The global prison population currently totals 10.5 million, and while many countries including the UK and US have seen a steady decline in crime rates over the past decade, the rate of reoffending prisoners has increased. About two-thirds of released prisoners in the US are rearrested within three years of release, and about three-quarters of released prisoners were rearrested within five. Virtual Rehab is a new project that seeks to rehabilitate inmates using VR technology.
Virtual Rehab’s interactive tool includes education on a broad range of themes, from family violence and sexual offences to psychological challenges including mental & emotional disorders. The programme works by placing the prisoner into interactive role play scenarios which reverse the aggressor / victim roles, propelling the prisoner into the skin of an assaulted person with the aim of developing empathy. The programme also includes formal education and vocational job training, developing professional skills to help ex-offenders thrive in the real world. According to Dr. Raji Wahidy, who initiated the project, “The goal of Virtual Rehab is to educate rather than reprimand. In life, every person deserves a second chance. Prisoners are no exception to this rule. They are the ones who most need help and support to become better citizens once they are released.”Virtual reality has already had an impact in various areas related to rehabilitation, including in the treatment of conditions such as PTSD and anxiety. At Springwise, we recently covered two programmes (a glove and an online platform) that use online gaming to support the recovery of patients. Are there other rehabilitation needs that VR can be harnessed to support?