While appreciating the intent behind the decision to re-label criminals who have served time in prison and are returning to their communities, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the use of clear language connected to reality is always better than obscure language hiding reality.
Criminals who are not reformed are—as I once was—dangerous, predatory people and pretending they are not by using euphemistic language does more to enable predation by lowering the prey’s necessary caution than it helps the criminal; most of whom will see this type of language manipulation as further evidence of the rightness of their choice to become criminals.
The hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians who have served time in prison will no longer be referred to as “ex-offenders” in official city language, the mayor’s office announced Thursday. Instead, an ordinance will be introduced to call them “returning citizens.”
In a statement, Mayor Nutter said that the new term emphasizes reintegration, while ” ‘ex-offender’ carries with it a stigma which may increase the challenges these citizens face.”
While the ordinance, to be introduced by Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr., awaits approval, the mayor has already issued an executive order making it city policy to use “returning citizen” on all written material from the city.