Crime-ridden San Francisco has introduced new sanitized language for criminals, getting rid of words such as “offender” and “addict” while changing “convicted felon” to “justice-involved person.”
The Board of Supervisors adopted the changes last month even as the city reels from one of the highest crime rates in the country and staggering inequality exemplified by pervasive homelessness alongside Silicon Valley wealth.
The local officials say the new language will help change people’s views about those who commit crimes.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, from now on a convicted felon or an offender released from custody will be known as a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or just a “returning resident.”
A juvenile “delinquent” will now be called a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”
And drug addicts or substance abusers, meanwhile, 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 told the newspaper. “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.”
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done. 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.”
— Supervisor Matt Haney
The sanitized language, though unlikely to do much to address the crime problem, may result in some convoluted descriptions of crimes in the future.
The newspaper noted an individual whose car has been broken into could well be known to police as “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.”
The board’s approved new language is non-binding, with the district attorney endorsing the measure. Mayor London Breed hasn’t yet endorsed the new language.