Out: 'convict' and 'felon.
Welcome to criminal justice reform, the "1984" edition. Today's lesson: How to obfuscate, hide, and obscure the fact that people released from prison are convicts and those who are convicted of committing a crime are felons.
We must commit double speak in identifying criminals because otherwise, we hurt their feelings.
The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs is eschewing the terms “felon” and “convict” when officials refer to individuals convicted of crimes, opting instead for less “disparaging labels,” Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason announced last week.
The Office of Justice Programs plans to substitute terminology such as “person who committed a crime” and “individual who was incarcerated” in speeches and other communications as part of an effort to remove barriers that officials say hinder progress of those who re-enter society after completing their prison sentences.
“I have come to believe that we have a responsibility to reduce not only the physical but also the psychological barriers to reintegration,” Ms. Mason wrote Wednesday in a guest post for The Washington Post. “The labels we affix to those who have served time can drain their sense of self-worth and perpetuate a cycle of crime, the very thing reentry programs are designed to prevent.”
The announcement follows a series of initiatives introduced as part of the Justice Department’s first National Reentry Week, through which law enforcement officials hope to reduce recidivism by changing features of the criminal justice system.
A criminal record can prevent people from obtaining employment, housing, higher education or credit, the Justice Department noted.
“These often-crippling barriers can contribute to a cycle of incarceration that makes it difficult for even the most well-intentioned individuals to stay on the right path and stay out of the criminal justice system,” states the department’s Roadmap to Reentry Plan, which lays out steps the department plans to take to reduce recidivism.
The re-entry plan does not contain the words “convict” or “felon.”
Ms. Mason said she issued a recent memo to staff within the Office of Justice Programs “directing our employees to consider how the language we use affects re-entry success.”
What concept is loonier? The notion that not calling a convict a convict will speed his re-entry into society or the magical thinking that not using the word "felon" will prevent a convict from committing another crime?
Self esteem is not built by changing the nomenclature of criminal justice. The psychological impact of not referring to a convict as a "convict" is minimal. The reason for the change in labels is to make the people that use them feel better and morally superior to those who continue to respect the English language and use it appropriately.
It's the same mindset that magically changes the idea of "illegal aliens" into "undocumented workers" or "migrants." I sincerely doubt that illegal aliens are offended by being referred to as "illegal aliens." But those who use the term "undocumented worker" smugly feel superior to those who prefer to communicate in plain English.
Recividism is a serious problem with released felons. The Department of Justice is taking an unserious approach to address it.