Grandmother Goes without Medicine so She Can Afford to Call Grandson in Prison

What's Going On


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Martha Wright is 86-years old and loves her grandson.   Wright has become unable to afford food and medication while also seeking to pay massive fees that are charged by the Corrections Corporation of America(CCA), whom she believes seeks to extract unfair amounts of money from the families of prison inmates.  In a class-action lawsuit filed back in 2000, Wright and others are seeking to recoup damages from the CCA, as well as phone companies who are accused of gouging families for phone calls.

The lawsuit alleges that the arrangements between these companies and the prison system are a violation of constitutional rights to speech and association, as well as their rights to foster and maintain family relations under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  They also allege violations of the Sherman Anti-trust Act, due to the collusive monopolies that some corporations are able to maintain in the prison system.

At this point, Wright and the other plaintiffs are asking that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to file rules that limit the amount that companies can charge for inmate calls.  The powerful organizing group has taken up Wright’s case as well.

In an email sent out to supporters, ColorofChange noted that inmates’ families are sometimes charged as much as 15 times the normal phone rates.  They are rallying the public to get involved in FCC rulings that will take place in the near future.  The public has only until March 25 to make their comments heard.

The group also alleges corruption and price-fixing schemes that benefit politicians who receive kickbacks at the expense of inmates’ families.

“And while government entities generating revenue by punishing the families of prisoners is a scandal, it’s the private prison industry in particular that has a ruthless track record of profit-seeking behavior that actively targets and exploits the most vulnerable among us. The country’s largest private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was a key architect of Arizona’s notorious SB1070, the racial profiling law designed to fill prison beds with anyone unable to prove on demand that they aren’t an undocumented immigrant. The GEO Group, the industry’s second largest player and regular subject of civil and human rights abuse investigations, was barred from doing business with the entire state of Mississippi after massive corner-cutting at their Walnut Grove youth facility led to rampant sexual and other physical abuse by staff of the minors in their care.

The group also states that this problem has a significant impact on the African American community:

“For Black men in their 30s, one in every ten is in prison or jail on any given day, and federal sentencing data shows that Black men receive longer sentences than white men for the same crimes. Among Black children, one in nine has an incarcerated parent, constituting an enormous captive audience for prison phone operators preying on the need to keep family connections alive over the course of years or even decades apart.”

The group ends with this statement, calling for public support to change the law:

Demand that the FCC cap interstate phone rates and stop prison phone operators from exploiting our families for extortionate profits. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

The public should certainly support the efforts by ColorofChange and other conscientious groups that seek to make a difference on this issue.  I spoke this week with Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow.”  She and I both agree that the War on Drugs and mass incarceration have destroyed black families to the point that it is even reasonable to demand reparations for what has been done to our communities.  While the reparations may never be paid, such a conversation will help to highlight the damage that has been done and perhaps rally the public to pursue legislation that will help to reverse the consequences of irresponsible and racist public policy.

For every right wing Republican who wants to know why there are so many black single mothers in our community, they should realize that it’s because many of the fathers of these children are in prison.  It’s hard to be a husband and father when society has already designated you to be a slave.  It’s time to pursue justice for the families of prison inmates.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. Please join Dr. Watkins and Min. Louis Farrakhan for a summit on “Wealth, Education, Family and Community: A New Paradigm for Black America” to be held in Chicago on March 30. You can RSVP by clicking here.





  1. What truly makes this saddening is that there are a number of Black women and men that will still fight each other while this is going on and we aren’t doing a thing to stop it.
    There are truly too many issues that need to be addressed in regards to this issue.

  2. Jimmy,
    No, they didn’t hold a gun to their heads, but considering the amount of employment discrimination that makes it easier for a white ex-con to get a job easier than a law abiding Black man, the discrimination in the sentencing, consistent targeting in criminal justice profiling, and the lack of quality in education, they might as well have.

  3. the system will always be against us black folks. i think its time we separate ourselves from all other races.let them have their system and let’s go make up one for ourselves.don’t tell me whe can’t do it we can create anything.

  4. Peter D. Slaughter

    This is low down and a damn shame.
    So what is our reelected person in charge doing or saying anything about it?
    It’s ironic how today with updated 21st century slavery going on full blast right in the faces of black people a vast % refuse to speak or give a damn at all.
    But when it’s time to watch some sports,some phony,shoe shine type movie or tv show. A vast % of black’s are glued totheir 15 inch idiot box ready to be entertained.
    With all these so-called famous big time black stars on tv and in some movie strutting and fronting( look at me I’m a star) none of them it appears have no interest in helping this black woman.
    It’s even more ironic how when a black person get’s locked up a vaat % of black people will write their own flesh an blood off period.
    A person could be innocent and just framed up and these same people could care less. A vast % will repeat the tired cliche ” if you can’t do the time ” ” don’t do the crime “. I wonder do they say the same thing when a white man does a crime.
    This lady wants to stay in contact with her flesh and blood.
    Ths might be the only person she might have or really trust.
    But these days a vast % of black’s could care less.
    they can say ” I got mines ” and ” you need to get yours n… word.”

