Inmates’ to ‘Incarcerated Person’

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smstachwick

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I like this better than the mocking proposals but it’s less specific than the one prescribed in the legislation. I suppose it’s workable in the correct context, though.

I think what the wider conversation is missing though, and what I think is obscured by undue lack of emphasis in the article, is the intent and scope of the bill. It applies specifically to the language used in crafting state law, not to the everyday language of people going about their daily lives or people working in the criminal justice system.

The article is highly slanted to mock the law as a “feel good” thing while citing quotes (of dubious veracity, many of an ad hominem nature) and cherry-picked statistics tailored to prey on the readers’ fear of being victimized by crime. The intended goal is obvious: greater support for harsher sentencing, likely manifesting in support for one particular candidate or another over the incumbent. The article even states that this is a top priority of a quoted candidate.

The response of the Governor and other supporters is characterized as simple rejection without rebuttal, and passing blame instead of transparency. Quotes from this camp are short, less complete, and set up only for the purpose of being immediately knocked down.

While this article from an ABC affiliate is similarly incomplete on its own, it produces a clearer picture of the story when taken together with the original, filling in many gaps in intent and reasoning the New York Post artificially created with its omissions.


It reads:

NEW YORK (PIX11) — Some of New York’s laws are getting a rewrite: the word “inmate” will be swapped with “incarcerated individual” in state legislation after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill on Monday.

The change is designed to “reduce harmful stigma against incarcerated people by correcting outdated terminology used to refer to incarcerated individuals in state law,” according to her office. Advocates have also decried the usage of felon, prisoner and convict.

“In New York, we’re doing everything in our power to show that justice and safety can go hand-in-hand,” Gov. Hochul said. “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. By treating all New Yorkers with dignity and respect, we can improve public safety while ensuring New Yorkers have a fair shot at a second chance.” [Emphasis mine]

The bill in the state Senate was sponsored by Sen. Gustavo Rivera. The version in the Assembly was sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry.

“For too long, we as a society have thought of incarcerated individuals as less than people,” Gustavo said. “The use of the word ‘inmate’ further dehumanizes and demoralizes them. This is another concrete step our State is taking to make our criminal justice system one that focuses on rehabilitation, rather than relying solely on punishment.”

[END]

Basically the New York Post took a simple vocabulary change in state legislation and turned it into a straw-man campaign ad. No doubt many readers fell for it, otherwise this thread would look very different.
 
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Shane, thank you for your input. Your training as a professional counselor gives the topic a more balanced perspective. I think many of us were just jesting tongue in cheek. "Average folk" just look at something and say "well that's just stupid" without analyzing it in depth.
 

smstachwick

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Shane, thank you for your input. Your training as a professional counselor gives the topic a more balanced perspective. I think many of us were just jesting tongue in cheek. "Average folk" just look at something and say "well that's just stupid" without analyzing it in depth.
You know what? I appreciate that. The good fight gets exhausting at times, and I don’t want to fight with anyone here. The place should be fun.

At the same time, there are some matters where the fact that people find them funny or joke-worthy is very much the problem.

(For clarity I’m just a behavioral therapist, my professional qualifications are minimal and most of my views here come from my own reflection, which I’ve been perhaps a bit too open on but…whatever. One thing that many people have noted about me though, is that I’m pretty hard to fool on big issues like this. Value that as you will).
 

mh9162013

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so, if I were a guard in New York State (i'm not) and called them a convict, which is technically correct, would my first amendment rights make her law irrelevant? After all, I'm not slandering the convict, merely pointing out the fact they've been convicted of something illegal by their peers
The right to free speech relies on different legal theories than defamation. The former involves government action and relies on constitutional law principles. The latter usually involves private parties and relies on tort law principles. Plus, any defamation claim would come from the incarcerated individual, not the state.

