in exchange for taking them along on the escape. Once the plan is finally just about ready, there is just one more thing that Michael needs to do to ensure that they can escape. He needs to have the door to the infirmary unlocked when they arrive there on the night of the escape. He steals Sara's key, but once he does she notices that it's missing and knows he took it. He decides to give it back to her and lets her in on his plan on escaping. He asks for her to leave the door unlocked that night when she leaves. Sarah doesn't know what she should do, so Michael is just left to hope that when he and the others get to the door that night that it will be open.
Michael and 9 others put their plan into fruition that night and begin to sneak out of Michael's cell over to the infirmary. They get there and find Sara did in fact leave the door unlocked for Michael and they are able to get inside. They break off the bars that block the window and climb across the telephone line to the other side of the prison fence. Eight out of the ten inmates make it out including Michael, Lincoln, Fernando Sucre, mob boss John Abruzzi, David Apolskis, Haywire, C-Note, and against their will, T-Bag, a convicted pedophile and murderer. However as soon as they get out, police are searching everywhere for them and they are quickly introduced to a life on the run.