Video calls a pandemic should at Coshocton Justice Heart

  • The Coshocton Justice Center installed a video calling system in September that denied in-person visits during the pandemic.
  • The cost is $ 5 for 20 minutes and the quality is based on the internet speed of those on the other end.
  • Setting up the system cost the county nothing, as 25 cents of every call goes to ICSolutions to pay out the system.
  • When in-person visits return, two free video calls per week can be made on site.

COSHOCTON – Cristofer Wethy described video calls at the Coshocton Justice Center as a godsend and one of the few sources of comfort during his incarceration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many restrictions in the county jail as inmates are more isolated than ever. The personal visit has ceased. However, a video calling system was installed in September.

The cost of a 20 minute video call is $ 5. There are video kiosks in the cell blocks where inmates can register. You can see when others have time and plan accordingly. Visits can be scheduled seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 11:25 p.m.

There are also two booths on-site where inmates get two free video calls per week. These are currently unavailable as policy is still closed to in-person visits across the state. When these start, the hours are Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to midnight.

Video call quality

Prison Administrator Lt. Charles “Chip” Udischas said the technology is similar to Skype or Zoom. People on either end of the call can see each other and talk. Inmates said the quality was very good and there were only minor problems. This would mostly be at the end of the family member in terms of their internet connection speed.

“The only thing that limits the quality is the internet speed if you have a bad connection or something, but that’s the same when you try to use FaceTime from your iPhone. You have to have a good connection to the Internet, ”said Udischas.

Cristofer Wethy is awaiting trial for child endangerment. He spoke to his mother in Georgia about the video calls. He said his mother needs to update her internet service in order for the calls to be effective and there are still lags in voice or pixelation in the picture. Wethy said his mother was paying $ 29 more a month for the internet than before.

“My mom has a steady income, she’s retired, and she had to upgrade her internet to get connected,” said Wethy. “More than the cost of the call, I think it’s more damaging when they have to have a certain amount of internet access.”

His entire family is in Georgia and Florida, so without the video calls, he wouldn’t be able to get in touch at all. It made his incarceration more bearable.

“It was a godsend. It was one of the best things I can think of here because without her I wouldn’t get any visits, ”said Wethy. “The video visits to see my mother and family were spiritually uplifting.”

Importance to inmates

Udishas said they had been looking at the video system for a while, but were initially told that they weren’t big enough to have it. The pandemic then made the program of paramount importance.

“When the COVID shut down, we saw an increase in agitation levels,” he said. “I think it was because inmates were cut off from the outside world.”

The county pays nothing out of pocket for the system as the first 25 cents of every call is used for the system with ICSolutions, which also provides the regular phone calls and is a partner of the prison’s superintendent salesman. The remaining money per call will be split evenly between the Justice Center and ICSolutions. The contract with ICSolutions originally expired this year, but has been extended to 2025 due to the video calling systems contract. Inmate calls are deducted from the person’s detective account.

The video system enables personal visits. Even if a personal visit were allowed, it would still be an advantage for those who do not want or cannot go to prison or who can live far away.

“That way, they can do it as a courtesy in their own home and be comfortable doing it,” said Udischas.

Dallas Wood is on trial on a drive-by shooting charge in June. He mainly used the video calls to talk to his girlfriend, but has also spoken to his parents and sisters.


“It was a great way to connect with loved ones and communicate with them about this pandemic. Even if they can’t come here and see you physically, it’s still nice to do this online part, ”said Wood.

He also understands the need to take precautionary measures during the pandemic and limit the number of people entering the building.

“This pandemic has gone crazy. It has spread like wildfire, ”said Wood. “This at least gives us the opportunity to visit our loved ones online as it is difficult not to see them and to be away from them as they are.”

System efficiency

Before the pandemic, there were three face-to-face visits to the justice center. One day each for men and women and both all day on Saturday. Those days were extremely busy for proofreaders as they constantly had to move prisoners back and forth. They could also be inconvenient for the family if they couldn’t come on certain days.

“Now they are visiting directly from their blocks. So if someone in B block has a visit, the officer doesn’t have to do anything. It will be displayed on the kiosk. These are scheduled visits for the day and the inmate is responsible for going there and logging in when the time comes, ”Udishas said. “We had a family, they could never make it to visit because the hours were prohibitive.”

Charles Corp is serving 180 days at the Coshocton Justice Center for defaulting on child support payments. He used the video calls to speak to his wife. Corp said it spends about $ 50 to $ 75 a week on the video calls.

“If your family doesn’t have a lot of money, paying for the video visits is not a good situation,” he said. “It lifts people up, but when you can’t, when your family can’t, then sit back and depressed.”

For those who can, Corp said it certainly helps morale. It’s better than a simple phone call as you can see your loved ones and better understand how they are doing.

“You can put the face with the voice,” said Corp.

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@ lolhayhurst


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