New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has signed a bill banning the word “inmate” in all state laws, replacing all such usages with the term “incarcerated individual.”
Ms. Hochul went even further personally, using the term “justice-involved individuals” in a press release on the new law.
That term did not refer to judges, lawyers, or police officers though, but to these same convicted criminals.
“We can make our streets and communities safer by giving justice-involved individuals the chance to complete their rehabilitation program and work at the same time,” Ms. Hochul said in her press release.
The law officially replaces any instance of “inmate” with “incarcerated individual” within New York state law.
“Language matters. I am proud that my bill to replace all references of the word inmate with incarcerated individual in New York State law has been signed today,” said state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, author of the bill.
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“The use of the word ‘inmate’ further dehumanizes and demoralizes them,” he said in Ms. Hochul’s press release.
Republicans were quick to seize on the vocabulary shift.
“Another ‘woke’ Criminals 1st Law supported by our Governor instead of doing her job & protecting the public from rampant crime,” state Sen. Jim Tedisco tweeted.
Northern New York conservative radio host Bob Lonsberry quipped that “justice-involved individuals” deserves a different meaning.
“In an effort to avoid stigma, ‘justice-involved individuals’ will now be referred to as ‘Democrats,’” he wrote.
Advocates for the law argued that linguistic stigma prevents released inmates from reintegrating into society upon release.
“Penological terms such as felon, inmate, prisoner, offender, and convict dehumanize, degrade, and stigmatize people. Using a term such as ‘incarcerated individual’ recognizes the humanity of people,” said Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, sponsor of the law in the New York State Assembly, in Ms. Hochul’s press release.