Imagine being in a caged world for years on end, and then being propelled into a completely different society where the rules and expectations are vastly varied. This is what inmates face when they are allowed to leave prison, and although this is a hard process, VR technology can aid inmates in making the process somewhat easier. 

This education for inmates has already commenced in America, with start ups such as ‘Virtual Rehab’ (a company who creates programs for any and all vulnerable members of society) leading the way, view the video below to see what prisons are doing for their inmates.

 This creation is important in context to Australians too because while this program is based in America, where almost 75% of inmates return to jail after release, it’s important to note that this occurs in Australia too. As recorded by the Victorian government, approximately 50% of prisoners will return to jail within two years. This shows how imperative it is to train and prepare inmates for wider society, as they too deserve another chance. Prisons, at the moment, do not have adequate training systems for inmates that are to be released causing harm to wider society and the inmates themselves. 

If we don’t train them and just let the prison be a place to punish, then what good have we done?

Says Dr Raji Wahidy (founder of Virtual Rehab)

VR will assist inmates by showing simulations that demonstrate mundane everyday tasks, such as replacing car batteries, through interactive ways. As seen through Virtual Rehab’s method of utilising haptic feedback technology, which enables inmates to feel and touch making the entire experience even more realistic. This responds to the computer generated worlds created so that, for example, if the inmate touches a wrong wire they will feel a slight shock replicating what would occur in real life. The content learnt through VR technology is easier to be transferred to the real world, in comparison to a typical classroom setting as stated by PwC.

Whilst being able to experience mundane tasks, inmates can also be tested by having to go through conflict scenarios. Virtual Rehab records their reactions and scores them, in order to see how much more or less training they may require.

We will put them in a real-life scenario where they are confronted with some sort of family violence between a husband and a wife or a boyfriend and a girlfriend. Then we will monitor how they react, whether or not they’re going to take the proper action to rectify the situation.

says Wahidy, reported by ZDnet

VR is accessible to all individuals regardless of education level because; unfortunately, many individuals in the prison system come from low SES (socio-economic status) backgrounds which indicates that some inmates may have never graduated high school, and they may not be able to communicate in English properly. Due to these reasons, conducting typical classroom or seminar-like lessons about integrating into society would not be useful or efficient as many inmates would not be able to participate and learn. VR can be set to display a variety of languages and because it is a form of visual learning, regardless of a language barrier, anyone can learn the content. 

With the aid of VR technology, inmates can become less intimidated about many things. Such as; therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists can be a much better experience when accomplished through VR technology because at times meeting one in real life may do more harm than good. And the most obvious reason is that inmates will become more accustomed to the “real” world and how to fend for themselves. Keeping a bridging course, of sorts, in place for prisons should be looked into more as these inmates are humans too and as such deserve a chance to integrate and transform into a better person. 

Those focused on the punishment aspects of prison may see the use of virtual and augmented reality as giving prisoners access to expensive games and entertainment. But in reality, content would be focused on (providing) programs such as mental health, educating and rehabilitating prisoners ultimately reduces recidivism, translates into numerous types of cost savings, and helps integrate released prisoners into society, making them contributing members of communities.

As said by prison education advocate Christopher Zoukis.

VR technology can help, and is helping, many facets of society. Showcasing how great and useful the technology is for every level of society. YesVR offers the same, we can create realistic scenarios by integrating 360 degree video and stereo sound which is accomplished by our great team of VR experts.

Written by Belinda Saha

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