By Julian Hattem - 02/12/14 08:47 AM EST
Regulations restricting the amount that phone companies can charge prisoners for calling their loved ones in different states went into effect on Tuesday.
The caps on cost were approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last August and were strongly supported by civil rights organizations, which had been pushing the measure for a decade.
“Prisoners and their families, especially their children, are among the most vulnerable members of society. These families can now afford to keep in touch because the era of unreasonable and unjust phones rates has ended,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel said in a joint statement.
The three commissioners also pledged to examine further reforms “to ensure that millions of families can stay connected, for the benefit of their loved ones and for the good of our nation.”
Clyburn was the interim chairwoman of the FCC before Wheeler took office, and made a major push for the calling rules last year.
Formerly, an interstate collect call from prison could easily come with a $3.95 connection fee and cost as much as 90 cents per minute. A one-hour weekly call could add up to $250 a month.
Supporters of the restrictions have said that the high cost can make it hard for people to speak with their friends and family. That hurts families, they say, and makes it harder for former prisoners to stay out of prison once they return home.
The new rules limit charged to 21 cents per minute except in “extraordinary circumstances.”