Gwen Levi, a 76-year-old grandmother, was one of thousands of federal prisoners allowed to finish their sentences in home confinement as the COVID crisis escalated last year—but she is back behind bars after an incident the Bureau of Prisons classed as an "escape." Levi attended a computer class in Baltimore on June 12, believing, apparently in error, that she had been approved to do so, USA Today reports. After her ankle monitor alerted authorities, they tried to call Levi, but she had turned her phone off for the class and was unreachable for more than two hours. "There’s no question she was in class," public defender Sapna Mirchandani tells the Washington Post. "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—who had served 16 years of a 24-year sentence for dealing heroin—was returned to prison four days later and could now face years in a federal facility. Levi is one of around 4,500 nonviolent federal prisoners released on home confinement last year who still have time left on their sentences. Advocates say that instead of returning these inmates to prison for relatively minor violations, the Biden administration should rescind a Trump-era memo calling for them to return to prison when the public health emergency is declared over—or offer them clemency. Mirchandani says Levi, who was in remission from lung cancer, has been devastated by having to return to prison after the progress she had made rebuilding her life and reconnecting with family members over the last year. "She can handle being in prison again, but she feels like this is crushing her 94-year-old mother," the attorney says. (Read more Bureau of Prisons stories.)