Virtual Rehabilitation: Can VR Help Prisoners Rebuild Their Real Lives?

Alice Bonasio
Feb 11, 2017 · 3 min read
Image for post
Image for post

“Every person in life deserves a second chance. Prisoners are no exception to this rule. In fact, they are the ones that are in most dire need for help, support, and development to become improved citizens upon their release.”

So says Dr Raji Wahidy, founder and CEO of Virtual Rehab. And his vision is to use Virtual Reality technology to give prisoners that second chance they so badly need. He believes that the VR programs his company is developing will eventually help to significantly reduce the number of repeat offences and re-incarceration rates worldwide by using virtual reality to rehabilitate inmates.

According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the Global Prison Population is currently set at 10.5 million. A staggering 2.2 million of those are in the U.S., where the prison population surged by 700 percent since the 1970s. This cost the federal government somewhere in the region of $9 Billion in 2016, whereas globally that figure is estimated to be around $35 Billion.

Tech Trends Virtual Rehab Prison Stats Infographic
Tech Trends Virtual Rehab Prison Stats Infographic

But it’s also a well-known fact that a lot of that money goes to waste, as it does not address the root causes that led people to offend in the first place. About 68% of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 U.S. states were arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison, and 77% were arrested within five years, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The Recidivism of State Prisoners report also shows that within five years of release, 82% of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77% of drug offenders, 74% of public order offenders and 71% of violent offenders.

The key to reversing this toxic — and extremely expensive — trend is to rehabilitate rather than just punish, believes Wahidy.

Virtual Rehab was soft launched in December ahead of a larger-scale campaign set to go live on March 1st 2017. Today they have just released the first teaser video that gives a feel for what that looks like: A hands-on simulation of immersive activities that prisoners can engage with.

The potential of VR as an education tool is becoming more widely recognized across the board, yet this type of usage has added advantages in the fact that prisoners are able to access the training within the constraints of their physical environment, without in any way compromising public safety during the rehabilitation process. This is certainly an area where Virtual Reality can make a huge and positive impact on society, so we will be following the next steps with interest!


Originally published at Alice Bonasio.

Alice Bonasio

Written by

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

Alice Bonasio

Written by

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store