Supervisors hope to eliminate stigmatization by changing criminal justice labels
By Charles Crowe Staff Writer
San Francisco officials urge a softening of criminal justice language to more humanize incarcerated people.
“The words ‘felon,’ ‘offender,’ ‘convict,’ ‘addict,’ and ‘juvenile delinquent’ would be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under new ‘person first’ language guide- lines adopted by the Board of Supervisors,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Aug. 18.
“Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a ‘formerly incarcerated person,’ or a ‘justice- involved’ person or simply a ‘returning resident.’”
The city’s Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding resolution encouraging the change by police and courts. The newspaper said the district attorney “is already on board.”
Supervisor Matt Haney joined nine other supervisors in voting for the resolution.
“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 explained.
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.”
The non-binding resolution was passed in July.
Mayor London Breed did not endorse the resolution because it is non-binding, according to the mayor’s spokesperson, Jeff Cretan. However, “she is always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform,” Cretan said.
The San Francisco Police Department has taken note of the board’s action and has “made our members aware of the resolution and are researching possible impacts on operations and communications,” said police spokesperson David Stevenson.