Prisoners are using VR to learn real-world skills

The premise of JYACAP is that learning the basic skills they missed the chance to acquire while incarcerated will provide these juvenile lifers with their best chances for success upon release. That’s a formidable challenge. Because of safety concerns, they have had limited acc ess to the internet Though they’re now adults, many have never used, or even seen, a smartphone or a laptop. Or had a credit card. “We had to figure out a way of giving them these opportunities in a restricted environment,” says Melissa Smith, interim director of prisons for the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Though ites used is not Yet widespream, a handful of state corrections departments, from ohio to new mexico, have turned to virtual reality as answer. The Go. Als Vary from Helping Reduce Aggressive Behavior to Facilitating Empathy with Victims to, as in Colorado’s Case, reducing recidivism. Though the state’s prison budget sits close to $1 billion, Colorado has one of the worst return-to-prison rates in the country, at around 50%Nationally, as many as two-thirds of the 600,000 people released from state and federal prisons each year will be rearrested within three years.

Is VR the long-missing piece in an unwieldy puzzle of resources and programs meant to help reverse these statistics? Or is it yet another experiment that will fail to adequately prepare incarcerated individuals for life beyond lockup? “It’s not going to be the silver bull et , but it is a tool that I think is very powerful for a lot of people, because they never really get a chance to practice what we’re trying to teach them,” says Bobbie Ticknor, an associate professor of criminal justice at Valdosta State University. “I think we should use everything we can find and see what works the best.”

Proponents like Ticknor say VR can immerse incarcerated people in the sights and sounds of modern life and help them develop digital literacy in a secure corrections environment. “When you’re role-playing, when you’re learning a new skill, the closer you can bring them to doing what they’re actually going to have to do out in the real world, the better,” says Ethan Moeller, founder and managing director of Virtual Training Partners, which helps organizations successfully implement virtual-reality tools. “VR does that better than any other training medium.”

Others are more skeptical. Like Dr. Cyndi Rickards, an associate teaching professor at Drexel University who leads weekly criminology courses inside Philadelphia prisoners. People who are incarcerated wear the “label of inmate on their back. It’s a dehumanizing system ,” she says, “so to suggest that VR is going to reintegrate them into society after being in a punitive system…just further objects folks, it continues a pattern of dehumanizing folks, and I’ve not read any compelling evidence that this is the route we should use to integrate people to be members of a healthy and contributing society.”

Source link

Recommended For You

About the Author: News Center