In order to shape a new vision of a better future, every social change movement discovers the need to create its own language and definitions. Language is related to power. The world is differently experienced, visualized and described by the powerful and the powerless. Thus, the vocabulary coined by those who design and control the prisons is "dishonest." Dishonest because it is based on a series of false assumptions. In creating a new system, we need to consciously abandon the jargon that camouflages the reality of caging and develop honest language as we build our movement.

Prisoners perceive the use of "systems" language as denying them the reality of their experience:

Just the very fact that they call us "inmates" that's like calling a Black a "nigger" or a Jew a "kike." It says that you are flawed; there's something wrong with you. You're an "inmate" and this is a hospital; this is going to make you well. Well, this isn't a hospital and I'm not flawed. I'm not an inmate. I'm not sick. And there's nothing here being done to make me any better.

--A prisoner, interviewed by Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes," CBS/TV, August 24, 1975

In this handbook, we begin to define and use honest language. But, as with many new ideas, our tongues and brains often remain captives of the old system long after our hearts are committed to the new. To disengage ourselves, we record some of the words we choose to use in this book

Person who believes that prisons have failed. Person who advocates the abolition of prisons as a long term goal. Person who seeks to build the "caring community."
Abolitionist reforms
A reform which does not strengthen or legitimate the prevailing prison system.
Attrition model
A social change model which gradually restrains /reduces the function of prisons in society.
Refers to places of involuntary confinement in prisons or jails. Dishonest language calls them "rooms" or "residencies."
Caring community
Where power and equality of all social primary goods‑liberty, opportunity, income and wealth and the bases of self‑respect‑are institutionally structured and distributed to all members of the community and where the spirit of reconciliation prevails.
Collective criminality
Reflects institutional assaults on whole social groups or on the public. Examples include racism, starvation, war and corporate pollution.
Use of quotes draws attention to the contradictions in this dishonest term, denoting programs, procedures or processes which punish rather than correct.
Criminal (in)justice systems
Denotes lack of justice in a series of procedures beginning with arrest and ending with release from prison or parole, which are not part of a single coherent system.
Modes of getting people out of prison. Also referred to as "depopulation."
Programs or procedures that move away from the notion of imprisonment as a response to lawbreaking.
Refers to people who are paid to keep other people caged in jails and prisons. Dishonest language calls them "correctional officers."
The moot
An informal airing of a dispute which takes place before neighbors and kin of the disputants. It is noncoercive and allows the disputants to discuss their problems in an atmosphere free from the questions of past fact and guilt.
Refers to power and power relationships, especially power that is connected to the state. A "political choice" can refer to a course of action (or inaction) adopted when alternative courses of action are available.
A person held in custody, captivity or a condition of forcible restraint. Dishonest language calls them "inmates" or "residents."
Places of confinement. Dishonest language calls them "correctional facilities" or "reformatories."
Some instruments of reconciliation are mediation, restitution, persuasion, and other nonviolent behavior which are utilized to restore both the wrongdoer and the wronged to lives of dignity and integrity.
Units within a prison that punish by isolating prisoners from the rest of the imprisoned population. Also called "solitary confinement." Dishonest language calls them "adjustment" units.
Unviolent crimes
Crimes in which there is no physical injury, often referred to as "nonviolent" crimes. To use the term "nonviolence" involves not merely an absence of overt violence but positive efforts toward reconciliation.
All who suffer either by collective social and economic or individual acts of violence.