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Not long after I went from the county jail to Polk Correctional Institution, my first prison dwelling, I heard the county jail had transitioned from visitation through the glass window to visitation on a television screen. My first thought was that it would be awful, but my opinion has changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered nearly all that was normal about daily life, including daily life at North Carolina’s Nash Correctional Institution. Visitation used to be a regular weekly event that always brought temporary relief from prison. As with many things, the COVID-19 restrictions terminated visitation. After six months of no visits, the prospect of a virtual visit seemed awesome rather than awful.

My brother is at a different prison that started virtual visits several months ago. My parents normally get defeated by any technology, so a friend of my brother’s traveled 150 miles and spent several hours helping get them set up and prepared for the virtual visit. Thanks to that tutorial and their experience with virtual visits with my brother via Cisco Webex, my parents were ready to go when my turn finally arrived.

Still, I wondered how things would go, since the process was new here at Nash. Prior to the visit, a friend said, “I wonder if you will be able to hear clearly.”

“I will be happy to just wave at them the entire time,” I responded. I would have been happy just to wave and smile while watching them wave and smile back.

On the afternoon of the scheduled visit, I arrived five minutes early. The visitation officer started the Cisco Webex meeting while I waited with excitement and some worry. Almost immediately, the faces of my mom and dad appeared on the screen. They were happy and smiling. I was happy and smiling. We enjoyed every moment of our first virtual visit.

Although not as good as a regular visit, where we can hug and have two hours to talk, the virtual visit was awesome compared to the awful six months without any visit.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Timothy Johnson is the assistant editor for The Nash News, a newspaper published out of Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina, where he is incarcerated. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry with a minor in counseling from Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary. He also works as a graduate assistant and is the editor of the journal Ambassadors in Exile for The College at Southeastern’s North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP), which provides theological training to long-term incarcerated people.