Group calls on Massachusetts lawmakers to resurrect free prison phone calls proposal

BOSTON (WWLP) — Formal lawmaking ended in July, but a group of rights organizations are calling for the legislature to return to a special session.

Organizations like the ACLU of Massachusetts are calling on the legislature to return to formal session to pass what they call critical pieces of legislation. A letter sent to the House and Senate by nearly 80 advocacy groups asks the legislature to return in a special session to continue work they say has not been completed.

They are asking the legislature to override two of Governor Baker’s vetoes. The first being the five-year moratorium on building jails and prisons and the other was a $30 million bond that would help with remote participation in local government.

In addition, they are asking the legislator to pass a law on free telephone calls in prison. Free phone calls to prisons have been a point of contention between the legislature and the governor during budget debates.

Baker vetoed the $52.7 billion budget measure and tossed back an amendment for free phone calls if lawmakers also approved his dangerousness hearing legislation.

“Keeping families connected is key to reducing recidivism, making sure transitions back into the community are smoother, and those things out there keep communities safer.”

The coalition of advocacy groups believes the legislature should override Baker’s veto on free phone calls without approving the added language. Legislature broke out on August 1 with a host of unfinished business before them, such as the economic development bill.

The coalition of advocacy groups plans to hold a rally next Friday at the State House to draw attention to their cause.

Christy J. Olson