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An effort to make prison calls and emails free is moving forward in Richmond

Courtesy - Charles Rex Arbogast/ AP
Courtesy - Charles Rex Arbogast/ AP

The Virginia Senate is considering a bill that would offer free calls and emails to people who are incarcerated in Virginia prisons.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ

For people serving time in Virginia prisons, keeping up with family members on the outside can be expensive. Prison vendors charge hefty fees for calls and emails. That's why Senator Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat from Herndon, says lawmakers should spend as much as $12 million to provide free calls and emails.

"This is going to be a difficult budget year, we will have to prioritize with all the other competing interests and wants of the committee," Boysko says. "But I'm optimistic. We want safer communities, this shows that it actually contributes to that, and it's better for the children who have family members who are behind bars too."

Her bill got out of a Senate committee without opposition. Shawn Weneta at the ACLU says that shows widespread support for the bill.

"There's reasons for everybody to get onboard with this," says Weneta. "Whether you simply want to connect families and make sure that a child can hear ‘I love you’ and the cost of the call doesn't prohibit that from happening or if you want to reduce illicit cell phones in the prisons and keep the correctional officers safe. This bill does all of those things."

A similar version in the House will be considered later this month.