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Learn more about the language and concepts related to Voices Unbarred's work

Voices Unbarred Specific Terms

  • COMMUNITY ADVOCATES-what we call the people who are formerly incarcerated who create and advocate with Voices Unbarred

  • PARTICIPANT-usually a currently incarcerated individual who has a shorter-term connection with VU through one of its programs that they will “graduate” from (e.g. Inner Voices)

  • "PEOPLE FIRST" LANGUAGE-language that emphasizes the humanity in people by stating “person” first and abandoning the harmful stereotypes that simple labels such as “felon” or “criminals” can bear

    • Part of using "people first language" is also remembering that every person is different and that what someone is comfortable being called varies from person to person.

  • RETURNED CITIZENS/RETURNING CITIZENS-common term used for people who were formerly incarcerated

  • VU-Voices Unbarred for short

Theatre Terms

  • FORUM THEATRE-an interactive TO practice meant to allow for the processing of a societal issue through improvisation and theatrical work; We dramatize a true story where there was oppression, yet a potential for change in the situation. The audience is then encouraged to jump in and try out different ways to stop the oppression. As a community, we discuss the potential outcomes of each presented solution, both short-term and long-term, as well as how feasible it is. By playing out each solution in real time, we get to rehearse for the revolution in a safe space.

  • JOKER-a facilitator of Theatre of the Oppressed; named after the neutral joker card in a deck of cards; They guide conversation and ask questions without their own agenda.

  • LEGISLATIVE THEATRE-similarly to Forum Theatre, Legislative Theatre uses roleplaying to engage community members in identifying solutions to oppression; Looks at unjust and inequitable systems and institutions, rather than individual actions, to translate those ideas into new laws

  • THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED (TO)-a revolutionary and participatory art form that is used to help people analyze the world around them, explore social and political issues, and create solutions; Founded by Augusto Boal; Learn more here.

Social/Criminal Justice Concepts

  • ​​ABOLITION-naming, challenging, and replacing systems that contribute to carcerality with equitable practices

  • ECONOMIC JUSTICE-an approach that strives for an economic system that allows for equal opportunity to achieve financial means to survive and the opportunity to obtain wealth

  • LIBERATION-being free from oppression in all its to be your full self, encompassing all your identities, without fear of being persecuted, judged, or otherwise treated unfairly by individuals or systems

  • MASS INCARCERATION-the state of the United States criminal justice system as the country with the highest incarcerated population in the world.

  • PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX-a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems. We see this in the United States currently.

  • RACIAL JUSTICE-the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, leading to equitable outcomes and opportunities for all

  • REPARATIONS-repairing harm done to a person or group of people by making amends with something of value (money, education, various forms of support, etc.)

  • SOCIAL JUSTICE-creating equitable systems that give people what they need in terms of wealth, opportunity, well-being, and privileges in society

Terms Related to Incarceration

  • CO-corrections officer

  • “FIT THE DESCRIPTION”-a phrase referring to the disproportionate targeting of Black men by the police due to their perceived tendency to “fit the description” of suspect descriptions

  • INCARCERATION-the state of being confined in a jail or prison

  • “INSIDE”-this term refers to the inside of prison or jail. You might hear someone say, "When I was inside..."

  • PO-parole officer

  • REENTRY-the transition from incarceration to being released into society; This process can include several steps like finding housing and employment, working through probation, and mentally acclimating to being released.

  • SOLITARY CONFINEMENT-the isolation of an incarcerated person, usually into a smaller cell, as punishment for certain behaviors, for gender segregation, protective custody by choice, safe cells (mental distress), medical lockdown, or admin reasons; This practice is widely disapproved of for its inhumane conditions.

  • THE SYSTEM- refers to the criminal justice system

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