One Jewish Mother’s Account of the Prison Industrial Complex

chainlink-690503_1920The call, when it came, was more of a puzzle than an alarm. I had wandered downstairs on a lazy Sunday morning in July to find a message on the machine: an automated operator from the Legacy service announcing that there was a collect call from—and here the voice switched to that of my then-21-year old son—and I could press one to accept or two to deny. I’d been asleep when the call came in so accepting was a moot point. Besides, why was my son calling collect? He’d gone out the night before with both cash and his American Express credit cards.

I checked his room; he wasn’t in it, but I was still not alarmed. He’d probably decided to stay in the city. But as eleven inched toward noon, I began to feel some concern. I phoned him—no answer—and then started going down a list of friends. During this time, I received two more collect calls, both courtesy of the Legacy phone service; this time, I anxiously pressed one to accept, but as soon as I did the line went dead. When I first Googled and then called Legacy, a customer service rep said, “Ma’am, that call is coming from a jail; you have to have set up a credit card account with us in order to accept.” My first thought was, Jewish boys don’t get put in jail. Then the panic exploded, a fireball in my chest.

2 comments on “One Jewish Mother’s Account of the Prison Industrial Complex

  1. EvelynKrieger on

    I held my breath reading this. I also have a son the same age. So glad that it turned out okay. Sounds as if you raised him with the tools to adapt to such a challenging situation.

  2. Yona Zeldis McDonough on

    Thank you, Evelyn. Those few hours when I knew he was in jail but could do nothing about it were among my worst as his mother! But he survived and thrived. And he even wrote about the experience on his law school application!

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