People in prisons and jails don’t make up a monolith. So in this issue of News Inside, we deepen the conversation about words like “inmate,” “felon,” “convict,” etc. in journalism. People behind bars all over the country read our print publication. Different locations have different terminologies and rationales for identifiers. It’s our aim to educate readers on regional differences while weighing in on our reasons for refraining from such labels.
To that end, we start with three pieces from what we call The Language Project. “What Words We Use — and Avoid — When Covering People and Incarceration” filters label usage through the logic of journalism. “I Was Trained to Call Men a Word They Hated” provides the perspective of a former correctional officer. And “I Am Not Your ‘Inmate’” is my take on the subject shaped by my experience with incarceration.
Given that many incarcerated people have children in foster care, or were once there themselves, we included “Foster Care Agencies Take Millions of Dollars Owed to Kids. Most Children Have No Idea.” Since some people may be able to recoup funds the state owes them, we added, “Were You Ever in Foster Care? Here’s How to Find Out if the Government Took Your Money.”
Staying in the DIY vein, “Mr. Sitthivong Goes to Washington” follows the story of a man sentenced to 65 years in the Washington prison system who addressed the state legislature in an effort to reduce his time and others’. Then there’s "'He Died Like an Animal’: Some Police Departments Hogtie People Despite Knowing The Risks.” This one is loaded. Correctional staff are increasingly becoming readers of News Inside. I’m betting that learning about the risks of this particular restraint may prompt them to consider how they employ similar maneuvers.
Finally, we are introducing our new comic strip, “The Peeps.” In the first edition, characters Aaron, Sean, Pedro and Malcolm live out a parable a friend of mine used to share in orientation sessions at a maximum-security prison. We look forward to sharing the exploits of these guys in the coming issues of News Inside, as I’m sure our readers may find them to be similar to themselves and or their peers.