Martha Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America (FCC Petition) Historic Case

At a Glance

Current Status 

On August 9, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally approved new rules capping prison phone rates, ten years after Martha Wright filed her petition. Ms. Wright was present for the announcement along with other family members of prisoners, advocates and other allies.

Date Filed: 

October 31, 2003

Co-Counsel 

Frank Krogh, Doane Kiechel, and Jennifer Kostyu, Morrison & Forester LLP,
Deborah Golden, D.C. Prisoners’ Project,
Stephen Seliger and Laurie Elkin, Seliger & Elkin Ltd.

Case Description 

In February of 2000 CCR filed Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America, a nationwide class action lawsuit, seeking 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 operates 82 prisons and jails in 26 states pursuant to agreements with state and local governments under which persons under the jurisdiction and control of those governments are transferred to CCA facilities for incarceration. CCA entered into a series of exclusive agreements with telephone companies to provide inmate telephone service at various CCA-run prisons and jails. These exclusive dealing agreements allow defendants to use their control over a captive audience to unjustly enrich themselves.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that the unconscionable arrangements violated 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. They also alleged that the agreements violate 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.

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. The petition sought restructuring of long distance inmate calling services to introduce competition. In March of 2007, CCR and its partners filed an alternative rulemaking proposal. The alternative proposal requests that the FCC establish benchmark rates for all interstate inmate calling services no higher than $0.20 per minute for debit calling and $0.25 per minute for collect calling. The FCC sought comments on petitioners’ alternative proposal in the spring of 2007, and supportive comments were filed with the FCC by many organizations, including the Ad Hoc Coalition for the Right to Communicate and the Sentencing Project.

Case Timeline

August 9, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally approves new rules capping prison phone rates, ten years after Martha Wright filed her petition.

August 9, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally approves new rules capping prison phone rates, ten years after Martha Wright filed her petition.

Ms. Wright was present for the announcement along with other family members of prisoners, advocates and other allies.

March of 2007
CCR and its partners filed an alternative rulemaking proposal requesting that the FCC establish benchmark rates for all interstate inmate calling services no higher than $0.20 per minute for debit calling and $0.25 per minute for collect calling.
March of 2007
CCR and its partners filed an alternative rulemaking proposal requesting that the FCC establish benchmark rates for all interstate inmate calling services no higher than $0.20 per minute for debit calling and $0.25 per minute for collect calling.
October 31, 2003
CCR filed a petition for rulemaking with the FCC. The petition sought restructuring of long distance inmate calling services to introduce competition.
October 31, 2003
CCR filed a petition for rulemaking with the FCC. The petition sought restructuring of long distance inmate calling services to introduce competition.
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.
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.
February 16, 2000
the Wright v. CCA complaint was filed in the D.C. District Court. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint in the spring of 2000.
February 16, 2000
the Wright v. CCA complaint was filed in the D.C. District Court. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint in the spring of 2000.