From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate, The Andrew Freeman Home, Saturday, 21. September 2019

The Confined Arts presents 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.

Headline Performance
SPOKEN PEN "The Monologue."
This monologue performance is a creative writing project produced by four (4) condemned prisoners from the State of Arkansas as a collection of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction works of literature. Created entirely by: Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Reams, LaTavious Johnson, and Justin Anderson. What's significant about this project is that these condemned writers are forgotten individuals in a forgotten place trying to show the rest of the world that they exist. The performance is something that's fresh, unique, and unusual. It is not a strike against the judicial system, a system that all four men have spent a vast majority of their lives grappling with. Instead, this monologue show is a richly detailed and personal glimpse inside the minds of four (4) talented writers who happens to be death row inmates.
 
ABOUT THE WRITERS
° Kenneth Williams, author of The Unrelenting Burdens of Gang Bangers and an ordained minister. He was executed on April 27th, 2017.
° Justin Anderson, creator of (Art by Anderson) and author of Soul of a Panther. His work has appeared in national publications such as Compassion and Human Rights.
° Kenneth Reams, social justice activist, poet, public speaker, artist, and founder of the non-profit organization Who Decides, Inc.
° LaTavious Johnson, co-author of the upcoming book Spoken Pen. He is a "mighty talent" who is bridging the gap between poetry and rap.

From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate

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