The following was circulated to all affiliates by Cindy at NARSOL. I think it’s a very useful message. When dealing with others, you might want to suggest they re-phrase their labels.
I’m sharing the following text and link with you on person first language. I don’t know how quickly this change will occur however I tell you it made a difference within the committees. The biggest challenge is getting people to stop saying Sex Offender Registry. I personally like Emily Horowitz’s suggestion calling it a Sex Offense Registry.
If you have examples to add to my short list please send them along.
I recently participated as a co chair of a work group, Advocacy and Legislation, and a member of the larger Reentry Housing Workgroup co chaired by Representative Brandon McGhee (Hartford and Windsor Locks) and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity.
I sent out the communication below requesting that the workgroups refrain from using labels publicly at hearings and in the written report. I’d like to now ask you the same. Person first language only. It starts with me, you.. it’s a work in progress but I promise change if we all adhere and refrain from harmful labels. Thank you.
Excerpt by Cindy Prizio:
I have been seeking changes to policies and statutes governing sexual offenses for 3+ years. Every time the label “sex offender” is used someone is being hurt. I am, my loved one is ..the family sitting next to me..Restorative justice is about making people whole. If we help with one hand and vilify with the other, how is this helping?
“Why are we calling people what we don’t want them to be?” Person-first language identifies the person apart from the behavior.
I’ve included a link below to a blog written by Drs. Alissa Ackerman and Gwenda Willis and David Prescott LICSW on person-first language. While it is written primarily for treatment providers of people who commit sexual offenses it applies to all of us.
Labels are commonplace in every day communication, and when self-selected they can aid communication. However, assigned to us, labels have potential to stigmatize and harm. As highlighted by Brene Brown
“The sorting we do to ourselves and to one another is, at best, unintentional and reflexive. At worst, it is stereotyping that dehumanizes. The paradox is that we all love the ready-made filing system, so handy when we want to quickly categorize people, but we resent it when we’re the ones getting filed away”
Judge Stefan Underhill, a Federal Judge for the district of Connecticut, insists that people who are being prosecuted in his court be called by their names.
A prison warden outside of CT has mandated his corrections staff call people who are incarcerated by their names.
I don’t believe there is malintent on most people’s part. The label sex offender is used by the legal system however to the person who wears the scarlet letter it brings shame and stigma. What comes to mind lately based on the conversations we’re having on re entry: if you could walk in his shoes, if you could walk in my/our shoes.. you would know why I ask this of you. Less harm to all.
It starts with us.
A heartfelt thank you,
Cindy Prizio, One Standard of Justice
.A person who has committed xx offense..
.A person on the registry
.A sex offense registry
.A registry for the publicly convicted
.A person who has been convicted..
.A person who is incarcerated
person first language