Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Acting Secretary George Little was joined by Anna Hollis, Executive Director of Amachi Pittsburgh, to announce an innovative virtual reality (VR) pilot program that leverages the technology and community partnerships to promote healthy relationships and equality between incarcerated parents and their children.
First-of-its-kind collaboration between DOC and Wrap Technologies builds on existing InsideOut Dads and Parenting Inside Out programs, which are designed to improve communication skills, facilitate the expression and management of feelings, and introduce discipline techniques effective. With the introduction of virtual reality immersion, participants learn and practice healthy parenting skills in a 360-degree environment. Each VR interaction is guided by a lesson plan and managed by DOC staff, who have the ability to adapt and personalize situations in real time.
“The overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents will return to their families and communities at the end of their prison term, and the DOC is committed to setting them up for success,” Acting Secretary Little said. “Practice makes perfect, and we hope that role-playing with the help of virtual avatars will help parents and children see beyond facility walls and build stronger families and safer communities. ”
Children do not have to travel to a DOC facility to participate. Community providers Amachi Pittsburgh and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) in Philadelphia are facilitating virtual reality tours for participating children and offering support services for their families.
“Our team is thrilled to partner with the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Corrections and Packaging to bring virtual reality experiences to our youth and parents,” said Anna Hollis, Executive Director of Amachi Pittsburgh. . “Virtual reality is an innovative new way for us to spark interest, attract new participants and stimulate learning, creativity and imagination.”
“In our work with incarcerated people, we know that having family support, including engagement with children, is extremely important,” said Laurie A. Corbin, PHMC’s Executive Director for Community Engagement. “We hope parent and child will have a fun and educational experience that will bring back happy memories despite their physical separation from each other.”
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University were selected as evaluators for the pilot program.
“We are excited to work alongside DOC and community partners to evaluate this innovative new program. We hope the results will inform more ways for incarcerated parents and their children to learn together,” said Sara Brennen of Penn State. Edna Bennett Pierce. Center for Prevention Research and Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at the College of Education.
Full funding for the VR initiative comes from the Federal Bureau of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs. The InsideOut Dads program is available at each of DOC’s men’s facilities. The VR component was introduced at SCI Phoenix, SCI Fayette and SCI Frackville. Virtual reality is also available at SCI Muncy, a women’s facility, building on a similar Parenting Inside Out program.
Incarcerated parents must be housed in the general population, be within three years of their minimum date, and not be convicted of crimes involving children in order to participate in virtual reality experiences.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the InsideOut Dads and Parenting Inside Out programs, visit cor.pa.gov.
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