Department of Corrections Introduces Virtual Reality Technology to Augment Programming for Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

Pittsburgh, Pa — Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Assistant Attorney General George Little was joined by Amachi Pittsburgh Executive Director Anna Hollis to announce an innovative virtual reality (VR) pilot program leveraging technology and community partnerships to promote healthy relationships and relationships between incarcerated parents and their children.

The first-of-its-kind collaboration between the DOC and Wrap Technologies builds on existing programs InsideOut Dads and Parenting Inside Out, which are designed to improve communication skills, make it easier to show and manage emotions, and introduce effective disciplining techniques. With the introduction of VR immersion, participants will 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 are able to adjust and adjust the situations in real-time.

“The overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents will return to their families and communities at the end of their sentence, and the DOC is committed to setting them up for success,” Acting Secretary Little said. “Practice makes perfect, and we hope that role-playing games using virtual avatars will help parents and children see beyond the walls of institutions and build stronger families and safer communities.”

Children do not need to travel to a DOC facility to participate. Community providers Amachi Pittsburgh and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) in Philadelphia are facilitating virtual reality visits for participating children and providing support services for their families.

“Our team is thrilled to be working with the PA Department of Corrections and Wrap to bring VR experiences to our youth and parents,” said Anna Hollis, executive director of Amachi Pittsburgh. “We see VR as a new, innovative way to generate interest, attract new participants and stimulate learning, creativity and imagination.”

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“In our work with incarcerated individuals, we know that having family support, including commitment to children, is extremely important,” said Laurie A. Corbin, PHMC executive director of community involvement. “We hope that parents and child will have a fun and educational experience that will bring them happy memories despite their physical separation.”

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University were selected as reviewers for the pilot program.

“We are excited to be working with the DOC and community partners to evaluate this new and innovative program. We hope the results will provide more opportunities for incarcerated parents and their children to learn together,” said Sara Brennen of Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at the College of Education .

The VR initiative is financed entirely by the Federal Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The InsideOut Dads program is available at all DOC male facilities. The VR component was introduced at SCI Phoenix, SCI Fayette and SCI Frackville. VR is also available at SCI Muncy, a women’s facility that builds on a similar Parenting Inside Out program.

Incarcerated parents must be placed in the general population, be within three years of their minimum date, and not have been convicted of crimes involving children in order to participate in the VR Experiences.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the InsideOut Dads and Parenting Inside Out programs, visit

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