Our Guiding Principles

THEI is a grassroots, community organization committed to principles of harm reduction, healing, and centering the lived experiences of the people we serve. We fulfill this commitment by recognizing and addressing systemic injustices that have marginalized and stigmatized communities and continue to leave people behind. We engage in reimagining and building towards the world we want to see through systems work, direct service, and through the language and context through which we operate.

Using humanizing  language:

At THEI we believe that words matter and that humanizing criminal justice vocabulary is a critical element of higher education in prison (HEP) work. We refer to our students as “currently incarcerated” and to our alumni as “formerly incarcerated.” We intentionally do not use words like “inmate” or “felon” or “offender” to describe people who have had interactions with the criminal justice system.

We fundamentally believe that no person should be described by past conduct that may have violated the law because these labels do not describe the full breadth of a person's humanity. Our students are scholars, graduates, veterans, parents, friends, and human beings with both a past and a future. Our language works to honor this, and to dismantle systems of oppression that dehumanize people and communities.

Centering practices of harm reduction:

Being welcomed into the THEI community means being met exactly where you are. While we always encourage our students, our alumni, and ourselves to strive for self-improvement, we also understand that healing is a journey, and that every one of us begins that journey at a different point on the path. Inspired by the principles of harm reduction, our approach to the provision of higher education prioritizes individualized supports and relationship building. Our scholars are the architects of their own futures; we are just here to hand them the tools. For more information on harm reduction, visit the National Harm Reduction Coalition website.

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Acknowledging the land we are on:

"A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.

To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the longstanding history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation.”
Northwestern University

THEI is a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, Tennessee. We provide higher education and re-entry services across all three regions of the state. In our work, we recognize that this land belonged to the Indigenous People before it came to be known as the state of Tennessee, or as the United States of America. As such, we recognize the following:

We provide this land acknowledgement in recognition and respect of the indigenous people to whom this land truly belongs. We recognize that acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture, and that it becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationship and informed action. For more information or to support Native Americans in Tennessee visit: http://www.naiatn.org/