FWD.us Applauds New AP Stylebook Update Adding Criminal Justice Chapter

WASHINGTON, D.C. – FWD.us Executive Director Zoë Towns issued the following statement today in response to the addition of a criminal justice chapter in the 57th Edition of the Associated Press Stylebook:

“Today we are incredibly encouraged to see the AP’s criminal justice chapter in their new edition Stylebook which issues guidance to use person first language to describe people who are convicted, incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated. This is a long overdue and very welcome step after decades of organizing from the people and families impacted by the criminal justice system. It also comes on the heels of our groundbreaking research proving words like ‘felon,’ ‘convict,’ and ‘inmate’ are not neutral descriptors but, in fact, bias audiences against people impacted by police, jails, and prisons and against the criminal justice reforms that would free, support and empower them.

“Language choices are only one piece of the puzzle in achieving responsible criminal justice journalism. But our research demonstrated that perpetuating harmful language choices has helped enable mass incarceration and stall its undoing. We are heartened to see this new AP guidance to call people, people. We hope it helps to make space for more stories, better questions, less stigma, more open minds, and eventually to advance better policies.

“We urge more news outlets and journalistic institutions to follow suit and adopt similar standards in the language they use to describe individuals impacted by the criminal justice system.

“Learn more about our People First campaign and our research which includes an analysis of the prevalence of these terms across major newspapers and also two nationally representative surveys testing their impact on audiences.”

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