[Pnews] A Grandmother Didn't Answer Her Phone During Class...She was sent back to Prison - Washington Post Article

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Jun 27 13:53:21 EDT 2021


  A grandmother didn’t answer her phone during a class. She was sent
  back to prison.

Gwen Levi.webp

ByJustin Wm. Moyer 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/justin-moyer/>andNeena Satija - 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/neena-satija/>June 26, 2021

In the year she was out of prison, Gwen Levi, 76, was thriving.

After serving 16 years in different federal facilities for dealing 
heroin, Levi was allowed to leave last June and finish her 24-year 
sentence in home confinement under the supervision of federal prison 
officials. She moved in with her 94-year-old mother in Baltimore and 
volunteered at prisoner advocacy organizations, hoping for a paying job 
to come along. She was also building her relationships with her sons and 

But Levi’s season on the outside ended June 12 after she attended a 
computer word-processing class in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A Federal 
Bureau of Prisons incident report said she was out of contact for a few 
hours with the officials supervising her.

Levi is now at the D.C. jail awaiting transfer to a federal facility, 
according to her attorney, Sapna Mirchandani, of Maryland’s Office of 
the Federal Public Defender.

“There’s no question she was in class,” 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 is one of about 4,500 federal prisoners sent to home confinement 
last year to protect them from contracting the coronavirus 
Advocates celebrated the move by the Trump administration and expected 
that President Biden would continue to keep former inmates home even 
after the pandemic receded.

But while Biden has taken steps supported by criminal justice advocates 
the White House has appeared to follow President Donald Trump’s lead 
with respect to a Justice Department memo calling for nearly all people 
to return to prison when the public health emergency ends.

Inmates sent home amid pandemic may have to return under Trump-era 

The administration hasn’t weighed in on the binding Justice Department 
memo <https://www.justice.gov/olc/file/1355886/download>, issued in the 
final days of Trump’s presidency. The White House and Justice Department 
wouldn’t comment when asked by The Washington Post about the return of 
inmates to prison on seemingly minor violations.

Kristie A. Breshears, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said in an 
email that the agency cannot discuss individual cases. However, 
sanctions “are not imposed in a capricious or retaliatory manner,” she 
said, and bureau staff “are the determining factor when making 
determinations regarding transferring an inmate back to secure custody.”

Breshears added that the Bureau of Prisons could decide to allow inmates 
near the end of their sentences to stay on home confinement after the 

“For the more difficult cases, where inmates still have years left to 
serve, this will be an issue only after the pandemic is over,” she said. 
“The president recently extended the national emergency and the 
Department of Health and Human Services has said the public health 
crisis is likely to last for the rest of the year.”

Biden administration endorses bill to end disparity in drug sentencing 
between crack and powder cocaine 

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.”

In a statement released by Mirchandani, Levi said she was “devastated.”

“I feel like I was attempting to do all the right things,” Levi said. 
“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.”

Biden launches an effort to head off violent crime — and political peril 
for his party 

Other prisoners released to home confinement during the pandemic also 
are being sent back.

Lynn Espejo was sentenced to 45 months for filing false tax returns, 
wire fraud and money laundering in the Eastern District of Arkansas in 
In an interview, she said she was released in May last year, got a job 
at her church and re-enrolled in graduate school, where she was 
completing a master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling. 
She also writes a blog <https://insidethewallscom.wordpress.com/> 
focused on inmates’ rights and hosts a radio show

On Jan. 12, according to Bureau of Prisons documents, Espejo was written 
up for emailing inmates — “[v]iolating a condition of a community 
program” by “communicating with inmates currently incarcerated in 
numerous Federal Prisons,” according to the incident report. She was 
reincarcerated Jan. 12 and released Jan. 27 after a judge allowed her to 
be returned home because of health issues.

Espejo, who has since completed her degree, said she believes she was 
sent back to prison as retaliation for her activism. About 153,000 
inmates are in the custody of the bureau, a 20-year low.

“You cannot hold someone's freedom of speech over their head on home 
confinement,” she said.

Breshears said she could not comment on an individual inmate’s 
conditions of confinement.

Frail inmates could be sent home to prevent the spread of covid-19. 
Instead, some are dying in federal prisons. 

Kevin Ring, president of nonprofit prisoner advocacy organization 
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said returning people on home 
confinement to prison for minor violations is “counter to human nature.” 
The Biden administration should say whether it will rescind the Trump 
administration memo, he said.

“This is exactly what we feared from them delaying resolution of this 
issue,” he said. “Every day is torture. They’re worried about going back 
to prison. . . . Waiting is the hardest part.”

Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at the 
University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, said that if the Justice 
Department won’t rescind the memo, the Biden administration could use 
another legal tool: clemency. Osler said he has spoken to administration 
officials about that possibility.

But such grants could prove controversial as Biden announces measures to 
combat violent crime 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-crime/2021/06/21/5d1ce8f0-d2b0-11eb-a53a-3b5450fdca7a_story.html?itid=lk_inline_manual_40> amid 
an increase in violence**across the country.

The transfer of prisoners to home confinement during the pandemic has 
proved to be safe, Osler said. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing 
in April 
Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal said three inmates 
transferred to home confinement have been arrested on new charges.

“The facade of their incarceration in the interest of public safety has 
been knocked over,” Osler said.

As national leaders debate criminal justice, Levi is back behind bars. 
Her son Craig Levi said it was a blessing to have his mother home. Now, 
she’s gone.

“We don’t understand how it escalated,” he said. “It’s unjustified — the 
stress that they put on the family.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer <https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/justin-moyer/>
Justin Wm. Moyer is a breaking news reporter for The Washington Post. 
After a long stint as a contributing writer at the Washington City 
Paper, he came to The Post in 2008, becoming an editor in Outlook and 
for the Morning Mix, The Post's overnight team. He became a reporter in 
2015. <https://twitter.com/@justinwmmoyer>
Twitter <https://twitter.com/@justinwmmoyer>

By Neena Satija <https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/neena-satija/>
Neena Satija has been an investigative reporter for The Washington Post 
since January 2019. She was previously an investigative reporter and 
radio producer for the Texas Tribune and Reveal, a national radio show 
and podcast. <https://twitter.com/@neenareports>
Twitter <https://twitter.com/@neenareports>
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