San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors just adopted a resolution recommending that felons not be called felons but rather “formerly incarcerated person” or former “justice-involved” person or “returning resident” — or any other number of soft and fuzzy names that won’t hurt the feelings of the, umm, felons.
File this under Ridiculous.
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “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.”
First off, Haney does have a point.
He has a point, in that wayward teens who commit stupid crimes that years ago would’ve been considered misdemeanors — or handled outside the court system, by concerned cops and parents — are nowadays slapped with felon charges, forever to face felon repercussions.
But name-changing the system won’t cure that problem.
That’s a problem of the criminal justice system. That’s a problem of the broken homes and families and societal ills that come from kids being raised without dads, without direction, without God, and the growing frustrations of the judiciary to deal with these rising rates of juvenile offenses.
But rather than addressing those real issues, San Francisco’s going a different direction.
San Francisco’s trying to change the duck simply by calling the duck by a different name.
A juvenile delinquent will no longer be called a juvenile delinquent but rather a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”
There’s a mouthful. Perhaps acronyms are in order. YPWJSI? YPIJJS?
Or then there’s the PWHSU — “person with a history of substance use” — meaning, drug and alcohol addicts.
“Inaccurate information, unfounded assumptions, generalizations and other negative predispositions associated with justice-involved individuals create societal stigmas, attitudinal barriers and continued negative stereotypes,” the resolution passed by the board states, San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Yes — but in the criminal mind, calling a “crime” something other than a crime only serves to embolden the criminal, and to confuse what shouldn’t be confusing.
What’s next, calling a thief an “impulse shopper?”
Fact is, some stigmas are there for a reason. Shame, uncomfortable as it is, does have a purpose, and it’s a purpose that can actually keep criminals from committing crimes.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.