CIRCL: Stefanie Reed

APR 13, 2021 | 6:30 PM TO 8:30 PM



Online Event


April 13, 2021: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM




Stefanie Reed will present:
Correcting corrections: Solutions to language rights violations in jail and prison digital communication systems


Correspondence is a lifeline to the outside world for incarcerated individuals. Longitudinal studies examining correctional outcomes show that inmates that maintain contact with loved ones exhibit improved mental health while serving their sentences and significantly lower recidivism rates after release, suggesting that these interactions contribute to making reintegration and rehabilitation more successful. 

With the advent of the internet, jails and prisons nationwide have been moving towards computer-mediated communication systems, such as email, rather than traditional handwritten letters. While the implementation of these technologies has lifted some of the burdens that using postage and couriers entailed, these automated electronic messaging interfaces have excluded some of the inmate population from participating in the democratization of human interaction. 

Incarcerated individuals who are sent electronic messages in a language other than English likely see characters such as “����”  or “á ¼kör³©p.”, instead of what was intended by the sender. Due to the encoding and font settings of these messaging services, alphabets, alphasyllabaries, and systems with logographic components cannot be represented as text, therefore, many inmates, who are already racial and ethnic minorities in these establishments, are restricted from exercising the same privileges as their English-speaking peers. 

In this talk, I will examine the technical and linguistic aspects of text encoding in computer-mediated communication, its effects on inmate messaging systems, and the intersection of this phenomenon with the psycho-social and legal outcomes for individuals who are affected by these exclusionary practices. I will focus on the “Who’s in Jail” messaging service implemented by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department in California, and propose an actionable strategy to allow for multilingual correspondence in these settings.

Please note: This talk is intended only for existing students and faculty within the Linguistics Program.
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