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Jeff Martinovich
Jeff Martinovich

How Could I Have Escaped If I Was Home the Whole Time?

A series of miscommunications led Jeff Martinovich back to jail despite never leaving his house during home confinement.

Serving time under home confinement is certainly better than being in prison, but it’s still highly restrictive. Martinovich must wear an ankle bracelet. He must not leave the house except for approved times to go directly to and from work or church. Any exceptions must be approved in advance. The telephone rings randomly day and night. It’s the halfway house calling to make sure the subject answers. Martinovich has fielded more than 1,500 such “accountability calls” since he was released to home confinement in 2020.

Those serving time in home confinement are always at peril. On the evening of May 31, 2021, the halfway house phoned the Martinovich home. The internet that enabled the home telephone was down that night, so the phone did not ring. Nor did Martinovich or his fiancée hear the ringer on the cellphone. The halfway house staff then tried three times to activate a vibration mechanism on the ankle bracelet Martinovich was wearing. The vibration feature, as the Bureau of Prisons later acknowledged, had malfunctioned.

The failures compounded. The halfway house then dispatched officers from the Norfolk Police Department to put eyes on Martinovich. At 11:22 p.m. two officers arrived at Martinovich’s home, but according to bodycam video and news reports, the officers “mistakenly believed they were coming to a halfway house, not a private residence.” The officers bizarrely chose not to ring the doorbell. Instead they “knocked lightly” and relayed back to the halfway house that no one answered. Some hours later, Martinovich realized that there was a missed call, and he phoned the halfway house to account for himself.

Despite the fact that the electronic monitoring surveillance from the GPS on his ankle bracelet confirmed that he had never left the house that night, the Bureau of Prisons nevertheless labeled Martinovich an “escapee”—the highest infraction for someone in home confinement—and yanked him back to federal prison to complete his sentence. This despite the fact that the Bureau of Prisons’ own records proved Martinovich was at home the whole time he was said to have escaped. It took two months and five transfers to jails across the country for Martinovich to persuade a judge to order the Bureau of Prisons to release him.



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