Friday, March 1, 2024

Follow

Contact

Drop ‘felons’ from your vocab

Labels. May 26, 2016 Category: FeaturedMethodShort
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

Trending News

Philadelphia's Fiscal Tapestry: Untangling the Challenges and Oversight to Provide Needed Services Alesia Bani
Stuck in the Bucket: Stopping the Overflow of Poverty Valerie Johnson
Healthcare Deserts Part 4: Philanthropic Solutions Marilyn Kai Jewett
Monday Minute with Junko Takeshita Monique Curry-Mims
Monday Minute with Katrina Pratt Roebuck Monique Curry-Mims

Related Posts

August 19, 2021

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

Read More >
August 6, 2021

Come January, David Thornburgh won't be CEO of Committee of Seventy. But he'll still be working for better government

Read More >
August 6, 2021

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

Read More >