WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent to U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today, the Bureau of Prisons announced it would make phone calls free of charge for people behind bars, a move that follows a formal request by Booker on March 18.

Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had urged the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to allow phone calls and videoconferencing free of charge in the wake of the BOP’s decision to temporarily cancel in-person visits in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

“This is a small but important victory for human rights and decency,” Booker said, applauding the BOP’s move. “It’s critical that those behind bars are able to maintain contact with loved ones during these difficult times. Not only is it the compassionate thing to do, considering that in-person visits have been suspended, it is also the smart thing to do, since study after study has shown the close correlation between maintaining contact with loved ones and lowered rates of recidivism.”

The third coronavirus relief package included language providing for free videoconferencing for people behind bars, but did not make phone calls free.