Try getting a job as a convicted felon and most people who exit the prison system have a hard time securing employment. But if those same people tried to get a job as a “justice-involved” person, would their chances be better?
That’s the kind of sentiment behind a proposal to change crime-related language in the city of San Francisco in an attempt to improve the negative stigma that surrounds words like “felon” and “convict.”
The city’s Board of Supervisors voted on new guidelines to change the language in the criminal justice system, the New York Post reports. Those in favor of the language change believe that those labels can follow someone for life.
Residents will no longer see words such as “prisoner” “convict” and “inmate” along with any words that “obstruct and separate people from society and make the institutionalization of racism and supremacy appear normal.” As part of these guidelines, “juvenile delinquent” will now be referred to as a “young person with justice system involvement,” and a drug addict will now become a “person with a history of substance abuse.”
“We want them ultimately to become contributing citizens, and referring to them as felons is like a scarlet letter that they can never get away from,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an “offender” who was released from jail will now be a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or simply a “returning resident.”
For parolees and people on criminal probation, they will be referred to as a “person on parole,” or “person under supervision.”
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said.
The resolution is nonbinding but has been endorsed by the district attorney.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed didn’t sign off on the new language, but said she’s “always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform.”
Do you think changing the language in the criminal justice system will be effective? Let us know!