Federal agency says words ‘felon’ and ‘ex-convict’ are unfair to criminals

America is getting wimpier by the minute.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason

When I was growing up, I was told “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

Schoolkids from the 1970s were tougher than the criminals of today.

You need proof?

The Washington Post has a guest column by U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who has headed the Office of Justice Programs since 2013 and once practiced law at Alston & Bird in Atlanta.

In the column, Mason says her agency will no longer use words such as “felon” or “convict” to refer to released prisoners.

Why?

It may hurt their feelings.

“No punishment is harsher than being permanently branded a “felon” or “offender” says Mason, who must think being imprisoned is a cheerful experience.

Since the ex-cons can’t handle the truth, Mason’s office will refer to felons as “person who committed a crime” and “individual who was incarcerated.”

Being so nice helps “decouple past actions from the person being described and anticipating the contributions we expect them to make when they return [to life outside of prison],” writes Mason.

“The hundreds of thousands of people who come out of our prisons on an annual basis and the millions more who cycle through local jails need to hear that they are capable of making a change for the better. And with that message of inclusion, that we are holding them to the expectation that they become productive contributors to our communities’ safety and success,” Mason writes.

Mason’s boss, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, refers to criminals as “justice-involved youth” and, while handing out $1.75 million to help ex-cons, said it is the role of the justice system to help released criminals “find decent jobs and stable housing.”

This recent development is part of the Obama administration’s movement to “remove barriers” for those who have been convicted of breaking the law. Late last year, the president ordered the federal government’s HR department to “delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.”

Why?

Because “If the disclosure of a criminal record happens later in a job application process [ex-cons are] more likely to be hired,” said President Obama.

It’s not just federal agencies that have removed the “have you ever been convicted of a crime” language from government job applications.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed “ban the box” into law in 2015. The city of Atlanta codified the same thing in 2014.

I’m all for giving people a second chance, but a lot of people being released from prison are violent criminals.

But, when it comes to finding work, it’s not what you know but who you know. The city of Atlanta hired a convicted killer to be a $40,000-a-year career counselor who had almost no work history. It didn’t matter he had strangled his girlfriend and spent 25 years in prison.

Family connections are more helpful than a criminal history is harmful.

Feel free to cast sticks and stones (and even a harsh word or two) my way, but I think we can call criminals anything we want.

 

 

 

 


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