As to you question, most NY State workers (which I presume a jail or prison guide would be), like any other public or private worker, have limited speech rights when it comes to the workplace. But b/c the guard is a government worker, they'll likely have greater free speech rights than a private worker who must effectively limit their speech to however their employer tells them (there are some exceptions, but they're limited, like whistleblowing and concerted action for the welfare of workers).

When it comes to the free speech rights of a government employee, the first amendment analysis basically comes down to a weighing of the public's interest or benefit in the employee speaking freely and the government's interest in carrying out its laws and policies. In this case, the "I want to call an accused individual w/e I want b/c I feel like it" probably won't be enough to outweigh the state's interest in telling you to properly choose the words you use at work.
 

smstachwick

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The right to free speech relies on a different legal theory than defamation. The former involves government action and relies on constitutional law principles. The latter usually involves private parties and relies on tort law principles. Plus, any defamation claim would come from the incarcerated individual, not the state.

As to you question, most NY State workers (which I presume a jail or prison guide would be), like any other public or private worker, have limited speech rights when it comes to the workplace. But b/c the guard is a government workers, they'll likely have greater free speech rights than a private worker who must effectively limit their speech to however their employer tells them (there are some exceptions, but they're limited, like whistleblowing and concerted action for the welfare of workers).

When it comes to the free speech rights of a government employee, the first amendment analysis basically comes down to a weighing of the public's interest or benefit in the employee speaking freely and the government's interest in carrying out its laws and policies. In this case, the "I want to call an accused individual w/e I want b/c I feel like it" probably won't be enough to outweigh the state's interest in telling you properly choose the words you use at work.
Correct.

There also is a difference between deliberately demeaning language and mistakes borne out of habit. I think any court would recognize this.
 

SecondRow

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The right to free speech relies on different legal theories than defamation. The former involves government action and relies on constitutional law principles. The latter usually involves private parties and relies on tort law principles. Plus, any defamation claim would come from the incarcerated individual, not the state.

As to you question, most NY State workers (which I presume a jail or prison guide would be), like any other public or private worker, have limited speech rights when it comes to the workplace. But b/c the guard is a government worker, they'll likely have greater free speech rights than a private worker who must effectively limit their speech to however their employer tells them (there are some exceptions, but they're limited, like whistleblowing and concerted action for the welfare of workers).

When it comes to the free speech rights of a government employee, the first amendment analysis basically comes down to a weighing of the public's interest or benefit in the employee speaking freely and the government's interest in carrying out its laws and policies. In this case, the "I want to call an accused individual w/e I want b/c I feel like it" probably won't be enough to outweigh the state's interest in telling you to properly choose the words you use at work.
Sweet Jesus, it’s like a 1L final all over again.
 

Bravo52

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Thomas Jefferson said he would rather a thousand guilty men go free than one innocent man be locked up.
Except that's not today's reality and I'm pretty sure Thomas Jefferson foresaw that. That is why his position was we need to strive to keep the innocent free. It's very rare that innocent people are "locked up". It does happen and to Jefferson's point, we should work to avoid that.

I'd rather a thousand guilty men be locked up than one innocent man be injured. Oh, "thousand guilty men or women". Don't want to seem sexist.
 
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Bravo52

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People get detained in local jails for months before trial and potential conviction. They are, at worst, alleged criminals. You're talking about assuming guilt, which is an attitude we need less of both in this context and in our daily human interactions.
I'm ok with "alleged criminal". But yes, they are "alleged" until convicted. Then we can call the "convicted criminals." ;)
 

Woody's Workshop

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Reminds me of what John Wayne said in True Grit.
Something about being to hard on the Rats, as the judge and prosecutor agreed he was too rough on the Rat.
Agreed, some of the people in prison shouldn't be there. Our system is far from perfect.
But they are there as a Social Punishment for crimes against society.
In no way should they have a better way of life than the poor old disabled man that worked his whole life now living on SS.
What I get a year on SSI and SS is about 1/10th of what it takes to keep one person behind bars for a year.
Our system is far from perfect, and if you can get away with crime, it pays.
Even if you don't get away with it, it pays better than for the elderly.
Bring back the death penalty, and raise the income for the elderly I say.
 

