From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate


Past Event

From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate

September 21, 2019
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Andrew Freedman Home, 1125 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10452
The Center for Justice at Columbia University and The Confined Arts present From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate, a one-day justice conference in New York City that will meet and resist linguistic methods of dehumanization, which foster implicit and explicit biases about people in the criminal justice system. The mission the conference is to unveil popular labels, which are coupled with negative imagery about people in the system and provide re-humanizing counter narratives using the power of storytelling to highlight true-lived experiences. More specifically, the audience will engage with stigmatized labels couple with (mis)representative imagery and be given a historical context of how labels foster misconceptions about incarceration and the people that are incarcerated. This conference demonstrates a sense of the urgency to facilitate discourse around dehumanizing labels and stereotypical representation of people in the criminal justice system and to understand how the general public forms perceptions of different groups of people based on the common labels used to reference them. Labels carry stigmas and stereotypes. They allow us to acknowledge social, cultural, or physical differences amongst one another. Labels also inadvertently influence our perceptions of one another depending on the social significance of the label that is attributed to a person In one-study students who were labeled as “bloomers” were perceived by teachers to be more cognitively adept than their peers, even if their capabilities were the same. This effect was so strong that some teachers gave increased levels of support to students labeled as capable, which resulted in concrete differences in educational performance. In a 2010 poll conducted to gather the approval rates of gay men and lesbians in the US Military, approval rates for including gay people in the military were higher when the words “Gay Men & Lesbians” were used instead of “Homosexuals” Finally, people who are directly impacted by the criminal justice system reported, using stigmatizing language to reference them is the first step in “dehumanizing them”. This conference will socially as well as physically engage with popular labels and language content. The conference goals are to: 1) Provide a historical review of how language and media has been used to shape public perceptions of people in the criminal justice system. 2) Provide a historical review of how law, policy and popular discourse has shaped punitive attitudes. 3) Understand how the popular (current) philosophy of justice and incarceration and current media representation of people in prison in the US intersects with and is reflected in the law and policy of today. 4) Determine the influences on public opinion of people in prison - is it the legal framework, popular media or personal opinion and experience? 5) Provide re-humanizing counter narratives inspired by true-lived experiences.

Contact Information

Geraldine Downey