An every-day simulation for the incarcerated population in order to reduce recivdivism.
Spending any amount of time incarcerated is shown to have long-lasting detrimental effects on an individual. Outside of barriers put in the way of housing, employment, and representation, extended periods of incarceration disconnect an individual from an ever-changing world.
Simday is simple concept – utilize VR spaces to prepare an incarcerated population for basic parts of life after their sentence. For purposes of prototyping, the simulation is a short walk-through of a self-checkout.
To create a series of practical simulations which familiarize the user with specific everyday tasks. The tasks tackled in this prototype specifically will be using self checkout.
- To make the app usable to those with very little technology schema in place.
- To create familiarization with these activities with several repetitions of the program.
- To empower recently released citizens to be confident in their autonomy.
- To make an informative experience that is not condescending.
user description & goals
Citizens who have been in the prison system for long periods of time come out with many of their rights stripped from them. Job opportunties are severely limited, voting is illegal while still on parole, and many housing units will not permit those convicted of felonies to rent or lease.
On top of systemic barriers that are faced, there are also several practical barriers that disrupt and slow down everyday life. Driving, laundry, cooking, using a smartphone, shopping at a busy store, and even pumping gas are all activities that are easily forgotten after years out of common society. The goal of this VR simulation is to provide short, immersive and descriptive simulations of some of these basic tasks.
- Reduce recidivism. The United States has some of the highest rates of recidivism, which is about 44% after the first year out of prison. Given the additional help in navigating broad society, previous offenders will be more confident in their ability to function outside of an incarcerated environment.
- Save money. The less recidivism, the more money that is saved by the state.
- Proof of concept. Being able to prove in a low-stakes environment that keeping the incarcerated connected and familiar with developments in society rediced recidivism. This then could prove to be an objective that is picked up by the system at large.
- Stay updated on new developments in everyday life.
- Be familiar with the processes of unfamiliar everyday tasks (pumping gas and using a self check-out for these purposes) upon release.
- Feel empowered upon release with the independence to navigate new but now familiar scenarios.
A full formal report on the efficacy of Simday’s approach to recidivism can be read to the left. Below was an informal question that was asked of an online community of previously incarcerated citizens and their family members.
What mundane tasks did you have the most issues with upon release?"
“Doing laundry. Driving. Cooking using kitchen appliances and not just a microwave or hot water.”
“Basically everything at first. For me it’s using a phone and maintaining communications and schedules. Also getting overwhelmed with making decisions with too many choices.”
“Using a cell phone is difficult for those getting out. Or other technology related tasks. Maybe things like using Google maps, looking up a bus schedule, ordering an Uber/Lyft etc.”
From several previously incarcerated citizens and family members.
“One time I waited a while at a Costco gas line and didn’t know that it was a touch screen. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone so I left with no gas and went somewhere else and paid inside.”
“I struggled with everything. I went in young and prison became my life. Institutionalization is difficult. I could control everything inside because everything was set for me. I’ve been out for almost 20 years and I still struggle but haven become much better at being free.”
Key findings during found that users responded positively to the amount of visual direction in the simulation, such as the highlighted boxes and direct line-of-sight directions.
VR is a prime medium for teaching because of how it recreates environments. Being able to simulate busy and overwhelming atmospheres would be effective exposure practice for this population, given that the guidance through this new technology is clear and intuitive.