2022-04-13 16:21


"Scared Straight": VR Penal Correctional Comes to China

Source: SCMP

Good morning everybody

Whether it is tours of prisons or talks in classrooms, scared straight programmes have existed for decades to deter people from committing crimes, but strict Covid-19 protocols have made them less tenable in China.

Now, virtual reality (VR) is being deployed across the country to give people a taste of jail, and hopefully prevent them from spending time there in real life.

Several programmes targeting at-risk youth and people who broke the law but were not jailed have been set up in several cities like Shanghai and Suzhou in eastern China and Tianjin in north China.

They are all designed to allow people to experience life in jail without visiting the prison in person.

The VR programmes often include people touring prison cells or working areas and listening to stories from incarcerated people.

Young people with a family member or personal history of drug use are often shown interactive anti-drug experiences. Drink-driving offenders actually get a front-row seat to a simulated car crash.

I never thought there would be this kind of education, and some scenes really touched me, a man surnamed Chen in Shanghai told Xinmin Evening News .

Guo Jianping, the head of the corrections branch at the Minhang District Judicial Bureau in Shanghai, said that VR immersive education is a valuable substitute for educational field trips to detention centres that could not be conducted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The push for integrating VR into crime deterrence came after Chinas Ministry of Justice issued a document in 2021 that listed adopting virtual reality as a required tool for developing an intelligent correctional centre.

Tianjin launched its programme in September 2020 and became one of the first cities in China to use virtual reality in community correctional education.

The final goal of introducing VR technology into community correctional work is to deter the offenders and prevent and lessen the likelihood of criminal recurrence, said Guo.

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