VR-enhanced training in prisons Silvia Bernardo December 22, 2021

VR-enhanced training in prisons

The VISION “The Visualising the Future Through Training” project aims to build new tools to increase adherence to VET programmes offered in prisons. Its ultimate goal is to improve inmate reintegration.

Post-release, one of the most commonly felt difficulties of inmates consists of obtaining rewarding employment. This difficulty emerges from several factors, one of them residing on the low education levels and professional skills across the prison population. Without these employment opportunities, a crucial step for successful social reintegration, the probability of reoffending and reincarceration increases.

Existing vocational education training (VET) programmes support inmates in being better prepared to find and retain a job. Research results show that these programmes work as they largely contribute to developing professional competencies.

Prisoners who participated in VET programmes were reported to demonstrate a 43% lower recidivism rate. Furthermore, prisoners who participate in vocational and education training have a 13% higher chance of obtaining employment post-release than peers who have not enrolled in VET.

However, in most European countries, only 25% of prison inmates are willing to participate in educational programmes.

What is project VISION’s proposal?

The VISION project will harness the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) technology to improve VET results. The project aims to achieve this objective through several interlinked fronts.

Firstly, one of the goals is to increase inmates’ voluntary participation in VET programmes. This will be done by allying the attractiveness of this immersive technology, with an increase in the level of quality of the programmes. Different virtual scenarios related to course enrolment and motivation will also be developed.

At the same time, it is important to retain the interest in the programmes until their completion. VR has the potential to maintain users motivated to engage in a continued educational context because it includes elements of gamification, multisensory interactive scenarios and real-world visual representations.

The development of VR scenarios can be programmed and adapted to various professional training needs, resulting in personalised “real life” environments. These scenarios will be specialised for each set of competencies, providing training tools that could not be accessed inside correctional facilities without the use of VR.

The simulation aspect of virtual scenarios can also reduce apprehensions and anxieties related to society’s challenges. This can help prepare inmates for adversities they may encounter upon release and play a role in the reintegration process.

VISION kick-off

The VISION consortium, with partners from five countries, gathered online to kick-off the project.

In this process, the prison staff involved in the training programmes are fundamental for the success of the initiatives, being the inmates’ bridge with the VR technology and the developed scenarios. With this in mind, the project will include a “Train the Trainer” manual and pilot training to train professionals to assist the inmates along the way.

The VISION project has officially started, with its kick-off meeting having been held on December 22, 2021. The virtual meeting brought together the project promoter BSAFE Lab – Law Enforcement, Justice and Public Safety Laboratory (Portugal), and project partners’ representatives, namely, IPS_Innovative Prison Systems (Portugal),  Vocational Training Centre for the Justice Sector (CPJ) (Portugal), Centre for Reintegration Initiatives (CIRE) (Spain), Religious Institute of Training and Professional Education (IRFIP) (Italy), Athens Lifelong Learning Institute (ALLI) (Greece), Iasi prison (Romania) and Charles et Adrien Dupuy High School (France).