Criminal Justice

He Didn't Answer the Phone One Night While on House Arrest. He's Been Sent Back to Prison for Four Years.

Such punitive measures do not make society any safer.


The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) has labeled Jeffrey A. Martinovich an escapee.

That appears to be a rather loose definition. Convicted of white-collar crimes in 2013, the former investment broker was serving the remainder of his sentence on home confinement when authorities from a Newport News, Virginia, halfway house called to check in. He missed those calls, and for that, he has been sent back to federal prison for more than four years—despite the fact that electronic monitoring surveillance shows he was in his house that evening.

"He was at home, as required, the entire night," wrote his attorney, Trey Kelleter, in a petition to have the move overturned, according to the Daily Press. "If he committed that infraction, then we'll deal with that. But it's not an escape, and they know it….He shouldn't be going back to prison for not answering his phone for one night, when they know he was at home the whole time."

Martinovich has since been carted off to a jail in Oklahoma before the feds transfer him back to the Federal Correctional Institution, Beckley, in West Virginia, where he is slated to be until August 25, 2025.

The former broker, who is currently expecting a daughter in September with his fiancée, served the bulk of his 13-year and eight-month sentence though May of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a wave of releases for certain prisoners. On May 31 of this year, unable to reach him via phone, the halfway house attempted to activate an alert on his ankle device. That function was down, according to the Press.

So an employee from the institution called the Norfolk police, who paid Martinovich's house a visit. The officers mistakenly believed the residence to be the halfway house itself, so after arriving around midnight and knocking gingerly—failing to wake up and speak with Martinovich—they left the premises.

"Dude who runs [the halfway house] is probably asleep," said one of the officers.

Even still, the government officials confirmed that the monitoring showed Martinovich was where he was supposed to be—his house. The device was not altered or messed with, per evidence from the FBP. But the agency proceeded with its conclusion regardless: He had "escape[d]," and thus deserves to spend years more behind bars after the government has already concluded he is not a threat to society.

Such punitive measures seem almost fantastical. Yet Martinovich has company. Gwen Levi attracted significant public attention last month after she, too, was deemed to have "escaped"—after attending an in-person word processing class. During the session, she missed a call from officials and was subsequently sent back behind bars. Levi, who was originally imprisoned on drug charges, was ultimately set free after a public outcry, though it remains to be seen if Martinovich will be lucky enough to witness the birth of his daughter.