On April 6 and March 20, the senators urged the Bureau of Prisons to waive fees associated with phone calls for incarcerated people and to allow for confidential communications with attorneys for the duration of the federal emergency due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that following their request, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has modified operations to waive phone charges for incarcerated people during the pandemic and has taken steps to ensure that communications with attorneys will remain confidential. In a letter dated April 10, the senators received a response from BOP Director Michael Carvajal that states in part, “Effective April 9, 2020, telephone calls were made free for the inmate population. Video-visiting, which is available to our female population, was also made free on that same date.”
Earlier this month the senators wrote a letter urging the Administration to use new authority provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help incarcerated people stay in contact with families and loved ones during the pandemic.
The March letter followed a previous request from the senators on March 20. In-person visits at federal prisons have been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, and prior to the BOP’s action, calls could cost up to 25 cents per minute in addition to fees charged for each call.
“Studies have demonstrated that family contact is a valuable source of support during incarceration and that those who maintain contact with their family experience lower rates of recidivism after release,” the senators wrote in their March letter.
In addition to Klobuchar and Durbin, the letters were signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).