How stereotypes serve as pejorative labels

Language matters. Words matter. Names matter. Terms that are conventional at one time are seen to be problematic upon deeper, later analysis. For example, though the term mental retardation was once common, we now say developmental disability. Getting language right is important because terminology can be disrespectful; it can also be hurtful. Some terms connote stereotypes and serve as pejorative labels. In the field of corrections, there is a growing recognition that terms like inmate and offender can also promote stereotypes and put labels on people that become the lens through which everything they do is interpreted. Some of these labels take on a permanent kind of power over a person’s life: It is often hard for a person to overcome a label such as offender or inmate because when a person is described this way, the term itself takes on more importance than it deserves. Too often, people relate to someone who is an “ex-offender” through the label in ways that can make it difficult to overcome. People who have broken the law sometimes say, “What I did was wrong. I take responsibility for it. But I want to be able to put it behind me so that I