  5. Huh???? Since when do you get to call an inmate?? I thought all inmates called collect. Oh well, if she is stupid enough to forgo her medication for her criminal grandson, fine. Let the chips fall where they may.

    • Peter D. Slaughter

      I disagree corbin.
      This is old black woman who is lonely and all this saying let the chips fall where they may is some more off the wall let the black people drown non-sense.
      Thse dys there are so many selfish acting black people.
      Overall they have learn this non-sense very well.
      A continuing part of the willie lynch sell-out syndrome in full effect upon black people.
      If I was some so-called rich blsck person,I would set it up where this lady would be able to at least talk to her grandson for free at least a year.
      Then her grandson would be put on some type of work program to pay for any more of these calls.
      I would at least do that for this blsck woman for sure and not because her grandson committed whatever crime.

      • I have a brother in jail. He made the choice to committ a crime in a country where he knows he will be dealt with more harshly than others. I am not going to forgo medicine, food or vacations for him. If he loved his family as much as he is asking his family to love him he would have never committed the crime. It is not selfish, it is called responsibility. And until responsibility is taught and learned on a wide scale in our community, the system will continue to take advantage of those who choose to roll the dice. I love my brother and he knows it, but I am not going to be punished for his crime.

  6. Everyone support they do great work. I have been supporting them for 4 years. They inform and gives you an avenue to vent negative emotions while making a difference.

  7. Here we go again worrying more about black men in prison, then we do about black men in college. No wonder we never advance as a people. Look the bottom line is, your in prison its support to be hard. Why waste resource on you. I have heard lot of talk about the CCA, but absolutely none about the SAT. Black people wake up our future should not rely on the rehabilitation of those who already have a strike against them. Let face it no matter what happened black men are in prison for a reason.( and a large percent will go back to prison once released) As long as we keep betting on the long shot we will never win. Lets stop wasting our resources on losers. A better bet would be to help the struggling college student so that the next semester won’t be so hard. There are kids who work 2 jobs, going to junior college, riding the city bus everyday,taking late night classes just to have a chance at a better future. I don’t see anyone extending a hand to that kid. These are the kids that did the right thing all of their lives, never got into trouble, never hung out with the wrong crowd. These are the people the incarcerated use to call nerds. I don’t know about you, but I would bet the future of the black race on the nerd. I’m just so sick of hearing about people in prison. Yes they are getting taken advantage of, but no one invited them.

    • Peter D. Slaughter

      Overall, I think you have a great point.
      But myself I see on a large scale in spite of the great claims that todays black’s are better off living in this country.
      In reality a vast % of black’s are trapped in an outdated slave type dependent paradigm.
      Yes, we could help a lot of people get better educated, as long they remember where they came and have no major issues is helping another poor black person.
      But what has happen a % of those who did educated and become sucessful they become elist and judgemental against other black’s who have not had access to the same resources or opportunity to be successful.
      So to a a vast % become trapped into poverty and updated slave type ignorance basically what is being seen and heard on a daily as so-called urban black hip entertainment.
      Until black’s on a large scale decide to rise to new state of mind beyond updated 21st century pychosis,slave mentally buried deep within the soul and spirit.
      We will keep seeing over and over where black people are caught in an updated 21st century trap.

      • To Peter & everyone else! All I can say is that Jesus is the answer. Can people see that they’re fighting a losing battle. As a Black African American, I know we’re concerned and no matter how many times we comment on this forum it’s not getting any better. If we would just serve the true living God by getting a close relationship with him I know that he will make a difference. The bible says I never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.

      • The truth is there are more people, of all races, who climb the economic ladder because of trades not education. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics all make just as much or more money than someone with a Masters degree. It is unfair to place the responsibility of the black race on those who have taken the responsibility to better themselves through education. If you want what Suzy has, you may have to do and make the sacrifices that Suzy made. You made have to go to class and study at the library instead of hanging with friends, you may have to endure being called a sell-out because you are 2nd in your class, and you may have to wear last year’s clothes to save for the education you want. Unless you make the sacrifices I made, you probably won’t have what I have. And I won’t feel guilty about it. When you begin to make the sacrifices, and you reach out for help, THEN someone will help you. Let’s stop with all of the excuses.

  8. The great rich greedy unconsiderate telephone companies make a killing over charging prisoners for phone calls just to call thier love ones, the health care system and others make lucative contracts for lousie health care. They have prisoners working for less than minimum wage. This is slavery.To say nothing about an aging grand mother that cannot afford to visit.What are these people in power looking at when they do not see things like these.I wonder how would some of these parasites like that for themselves or their love ones.And I am not condoning crime or prisoners. It is just something that need to be looked at if we really want to make this short life better for others and ourselves.

