SACRAMENTO (KGET) —The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has announced it is significantly reducing the cost of telephone calls for inmates starting March 19.

As part of a new six-year contract with Global Tel*Link Corporation, the CDCR said phone calls nationwide will cost 2.5 cents per minute, a reduction of 5.1 cents per minute for local calls and calls within California, and a reduction of 18.5 cents per minute for telephone calls outside of California.

“The communication between our incarcerated population and their loved ones is paramount to their rehabilitation,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison. “This reduction in the cost of telephone calls is the result of the hard work of our Administration and staff, and the commitment to make this communication affordable and accessible.”

A normal 15-minute phone call anywhere in the US will cost just 37.5 cents, the CDCR said. International phone calls will cost 7 cents per minute, a reduction of 68 cents per minute.

In addition to the rate reductions, the department said the $3 fee to establish a GTL account has also been eliminated.

The CDCR estimates these changes will save inmates and their families more than $17 million every year.

Every inmate will be allotted 15 minutes of free telephone calls every two weeks using a new Personal Identification Number, according to the CDCR. Incarcerated individuals began setting up their PINs at Valley State Prison starting Feb. 25 and will be activated at all institutions by March 18.

GTL and the CDCR will continue to offer two free calling days per month through March. Telephone calls for youth in the Division of Juvenile Justice will remain free of charge, according to the department.

Under the new contract, the CDCR said the use of kiosks and tablets will allow for on-demand communication with family and friends, including secured email. There will be a significant reduction in the cost of messaging from the current rate of 30 cents per message to five cents per message.

The CDCR said the tablets will also provide inmates with access to educational, vocational and therapeutic content, as well as rehabilitative programs and activities, including knowledge-based games and books. Video calls are also available on the tablets.

At this time, the free Webex video visiting system remains in place. However, the department said the tablets will be available for those who would like to make video calls in a different location or to offset limited video visiting station availability in visiting rooms.

Video calls will cost 20 cents per minute. The contract also provides for 15 minutes of free video calls every two weeks. These minutes do not have to be used at the same time and will reset every 14 days, the CDCR said.

The department said the expansion of kiosks and tablets will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months, and the department will provide more details as the services come online.