top of page
Search

Words Matter: Using Humanizing Language



Today, there are approximately two million people incarcerated in the United States’ jail and prison system. People with criminal justice histories are referred to in an array of dehumanizing labels, such as “inmates,” “criminals,” “prisoners,” “convicts,” “delinquents,” “felons,” and “offenders.” Even after people complete their sentence of incarceration and return to the community, oftentimes these labels follow. Terms like “ex-inmates,” “ex-prisoners,” “ex-convicts,” “ex-felons,” and “ex-offenders” are used to categorize and stigmatize people affected by the criminal justice system.


Dehumanizing labels stereotype and marginalize people rather than support them while they rebuild their lives. Individuals with justice system involvement are not defined by their conviction history. The words we use to reference people should reflect their full identities, and acknowledge their capacity to change and grow.

Be mindful of how you speak about The Fortune Society’s mission, the people we serve, our dedicated staff, and board members. We encourage you to use humanizing language—your example will inspire others.





4 views0 comments
bottom of page