A LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER, WALEISAH WILSON ON USING HUMANIZING LANGUAGE MATTERS!
Greetings Friends, Supporters, and Georgians:
July 1st marks the 1st day of Reentry Awareness Month in Georgia per our 6th annual proclamation request approved by a Georgia Governor.
As the Founder and President of NewLife-Second Chance Outreach, Inc., and as a person who is formerly incarcerated, I solicit your support in joining me, our Board of Directors, the individuals we serve, their families, and our supporters in committing to using humanizing and person-centered language when referring to people who are justice-involved and impacted by the criminal legal system. Using humanizing language matters! We are committed to the work we do to ensure that the Georgians we serve to equip, empower and restore are included and supported in efforts that will sustain their success within their communities. We believe that using humanizing language (instead of derogatory terms that label us as “inmates,” “criminals,” "ex-cons", "sex offenders", “prisoners,” “convicts,” “delinquents,” “felons,” “super predators” and “offenders”) is critical in this process. Although many use these terms as tools to intentionally cause permanent harm to keep people who are justice-involved in a place of despair and bondage as second-class citizens, we believe that most people who use these terms do so without any intent to cause harm but simply because it is the "norm". However, that doesn’t make using the language any less triggering or harmful to those of us who are impacted by the criminal legal system.
Even after we have served our time, these labels follow, stigmatize, stereotype, and subject us to a lifetime of exclusion, discrimination, and second-class citizenship. The use of dehumanizing labels not only prevents our genuine efforts to be productive citizens, but it marginalizes us and limits our potential as human beings. We are not and should not be defined by what we have (or may not have) done in the past but by who we are TODAY as PEOPLE who are an integral part of Georgia, and are worthy of being supported for our positive efforts and contributions to this state and its economy and who have the potential to grow into successful community members.
Therefore, we ask that going forward that you open your hearts and minds to giving second chances not only in employment, housing, access to the polls, education, etc. but by committing to give humanity to PEOPLE (who just happen to have a criminal record.) To support you on your journey of using humanizing language, I encourage you to refer to a number of online resources on the matter, including The Fortune Society’s “Words Matter” guide and our January 2022 event "I am Not Your Convict- Words Matter: Using Humanizing Language to End Stigmas" that can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.
I thank you in advance for your commitment.
Waleisah S. Wilson, Founder & President