In 2019, Dr. Smith received a 5-year grant from the National Institute of Justice (2019-MU-MU-0004) to evaluate the effectiveness and implementation of VR-JIT at increasing employment and reducing recidivism for individuals preparing to return to their communities after completing their prison sentence (i.e., returning citizens).
Study participants are currently engaged in the Michigan Department of Corrections Vocational Villages, a skilled trades training program set within a prison that includes an immersive educational community using virtual reality, robotics, and other technologies to develop employable trades. More specifically, the Vocational Villages offer 13 vocational trades and returning citizens choose 1 core trade that they enroll in to complete.
In addition to their core trade, returning citizens can earn “stackable” credentials through coursework led by trades instructors. For example, the credentials could include Fork Lift Certification, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 30 hour certification training course for construction and general industry, and the Commercial Driver’s License Certification.
Dr. Smith and his collaborative team from Northwestern University, Wayne State University, University of North Carolina, and Michigan State University partnered to train Vocational Village staff to implement VR-JIT in this real-world setting, where the research team seeks to understand the processes and costs needed to inform prison-based vocational rehabilitation.
Please check out the preliminary results here from our feasibility study at the Vocational Villages, funded by Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR)
June 13, 2020