The Florida Department of Corrections has recently launched the “Scenic Room” project at Dade Correctional Institution.
Spokeswoman Ashley Cook said the project is an out-of-cell room, that allows inmates to immerse themselves in a nature-like environment. Inmates participate by request.
“Inmates are able to choose from a variety of images, like, beaches, mountains, and desert settings, and listen to the sounds that accompany them,” she said. “The program is meant to reduce stress and relieve anxiety among inmates through simulating a nature setting.”
Secretary Julie Jones, the department’s highest-ranking official, said in the August press release that the institution is committed to discovering new and innovative ways to improve the safety of their prisons and overall wellness of the inmates.
“The Scenic Room is a promising new program that researchers believe will ultimately help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety that can sometimes occur in the prison environment. Reducing these stressors can help create a safer environment for staff and inmates,” she said.
Cook said the project was inspired by a similar one in Oregon called the Nature Imagery in Prisons Project in 2013.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, researchers spent a year studying inmates in a cellblock of the Snake River Intensive Management unit, where prisoners are sent when they harm guards or other inmates.
Prisoners in the unit are held in solitary confinement for 23 hours and 20 minutes a day. As part of the research, inmates in 24 cells were allowed to spend 40 minutes a day alone in a small room with a projector that showed nature videos.
Inmates in the other 24 cells were given the same access to an identical room, but without videos. Researchers found that inmates with access to the videos felt calm and less stressed out.
Deserts were the most popular among the inmates, researchers found, because the wide-open spaces gave the prisoners relief from the closed environment.
“The Scenic Room project is accessible to the general inmate population at Dade Correctional, whereas, only inmates in solitary confinement at Oregon’s facility had access. In hopes to reduce stress, we aim to create a safer environment as a whole for our institutions,” Cook said.
Cook said that this is one of the several programs that have been put into place to improve safety for Florida’s correctional facilities and provide stress relief to inmates. These programs include better education and activities to create a path for inmates to become productive members of society.
The FDC has partnered with the University of Utah to evaluate the effectiveness of the Scenic Room project. Its success will be measured by the program’s ability to reduce inmate stress, and in turn a reduction of disciplinary reports and incidents, according to Cook.
Along with Dade Correctional Institution, the Scenic Room project is currently being tested on the women at Lowell Annex and men at Suwanee Correctional Institution. The program does not have a determined end date.