As close as you want to get to jail

Want to go to jail?

The Georgia Department of Corrections allows you to do just that from your home PC, simply by logging onto its World Wide Web site and taking a virtual tour of a cellblock, a dormitory, and a prison kitchen.

The feature was one of many that were added when the department retooled its Web site in May. Other features include a sex offender registry; the ability to search for an inmate by name and retrieve a color photograph; and a search for statistics, such as white males jailed for armed robbery.

"It's all simply to tell everyone the truth about what we do," said Brian Owens, the director of the Office of Planning and Analysis for the department.

Last summer, a working group of about six people began to brainstorm ways to update the department's site.

The idea was to make the department as open to the public as possible, Owens said. The idea for the 360-degree prison tour was an effort to provide an "unfiltered view" of what prison is.

"I don't think you'd deter people with it," Owens said, " but you'd dispel myths about prisons." He said most opinions about prisons come from movies and the media, which is often very distorted.

The virtual tour also serves as a way to attract people to the site, who would then see the other features. When the site was launched, the department recorded 2.8 million individual pages accessed in the first 72 hours.

Owens said the site is still being updated, including the virtual tour. He said that there could be virtual tours of alternative centers, such as transition, diversion and detention centers.


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