WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today urged the Bureau of Prisons to allow phone calls and videoconferencing free of charge for all people behind bars, in the wake of the BOP’s prudent decision to temporarily cancel in-person visits in order to help contain the spread of Coronavirus.


In a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal sent today, Booker wrote: “While I understand the necessity for BOP to close its facilities to outside visitors in the interest of public health and safety, I also believe it is critical that incarcerated people are able to maintain contact with their loved ones during this difficult time.”


“Studies have shown the importance of maintaining family connections of those who are incarcerated in reducing recidivism,” Booker added.


Full text of the letter is here.


Background on Senator Booker’s response to the Coronavirus:


Earlier today, Booker proposed an ambitious economic stimulus plan to help Americans weather the economic disruptions caused by the Coronavirus. The plan calls for immediate direct cash payments of $2,000 to every income-eligible American. He has also urged the Senate to pass paid family leave and paid sick days for workers impacted by the Coronavirus fallout, and he’s introduced a bill to get unemployment assistance more quickly to laid-off workers.


Booker has also introduced legislation to require health insurance plans to cover both testing and treatment related to the virus, with no cost-sharing to patients. And he has urged the Administration to unlock emergency funds to help libraries and schools purchase mobile hotspots for students who lack internet access at home.


Booker has also written to the White House about concerns that international travelers are not being screened properly at U.S. airports, and he’s urged Senate leaders and the HHS Secretary to prioritize funding for state and local health departments, which are on the front lines of this public health crisis.


In January, as cases of Coronavirus began to spike, he and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) successfully pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for heightened passenger screening at Newark Liberty International Airport along with other U.S. ports of entries. Booker has also joined letters to the Administration urging it to establish clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for costs incurred dealing with the outbreak and to issue an emergency protective order to protect front-line workers.