DeAnna Hoskins on Why Language Matters When Discussing Justice Reform
Date:  07-05-2019

Words such a such as "ex-con," "felon," or "inmate". need to be replaced by "more humanizing 'people-first' language"
From an opinion piece by DeAnna Hoskins published by The Hill:

Earlier this month, justice reform advocates, business leaders and celebrities joined President Trump at the White House to announce the launch of the “Ready to Work” initiative. The new initiative tasks the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) with “connecting employers directly to inmates to improve reentry outcomes.” While the event highlighted positive efforts, attendees missed the opportunity to affirm their commitment by using dehumanizing language when referring to people directly impacted by the justice system.

Throughout the press conference speakers, including the president, used the word “inmate” and the Department of Justice press statement used the terms “inmate” and “offender” multiple times. These terms are offensive and dehumanizing. By using labeling language such as “inmate” we immediately ascribe the worst of society’s stigmas to a person based on having been incarcerated - instantly erasing their humanity - and therefore erasing inherent human dignity and rights. Regardless of anyone’s best intentions, we must understand the impact and harm in our words. If we truly intend to overhaul the U.S. justice system and enforce our laws equally and impartially, we must begin by viewing all people caught in its grip equally and with the respect they deserve; anything else treats them as commodities that can be discarded and dismissed which is often what the system does.

I’m a firm believer that we must know where we’ve come from to understand where we’re going. Incarceration and structural racism are rooted in the history of slavery which was made possible through dehumanization of African people and their descendants. At the recent H.R. 40 hearing on reparations, several testimonies included the term “enslaved people” – reminding the world that our ancestors were human beings that were enslaved. Making the distinction between the systems and conditions we are subjected to and retaining the fact that we are human beings, is something to emulate. By recognizing the pain and humanity of our ancestors - the conversation about justice and reparations is elevated. Language matters to any movement for justice. Continue reading >>>