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News Inside

Broken Language

Issue 8 of News Inside takes on the words that define and label incarcerated people.

You can download the 8th issue of News Inside <a target=here.">
You can download the 8th issue of News Inside here.
You can download the 8th issue of News Inside here.

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.”

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

The pages from Issue 8. You can download the PDF here.

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.

Before you go...

Can you help us make a difference?

The Marshall Project produces journalism that makes an impact. Our investigation into violence using police dogs prompted departments from Indiana to Louisiana to change their policies. Thousands of cameras were installed in the infamous Attica prison after we revealed the extent of violent abuse by guards. Municipalities stopped charging parents for their kids’ incarceration because of our reporting. Supreme Court justices have cited us, along with incarcerated people acting as their own lawyers.

The deeply reported and painstakingly edited investigations we produce take persistence, significant resources and, above all, time. That’s why we need your support. Donations from readers like you allow us to commit the time and attention needed to tell stories that are driving real change. Your support goes a long way toward sustaining this important work..

We’re more than halfway to our goal of $15,000 before September 25 — if you’re able, please donate today. We’re extremely grateful to each and every donor who helps power our journalism. We could not do it without you.

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Lawrence Bartley is the director of “News Inside,” the print publication of The Marshall Project which is distributed in hundreds of prisons and jails throughout the United States. He is an accomplished public speaker and has provided multimedia content for CNN, PBS, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC and more. News Inside is the recipient of the 2020 Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media.