  9. In America they would boast that the 13th amendment to the US constitution freed slavery in the US but check this out it said, “except when one is duly convicted of a crime” and the Southern states used that to still enslave Africans by creating a hedious thing they called Peonage.They would arrest Africans for nothing convict them and hired them out with hard labour cheaply or for free for the financial benefit of the slave owners.Prisoners are human beings and many of them are innocent.I would thing that it is only right to treat them right regardless of what you think that they may have done.Remember also that Africans are the most in Prisons and they were never given any treatment for the hand me down traumas of chattle slavery in the US up to this day.

  10. If the grandson had respect for his loving grandmother he would not want her to go w/o her medication!!! I don’t understand why women of color sacrifice things needs for them to survive to appease men doing time! if the shoe were on the other foot a women would be lucky to get a letter once a month. This is not to say some small percentage of cons should not be in prison because sometimes the judicial system sucks and imprisons innocent people, but I’m through doing time with inmates when upon their release you don’t get so much as a thank you

  11. I have a cool idea!!! Don’t go to prison because your family may go into debt trying to keep relations with your silly self!

    Obviously if the young man in prison really cared about his Grandmothers well being he would write letters to her versus having her give up precious medication and food to hear him talk about the prison backyard.

    I wish people stop trying to make prison with the comforts of home. It is not suppose to me club med for this guys.

  12. My concern is not for this grandmother, It’s for her grand children and any new generations in the future.. There’s no discussions about instructing
    young people not to fall into the same criminalistic mindset that brainwashed our generation… The judicial systems anywhere USA has never levied a fair balance of persecution or penal incarceration.., Nor has the education system produced an sufficient numbers of educated African American young people.. This is where the Malcolm “Bamboozled, led astray, Plymouth Rock” should come into play.. Here’s the reason you stop feeding your children/future generations into the same social systems that failed their parents.. Why is it the educational system works for caucasian children and not as well for African american students? Why are people like the Arizona assault weapon shooter passed off as “law-biding” citizens while they had 5 previous encounters with the judicial system? And yet, African Americans constantly breed & feed their future generations into this same meatgrinder social system that has chewed up and spit out their elders … We need to stop these music industry corporations from putting these gangster wannabees on stages, radio & videos.. We don’t need basketball wives or reality show ratchetness to set bad cultural or social examples for young people to express themselves… At the ages of eleven & twelve our young kids are “acting out” these criminal stylings from their entertainment and social environments and they have a “revolving incarcerating” door to supply instructors.. So the powers-that-be have already planted the seeds.. And like “Mutual Of Omaha” All they have to do is ” Swoop in” & “Bag-n-Tag” a new crop of eleven years and-up as “criminals… Keep Your Kids Out The System!!!

  13. Respect the grandmother who loves and supports her grandson. We must keep praying and doing , it never fails.

  14. What happened to old fashion letter writing and cards. Seems to me, the grandmom needs to employ tough love and grandson needs to do the best he can. Where was his love for grand mom, when he decided to do the crime. She needs him on the outside, protecting, helping, loving and supporting her in a old age. Now she puts herself in an deprived position to take care of him. Grand mom, wake up, God bless the child that got its own. Grand mom, you need a support system to help you break free of your grandson’s exploitative behavior. Do you have a church family? God bless you and you grandson.

  15. I concur a million percent with you ANN TEACHER!!!! Took the words from my mouth. I have a cousin who tried to do the same thing to my 74 year old grandmother after I stopped accepting his calls. Thankfully she put her foot down. I do not even write him anymore because if you do not learn your lesson the first time, I am finish with you.

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  19. I agree with Jimmy, if you keep your rear end out of trouble then there will be no prison! Yes I agree it is hard for a Black man to obtain a job compared to a White man but this is nothing new, it has always been this way for the Black man but a real man Black/White takes what jobs he can so his family can survive that’s what his great grandparents did and it did not involve stealing, killing or selling drugs. For some reason young men today think they are suppose to start at the top with or without an education. Life does not work that way unless your father/uncle/grandfather owns his own business and hires you. Young folks do not want to do hard work! Take the easy way out and you end up behind bars, you get no sympathy from me, just grow the hell up and become real men! As for the grandmother she needs to learn there is love and there is enabling!

  20. Thats a sad situation ,but the grand mother does’nt have to stave herself just to talk to her grandson in prison ,what the grandson can’t write a letter? and what about the grandsons parents? where are they at?If they,re around surely they can do something to help the situation.Other than that the grandson should’nt have gotten himself into prison in the first place.

  21. Prison is big business, and people of color seem more than happy to help the situation. Some willingly and others not so much.

  22. While this is a loving and noble thing too do I don’t think it’s wise for her to go without food and medication just too talk too her Grandson if he knows that she is doing this in order to talk to him than it’s selfishness on his part for having her to do this.The bible tells us our years are seventy or eighty and if we go beyond that we are on his special mightyiness so she needs to consider herself first and foremost at this age if it was me he would have too settle for letters simple as that.

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