Language Really Matters

Easy Read version available

The words that we use to describe people matter because they affect how people view themselves and how other people view them. 

Best practice recommends that people are not described in language that ties their identity to their offence. For example “rapist” or “murderer”.  

Handy language guides

Professor Belinda Winder, Professor of Forensic Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, has developed a practice brief on Recommended Terminology Concerning People with a Criminal Conviction.

The document includes this handy reference guide: 

A table with examples of appropriate language use

Source: Winder, B., Scott, S., Underwood, M., & Blagden, N. (2021). Recommended Terminology Concerning People with a Criminal Conviction. COPE Practice Brief 01/21. NTU Psychology, Nottingham Trent University.

FrameWorks, a think tank that helps mission-driven organisations communicate about social issues in ways that build public will to support progressive change, have produced a useful guide that explores the way the public tend to think about people in and leaving prison, and how to build understanding and support for employment opportunities and supportive relationships. 

A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
May 17, 2024
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