Does the phrase “convicted felon” seem too harsh? A California city board thinks so, and now they want people to say “justice-involved person” instead.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted changes to its language for criminals last month, sanitizing the harsh language traditionally used to identify criminals and their crimes, Fox News reported.
The board’s goal was reportedly to change how people think about convicted felons and other people who get caught up by the justice system.
The changes include putting an end to using the phrase “convicted felon.” In place of that familiar phrase, the board suggests the gentler “formerly incarcerated person,” or they will be called a “justice-involved person,” or the even more whitewashed “returning resident.”
The board also branched out to other terms from people “involved” in the justice system. For instance, drug abusers will now be termed “a person with a history of substance use,” instead of an addict.
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney told the San Francisco Chronicle “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.”
It seems that even the liberal Chronicle could not help but to make light of the language change.
The paper insisted that a criminal who breaks into a car could now be called “a person who has come in contact with a returning resident who was involved with the justice system and who is currently under supervision with a history of substance use.”
It is unclear how the new language might help the city with some of the highest crimes rates in the nation. The City by the Bay, for instance, was recently ranked as having the highest property crime rate in the nation.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.