From the Inside Out

Issue address by research methods


People in prison, including those suffering from mental illnesses, are victims of mistreatment such as violence due to the use of excessive force and severe neglect in the form of moral exclusions and disengagement by prison guards and other staff  (Haslam, 2006; Blackler, 2015; Gullapalli, 2015), as per correctional policy. This mistreatment is not conducive to a successful reentry back into society. The US rate of recidivism in 2014 was 76.6% compared to Norway’s 20%. This difference is attributed to Norway’s implementation of the concept of “restorative justice” (Sterbenz; 2014). This concept prioritizes the humanization and rehabilitation of people in prison. Acknowledging their humanity and treating people in prison as PEOPLE instead of irredeemable and unworthy of acceptance (Dreisinger; 2016). Despite the above research, existing information, and efforts made by activist and organizations lobbying against these conditions, the inhumane treatment continues to occur (Blackler, 2015). This would suggest that a larger constituency remains compliant with, and/or ignorant to, these abuses.

The general public’s negative perception of who people in prison actually encourage their willingness to legitimize or ignore prison injustices and the dehumanization of PIP. Through dehumanizing language and misrepresentative imagery and depictions, mainstream media characterizes these negative beliefs about people who go to jail or prison. The common language used in media and in real life to reference PIP carries multiple stigmas. Goffman describes stigma as the classification of individuals in an undesirable way due to characteristics, behaviors, or reputations that they possess. He goes further to define three types of stigma. There is stigma due to physical character traits, due to personality character traits, or due to group identification (Crossman, 2017). In the first study we hypothesised that because of the stigmas associated with incarceration, when compared to other groups in society, people will have more negative and dehumanizing perceptions of PIP when they are referred to using common labels (e.g. convict, prisoner, and inmate) we  measured whether the use of existing labels used to describe or identify a PIP affects people’s perceptions of them. We have theorized that dehumanization via labels leads to concrete human rights abuses. If this is true, targeting label use could have the impact of reducing dehumanization and its impacts.

In similar ways, through misrepresentative imagery people in prison and institutional life has been falsely described and depicted in film and public media for decades (Cecil, 2017). This dehumanization subsequently makes it easier for us as a society to justify or turn a blind eye to the daily atrocities suffered by people in jails and prison throughout this country. Dehumanizing people in prison also separates “them” from “us,” and they become a part of the “other” side. And because we – society – are not the people in prison and they are the ones being legally punished, we become morally good and people in prison become the bad guys, and therefore the penitentiary becomes a necessity and the treatment they receive becomes justified within the context of the punishment that we believe people in prison deserve for the crimes they’ve committed.


We Theorize:

  1. People in prison are dehumanized via language and misrepresentative imagery
  2. Prison conditions are justified because of the dehumanization of people in prison
  3. Changing language will reduce label impact

Research Methods:

  1. Questionnaires 
    1. Implicit Influential Dehumanization Questionnaire (IIDQ)
    2. Important Implication Questionnaire (IIQ)
  2. History Of Language And Dehumanization For Crime And Incarceration
    1. Extensive Historical Literature Review
    2. “Human in Prison Report”


  • Writing Skills:
    • Be able to draft small reports that are communicable
    • Be comfortable with APA/MLA citation
  • Computer Skills:
    • Experience handling small or large databases and large documents with sensitive information
    • Proficient in Google Suite and Microsoft Suite
  • Interpersonal Skills:
    • Be able to work collaboratively in a team setting
    • Be comfortable with people who are formerly incarcerated
    • Be able to communicate easily with team members
  • Time Commitment:
    • 10 Hours per week (2 hours in Lab, 8 hours remote)
    • Be able to commit at least 2 semesters to this project




If you have any questions or concerns please contact Pastor Isaac Scott