John E. Wetzel, the secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections, said that he is moving toward ending the use of terms "felon" and "offender" for people who have served prison terms and been released, reports The Washington Post.
In an essay for the Post, Wetzel wrote, "I'm embracing 'people first' language for everyone — including those who committed a crime."
had reported earlier that a Justice Department agency was making that change to help those who'd been released return to society more easily.
He said that making the change doesn't change the crimes that were committed. "I do not excuse their behavior or minimize the impact they've had on those they've offended, nor do I disrespect victims by respecting those who have victimized."
Wetzel said changing the terminology could help the former prisoners acclimate back into society more easily. He said, "We call our system the 'corrections system,' and surely respect for humanity is an essential element of that."
The secretary said he believes that words have positive effects. "When we create an inspirational narrative, that also has a positive effect. So I won't keep using words that impede our goals."
Wetzel said that the new term to describe formerly jailed citizens would be "reentrant."
One Department of Justice
press release used the term "justice-involved youth."
The Washington Examiner reports
that Republican Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee objected to the Justice
Department's change of terms.
"Is the Department of Justice a month behind with their April Fool's joke, or are they really this tone deaf?" Black said.
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