The U.S. military said Tuesday that it will allow detainees to make regular phone calls to their families from Guantanamo Bay prison, where many have been confined in extreme isolation for as long as six years.

The new policy by the Defense Department, which previously said security concerns prevented such calls, is part of a strategy to ease conditions for frustrated prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said the telephone policy reflects a commitment to maintaining the health and well-being of Guantanamo detainees. No start date has been set for the program.

Inmates' contact with the outside world generally has been limited to mail delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and meetings with their lawyers.