"Communication, along with the ability to express love toward family, is a fundamental need, and one's humanity does not perish when they enter the prison system," Rush said this week.

Rush charged that when phone calls are routed through prison networks, people are charged up to 20 times as much when compared to regular phone service. He said more than 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison, and said high phone charges exploit prisoners who are mostly African- or Hispanic-American.

He said phone charges are high because providers often get no-competition contracts, and cited press reports saying that Global Tel*Link Corp. and Securus Technologies Inc. dominate the market for services used by inmates.

Rush has proposed similar legislation in the last two Congresses.