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1. 1. A note on language

In this Toolkit and in our wider work, Unlock uses the term ‘people/students/applicants with criminal records’.

Elsewhere, you may see other terms such as ‘ex-offender’ (usually used by government) or terms such as ‘prison-leavers’ or ‘people with convictions’.

We use ‘people with criminal records’ because we feel it is the least stigmatising and most accurate terminology to use. It emphasises personhood first and foremost, and is inclusive of those who have been to prison as well as those who haven’t. It is possible to have a criminal record without having a conviction.

Language is important, and can help those to whom you are speaking feel included. There may be terms that you find more appropriate within your institutions, or more relevant terms for specific contexts. Whatever you choose, we would advise avoiding:

  • Terms that relate directly to prison (as this will only refer to a small proportion of the applicants/ students you wish to address)
  • Terms that describe someone predominantly by their offence (eg. ‘offenders/ ex-offenders’)

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