76-Year-Old Woman Sent Back to Prison for Not Answering Her Phone During Class

A 76-year-old Baltimore woman who had been released to home confinement is back in prison because she didn't answer her supervisor's phone calls.


Image via Getty/Ian Waldie


The Trump administration released around 4,500 prisoners to home confinement during the pandemic to prevent them from catching COVID-19.

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, The Washington Post reports. One of those people is 76-year-old Gwen Levi, who found herself in prison once again after officials weren’t able to get in contact with her for a few hours because she was in a computer word-processing class.

She’s been in a Washington D.C. jail pending transfer to a federal facility since June 12. “There’s no question she was in class,” her lawyer, Sapna Mirchandani, said. “As I was told, because she could have been robbing a bank, they’re going to treat her as if she was robbing a bank.”

Levi served 16 years of a 24-year sentence for conspiracy to sell at least one kilogram of heroin, where she was transferred between a number of facilities, from Maryland to Texas to Alabama. Upon being released to home confinement, she moved back to Baltimore with her 94-year-old mother and began volunteering at prison advocacy organizations, where she aspired to get a paying job. She was also rekindling her relationships with her sons and grandsons.

She was taking the aforementioned class at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor when officials supervising her discovered from her ankle monitor at 10:51 a.m. that she wasn’t home. She subsequently didn’t answer her phone for a few hours, and her whereabouts were unknown until 1:17 p.m., when her ankle monitor showed she was back at her mother’s place. The Bureau of Prisons incident report labeled it as an “escape.”

“I feel like I was attempting to do all the right things,” Levi said through her attorney. “Breaking rules is not who I am. 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 also said she was “devastated.”

Kristie A. Breshears, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, told The Washington Post that bureau staff decides if an inmate should be sent back to “secure custody.” She added that when the pandemic is over, BOP can choose whether to release prisoners to home confinement if they’re nearing the end of their sentences.

Latest in Life