U Of I Students Design Virtual Reality For Incarcerated People

Simple, everyday tasks  – like ordering coffee, crossing the street, or getting gas – can be an obstacle, or an intimidating challenge for people recently released from prison. This is especially true for people who have spent many years behind bars.

Lisa Mercer, a graphic design professor at the University of Illinois, set out to tackle this issue with her students and fellow U of I professor, William Bullock, using “immersive reality.”

The professors and students partnered with Rebecca Ginsburg of the Education Justice Project  – a college-in-prison program based out of the Danville Correctional Center – to understand the challenges facing formerly incarcerated individuals as they re-enter society.

Students then designed scenarios to help soon-to-be released inmates about how to navigate common situations. Mercer says immersive or virtual reality scenarios have the potential to reduce recidivism and help formerly incarcerated people better engage with society once they’re released from prison.

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Lee V. Gaines

Lee V. Gaines

Lee Gaines covers Education for the Illinois Newsroom. She started at Illinois Public Media in 2017 and her stories have been featured nationally on NPR. Prior to her work at IPM, Lee wrote for newspapers and magazines in Chicago and nationally. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with the Education Writers Association. ➤ lvgaines@illinois.edu@LeeVGaines