We have previously discussed how the effort to control language that has been prominent on college campuses has now spread to city and state legislation like Berkeley getting rid of “manholes” in favor of “maintanence holes.” Now San Francisco has mandated that the use of felons, offender, and criminals is no longer correct. Instead, a convicted felon will now be referred to as a “justice-involved person” or “returning resident.” A juvenile “delinquent” will now be called a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”
Given the recent wave of criminal (or “justice-involved”) activity, one would think that the Board of Supervisors would have a few more pressing matters on its hands. Yet, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the leaders of the city want to reform language as a public priority.
Supervisor Matt Haney insists that the city is removing “scarlet letters” so that “people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.” Of course, that is also a reflection of your past record.
The interesting thing is that there seems to be an effort to make the reference so awkward that people just will not refer to criminal records. They could have used a newly available word from Germany, which got rid of its longest word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. Now that is one no one would use for a felon.
Just image the “APB”: “All cars, all cars, be on the look out for a Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz . . . “
It is however going to cause great damage to our literary and cinematic works. “The Ordinary Decent Criminal” must now be “The Ordinary Decent Justice -Involved Person” and the classic Claude Rains film “They Made Me A Criminal” must become “They Made Me A Justice-Involved Person.”
Even famous quotes need to be changed like Marie Antoinette “I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, which can only apply to [justice-involved persons], but rather to finding your brother again.”
I would call that a crime but not in San Francisco.