In October 2013, the Mayor of Philadelphia issued an executive order to change official city language in reference to previously incarcerated individuals. As the article states:
The hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians who have served time in prison will no longer be referred to as “ex-offenders” in official city language, the mayor’s office announced Thursday. Instead, an ordinance will be introduced to call them ‘returning citizens.’ In a statement, Mayor Nutter said that the new term emphasizes reintegration, while “‘ex-offender’ carries with it a stigma which may increase the challenges these citizens face.”
Read the full article on The Inquirer website here.
The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, a Human Justice policy, advocacy and training center that is founded, directed and staffed by academics and advocates who were formerly incarcerated, has a continual campaign regarding the “Question of Language.” A section of An Open Letter to Our Friends on the Question of Language reads:
“One of our first initiatives is to respond to the negative public perception about our population as expressed in the language and concepts used to describe us. When we are not called mad dogs, animals, predators, offenders and other derogatory terms, we are referred to as inmates, convicts, prisoners and felons—all terms devoid of humanness which identify us as “things” rather than as people. These terms are accepted as the “official” language of the media, law enforcement, prison industrial complex and public policy agencies. However, they are no longer acceptable for us and we are asking people to stop using them.
In an effort to assist our transition from prison to our communities as responsible citizens and to create a more positive human image of ourselves, we are asking everyone to stop using these negative terms and to simply refer to us as PEOPLE. People currently or formerly incarcerated, PEOPLE on parole, PEOPLE recently released from prison, PEOPLE in prison, PEOPLE with criminal convictions, but PEOPLE.
…The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions believes that if we can get progressive publications, organizations and individuals like you to stop using the old offensive language and simply refer to us as “people,” we will have achieved a significant step forward in our life giving struggle to be recognized as the human beings we are. We have made our mistakes, yes, but we have also paid or are paying our debts to society.
We believe we have the right to be called by a name we choose, rather than one someone else decides to use. We think that by insisting on being called “people” we reaffirm our right to be recognized as human beings, not animals, inmates, prisoners or offenders.”
Read the entire letter here. You can also download the letter as a PDF to share with others.