The Bureau of Prisons Really Sent a 76-Year-Old Grandmother Back to Jail for Missing Phone Calls While She Was in Class

·3 min read
Gwen Levi
Gwen Levi

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

76-year-old Gwen Levi was sent back to jail and will return to prison after she not answering her phone when authorities contacted her on June 12, because she was sitting in a computer word processing class.

Levi, along with the 4,500 others, was released from prison to home confinement due to safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Complex reported that “Some thought Joe Biden would extend the policy but it seems the White House may be looking to send almost all those inmates back to prison once the public health emergency is over, which is in line with a Justice Department memo from the Trump administration.”

According to the Washington Post reports that prior to June 12, Levi was living with and taking care of her 94-year-old mother in Baltimore. She “volunteered at prisoner advocacy organizations, [was] hoping for a paying job to come along, [and] was also building her relationships with her sons and grandsons.”

Levi served 16 of the 24 years she was sentenced to in different prisons across the country. In June 2020, she was allowed finish her sentence in home confinement underneath “the supervision of federal prison officials.”

An incident report from June 2021 said federal authorities were unable to reach Levi for a few hours on June 12. During that time, the 76-year old grandmother was attending a class in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Because she missed the calls, she was reincarcerated.

“According to Levi’s Bureau of Prisons incident report, the officials supervising her were alerted by her ankle monitor at 10:51 a.m. that she was not home. She did not answer calls to her phone for the next few hours. By 1:17 p.m., the ankle monitor showed she was back at her approved address. The report noted the incident as an ‘escape,” WaPo reported.

Her lawyer, Sapna Mirchandani, shared that Levi is currently in a D.C. jail waiting to be transferred to federal prison.

“There’s no question she was in class,” the attorney said of her client’s whereabouts on June 12. “As I was told, because she [Levi] could have been robbing a bank, they’re going to treat her as if she was robbing a bank.”

Levi shared a statement through her attorney, “I feel like I was attempting to do all the right things.” she said.

“Breaking rules is not who I am,” she additionally expressed. “I tried to explain what happened, and to tell the truth. At no time did I think I wasn’t supposed to go to that class. I apologize to my mother and my family for what this is doing to them.” Levi shared that she feels “devastated.”

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Spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons Kristie A. Breshears told WaPo that bureau staff “are the determining factor when making determinations regarding transferring an inmate back to secure custody.” While noting that she’s unable to speak on individual cases, she emphasized that the bureau would be the ones deciding whether imprisoned people close to the end of their sentences could finish them in home confinement, but only when the pandemic is over.