Lags who follow the rules will be allowed to use the headsets to go on “fantasy” holidays to far-flung destinations like China, Australia and Peru.
The move comes as jail bosses look to tackle soaring levels of violence and drug abuse in Britain’s prisons.
Some of the places prisoners will be able to explore include the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia, and ancient Inca ruins in Peru.
The scheme is being piloted at HMP Nottingham, where prison bosses hope the two-month trial will be a success.
Nottingham, a category B jail, houses 1,060 prisoners in for a range of serious offences.
One of the first inmates to use the VR sets told the People: “I’ve been in jail 12 years and today has been one of the best days.
“I haven’t felt like a prisoner today.”
Another said: “People will be keen, knowing for ten minutes they can experience another country in VR.”
The sets normally cost around £500 a pair, but the Prison Service got them free to use for the trial.
“I’ve been in jail 12 years and today has been one of the best days”
Prisoner, HMP Nottingham
Other programmes could include workplace experience simulators, such as visiting a VR construction site, to prepare them for life on the outside.
A prison source told the paper: “Governors are being encouraged to try all sorts of ways to improve behaviour. This is a bold move but it is seen as worth a go.
“If it’s a success it could be rolled out.”
But not everyone is positive about the move.
Victims’ rights campaigner Harry Fletcher slammed the scheme, saying: “The real problem is the auto-release system where they get out after half their sentence, well-behaved or not.”
He added: “Victims will be astonished that they are being rewarded with VR goggles.”
Violence in jails in England and Wales hit a record high last year, with 33,803 attacks by prisoners in the year ending September 2018, a shocking 20% rise on 2017.
Of these attacks, 10,085 were on prison staff.