Drop 'felons' from your vocab - Generocity Philly

Method

May 26, 2016 11:46 am

Drop ‘felons’ from your vocab

Pennsylvania is recognizing the impact of terms like "offender" to describe citizens returning from prison. Here's Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel's Washington Post op-ed.

Labels.

(Photo by Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski, used under a Creative Commons license)

The words we use to describe people coming home from prison have a direct impact on the way the public perceives them and the way they perceive themselves.

The state of Pennsylvania is saying so, as they are dropping the terms “offender,” “felon” and “ex-con” when describing individuals with criminal records in their official communications. The move follows a national trend galvanized by the Justice Department announcing upcoming changes to terminology surrounding incarceration earlier this month.

The system of corrections, despite its flaws, is supposed to correct and rehabilitate. So why isn’t that being reflected in the language we use to describe people who pass through it?

“We add nothing by placing a label on a person’s chest that says, ‘Hello, I’m an OFFENDER’ other than making an already daunting task next to impossible,” writes Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel in a Washington Post op-ed. “Frankly, negative labels work against the expectation of success and are inconsistent with what we’re trying to achieve in our corrections policy: less crime and fewer victims.”

Read the full story

Words count, Wetzel writes. They’re used to build the narrative we tell around individuals passing through the system of corrections.

That’s especially important when we’re talking about employment opportunity for returning citizens. How many employers will want to hire an individual society has labeled an “offender?”

“We’re talking about America here, where you’re defined by what you do,” said William Cobb, founder of advocacy organization REDEEMED earlier this year. “If you ask somebody what they do and they don’t have a response to that, they don’t feel good about themselves. You feel separated. You feel like a second- or third-class citizen.”

From our Partners

-30-
VIEW COMMENTS

From our Partners

Let the LRC know — It’s time to end prison gerrymandering

The federal foreclosure moratorium has ended. Here’s what to do to save your home

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Village of the Arts seeks to deepen and scale its impact as it reflects on its legacy

Philadelphia

Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)

Reentry Coordinator

Apply Now
Philadelphia

Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)

Program Coordinator

Apply Now
Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator, Mentor 2.0

Apply Now

Dennis and Lee Horton say their own grief and trauma helped them to help others

Homelessness in reentry is a serious concern. Here’s what Philly is doing about it

PA county govs map out how they will use American Rescue Plan money while state dithers

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color

Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator (College Bigs)

Apply Now
Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

School-Based Program Coordinator (Beyond School Walls)

Apply Now
Philadelphia, Norristown, NJ

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Team Leader, School-Based Mentoring Mentor 2.0

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity