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Prisoners Reconnect With Families Through VR Project Back Home

The project may expand to further jails if successful.

While most virtual reality (VR) users will utilise the technology to play videogames or travel the world visiting far flung exotic locations, one content creator is using it to help people make closer to home visits. Chilean filmmaker Catalina Alarcón has created a project called Back Home (or Volver a casa in Spanish) allowing inmates to visit home through the power of VR.

Alarcón worked with 12 women at the San Joaquin Women’s Penitentiary Centre, running a documentary workshop over the course of six months. They were able to watch several pieces by Iberoamerican filmmakers prior to four Chilean filmmakers coming into the prison to showcase their films.

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VR was then introduced as the last activity, with Alarcón taking 360-degree cameras to family members so they could record themselves doing whatever they liked, whether that was watching their child ride a bike or just walking around their home.

“To manage this activity, I personally called each of their families to tell them what the project was about and to schedule a visit to their homes,” said Alarcón to Emol. “The camera in 360 ° was delivered to a relative of the house, who went through the space telling what he wanted to the internal, everyday things. Thanks to the families, who gave themselves completely to the activity, we were able to carry out this project.”

Explaining what happened on the day the inmates saw the VR films for the first time Alarcón commented: “On the day of virtual reality activity there was a lot of nervousness in the environment. We did it to take care of them, because we knew that knowing that they would be able to see their families generated a lot of anxiety. That day we were all anxious, the gendarmes very attentive to the arrival of oculus lenses (Gear VR), and my part, a lot of nervousness because I was afraid it would be too shocking for them.”

The whole point of the process was to help the prisoners with reintegration, as prison is designed as an isolating experience to punish criminals. Therefor leaving prison and re-entering society can be a difficult experience, especially for those that’ve served long sentences.

Next year the filmmaker plans on bringing the Back Home project to more jails in Chile if funding can be secured.

For the latest projects utilising VR, keep reading VRFocus.

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