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Martha Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America

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Synopsis

Martha Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America is a civil rights case which challenged the monopolies that phone companies and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) maintain in the prison systems of the United States.

Description

In this lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that unconscionable phone arrangements established by the Corrections Corporation of America and various telephone companies violated their constitutional rights. By signing exclusive agreements that typically result in excessively high rates and surcharges on collect-only calling by prisoners, their constitutional rights to speech and association, their rights to foster and maintain family relations under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, their rights to due process and equal protection of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and their right to unimpaired freedom of contract under Article 1, Section 10, are all being violated. The plaintiffs also alleged that the agreements violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 15 U.S.C. Sections 1 et seq., the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. Sections 151 et seq., and other laws of the District of Columbia.

In this nationwide class action lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sought to enjoin, declare illegal, and recoup damages resulting from conspiracies between CCA and various telephone companies, including Evercom, Inc., MCI-Worldcom, Pioneer Telephone Corporation, AT&T, and Global Telecommunications Link, Inc. CCA entered into a series of exclusive agreements with these telephone companies to provide inmate telephone service at various CCA-run prisons and jails. These exclusive dealing agreements resulted in the same civil rights violations as have been alleged in CCR’s other two prison telephone cases. In short, the defendants profited from their unfair control over imprisoned people.

On August 22, 2001, District Judge Gladys Kessler acknowledged the civil rights concerns but referred the case to the Federal Communications Commission, under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction.

For two years, CCR participated in a mediation process with defendants and the Special Enforcement unit of the FCC as required. No settlement was reached however, and on October 31, 2003, CCR filed a petition for rulemaking with the FCC.