Members of the public can now get a feel of what it would be like to be locked up by taking a virtual tour of their local prison. Prisons Online is a U.K. government-backed venture aimed at exposing life inside prison walls.

The Web site will use pictures, sound, and text to guide viewers through the physical environment of what’s normally a well hidden world. Visitors can use the system to maintain contact with offenders, while schools can employ it as an educational tool to keep children on the right side of the law.

“Prisons are by their very nature closed environments which relatively few people ever experience. I hope the site will allow the general public to gain a better understanding of how prisons operate and what it’s like inside,” said Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service.

The virtual tour is part of the government’s drive to use new technology to modernize the justice system and to meet its target of getting all services online by 2006.