Thousands of people were released from prison at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gwen Levi, a 76-year-old woman sentenced for a petty violation decades ago, was one of them. Glad for the chance to go home, she rejoined her grandchildren and 94-year-old mother, and did volunteer work.
And that’s where the problems began.
On June 12, Levi, hoping to find a job, went to a computer class in Baltimore. Focused on studying, she didn’t answer her phone for a few hours. Her supervisors reported it as an “escape!”
So she was sent back behind bars.
Like many formerly incarcerated folks trying to rebuild their lives after prison, Levi says she was “attempting to do all the right things.” After a year outside, she was “devastated” that all her efforts came crashing down. But if they know she went to class, why was she reported?
At what point are we going to acknowledge how ridiculous the prison system is? It's so easy for this country to criminalize the smallest of things as formerly incarcerated folks try to rebuild their lives. A new system is long overdue.