Hudson Link has been a long-time proponent for using humanizing language when referring to currently or formerly incarcerated individuals. With now more than two million people incarcerated in the United States’ jail and prison system, there has been growing attention on the language people use when discussing individual or group identities and experiences.
People with criminal histories are referred to by an array of dehumanizing labels, such as inmates, criminals, prisoners, convicts, delinquents, felons, and offenders. Even following their release, oftentimes, these labels follow. Terms like: ex-inmates, ex-prisoners, ex-convicts, ex-felons, and ex-offenders are used to label and stigmatize people affected by the criminal justice system.
In a historic moment, a piece of legislation (S3332 & A2395) passed both houses of the New York State legislature, which would require all legislative language referring to incarcerated people to be humanizing. The bill replaces the dehumanizing language of “inmates or inmates” with “incarcerated individual or individuals” in multiple areas of New York State and New York City law.
At Hudson Link, we refer to our incarcerated men and women as students—as men and women—and encourage everyone to refrain from using dehumanizing labels and stereotypes that marginalize people rather than support them while they rebuild their lives.
We think this bill is an incredible step in the right direction, and we are going to be watching its progress as it is passed on to the Governor’s office and hopefully signed into law very soon!