San Francisco Board Rebrands ‘Convicted Felons’ As ‘Justice-Involved Persons’ Or ‘Formerly Incarcerated’

Convicted felons in San Francisco may have broken the law, but they’ll get to keep their dignity after the city’s Board of Supervisors adopted new, sanitized language describing them as ‘justice-involved persons’ or ‘formerly incarcerated.’ 

Under the city’s new “person first” language guidelines, the words “felon,” “convict,” “addict,” “offender,” and “juvenile delinquent” are no-no’s. Instead, those who have paid their debt to society will be referred to as a “returning resident.” Those on parole will be known as ‘persons under supervision.’

And a juvenile “delinquent” will now be known as a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Drug addicts are now “a person with a history of substance abuse.” 

“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” according to Supervisor Matt Haney. 

Haney was one of 10 supervisors (Gordon Mar was absent) who voted for the new guidelines, which Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer proposed.

According to the resolution, 1 of 5 California residents has a criminal record, and words like “prisoner,” “convict,” “inmate” or “felon” “only serve to obstruct and separate people from society and make the institutionalization of racism and supremacy appear normal,” the resolution states.

Inaccurate information, unfounded assumptions, generalizations and other negative predispositions associated with justice-involved individuals create societal stigmas, attitudinal barriers and continued negative stereotypes,” it continues.

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,” Haney said. –San Francisco Chronicle

Police spokesman David Stevenson says the department has “made our members aware of the resolution and are researching possible impacts on operations and communications,” while the DA’s office is on board with the plan. 

The language resolution makes no mention of terms for victims of crime, but using the new terminology someone whose car has been broken into could well be: “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.

In other words, someone whose car was broken into by a recently released offender, on parole with a drug problem. –San Francisco Chronicle

SF Mayor London Breed hasn’t signed off on the new language proposal, as she “doesn’t implement policies based on nonbinding resolutions, but she is always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform,” according to her spokesman. 

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