The following is a guest editorial by Chuck Douglas, a New Hampshire lawyer and former judge.
The words “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” “addict” and “juvenile delinquent” would be part of the past in official San Francisco lingo under its new “person first” language guidelines adopted by the city’s Board of Supervisors in July.
Someone once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will now be a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or, even better, simply a “returning resident.”
Parolees and people on criminal probation will be referred to as “persons under supervision.” A juvenile “delinquent” will become a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.” And drug addicts or substance abusers will become “a person with a history of substance use.”
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said in pushing the changes.
According to the resolution, “Inaccurate information, unfounded assumptions, generalizations and other negative predispositions associated with justice-involved individuals create societal stigmas, attitudinal barriers and continued negative stereotypes.”
Police spokesman David Stevenson said department brass have “made our members aware of the resolution and are researching possible impacts on operations and communications.”
Columnist, Phil Matier, in the Aug. 11 editions of the San Francisco Chronicle, posed the question of how one would describe someone whose car was broken into by a recently released offender, on parole with a drug problem.
His answer was simple. “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 abuse.”
New Hampshire has its own political correctness in changed terminology for divorce parenting issues.
“Custody” in the new parenting schedule forms is out. Neither parent shall be described as having the child “reside primarily” with him or her or as having “primary residential responsibility” or “custody” or be designated as the “primary residential parent.”
The new phrase is residential responsibility and parenting. “Visitation” is a non-word as well.
So have the changes in wording done anything to reduce the anger of the every-other-weekend schedule for a spouse to have his or her children with them?
Of course not.