cerving

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A lot of people incarcerated are there not because they are bad people but because they made bad choices. Those are the ones we need to concentrate on, so they can be brought back into society. Not everybody in prison is there because they axe murdered a bus full of nuns...
 

smstachwick

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Reminds me of what John Wayne said in True Grit.
Something about being to hard on the Rats, as the judge and prosecutor agreed he was too rough on the Rat.
Agreed, some of the people in prison shouldn't be there. Our system is far from perfect.
But they are there as a Social Punishment for crimes against society.
In no way should they have a better way of life than the poor old disabled man that worked his whole life now living on SS.
What I get a year on SSI and SS is about 1/10th of what it takes to keep one person behind bars for a year.
Our system is far from perfect, and if you can get away with crime, it pays.
Even if you don't get away with it, it pays better than for the elderly.
Bring back the death penalty, and raise the income for the elderly I say.
Why not just make life better for the elderly instead of making life worse (or over) for the incarcerated? We have the resources to do this, what is lacking is the wisdom and the will.
 

Antares JS

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The change is designed to “reduce harmful stigma against incarcerated people by correcting outdated terminology used to refer to incarcerated individuals in state law,” according to her office. Advocates have also decried the usage of felon, prisoner and convict.

I read your article and this still makes absolutely no sense to me, with the quote above eliciting the greatest eye roll. All they are doing is swapping out a simple word, "inmate," with a longer, more annoying one that means the same thing while being more annoying to say and write. Assuming this actually catches on, all that is going to happen is that all the stigma associated with the word "inmate" is going to move to this new phrase, and then what's going to happen? We switch back to "inmate?"

I'm pretty sure the state of New York has much better things they can do with their time than police the language of legal record keepers.
 

ksaves2

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A lot of people incarcerated are there not because they are bad people but because they made bad choices. Those are the ones we need to concentrate on, so they can be brought back into society. Not everybody in prison is there because they axe murdered a bus full of nuns...
Reminds me of the time I was on call for a urology service and a young lady prisoner was in the hospital with a bad kidney infection (pyelonephritis, yeah I can use big words). I got called for a minor problem and took care of it. Out of earshot range I asked the accompanying guard what she did and he said, "She murdered her husband with an ax." I replied, "You're chiting me." He put his hands up and said with a puzzled look on his face sincerely said, "It's what she did." I silently thought, "The S.O.B. probably deserved it!" I stopped asking about what they did after that.
Took care of a few prison inmates in my day and never had a problem with them. They appreciated that someone was trying to help them with a health problem. I'd chit-chat about everything except incarceration and it seemed they appreciated the banter.
Knew a psychologist who rotated in to Leavenworth. He told me if I wanted to see mental illness, go to a federal pen. He said a lot of those guys were mentally ill before incarceration. Got worse while they were there.
Folks I saw were from a local prison and less likely to be a real "badie" though some guards told me they had a few of those. I asked the guards who I took care of in the office, if they had some cooperative inmates and they'd reply, "Yes, most of them are."
A prison guard told me one time he was escorting a prisoner to another part of the prison and yes they are handcuffed with leg cuffs (irons) too. The guard lost his footing going down some steps and fell. Prisoner fell on top of him and was extremely apologetic. He told the inmate, "Don't worry about it. I was the one that lost my footing and nothing will become of this." The guard told me most of the inmates cooperate as if they don't, it could lead to an extended sentence for a bad infarction. Incentive to do your time and get out. Kurt
 

jmasterj

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Assuming this actually catches on, all that is going to happen is that all the stigma associated with the word "inmate" is going to move to this new phrase...
That is the challenge with all the changing terminology over time: the new, less-stigmatized term eventually becomes stigmatized too. And "eventually" seems to happen a lot faster these days.

This seems (to me) to be more of a virtue-signaling kind of thing rather than work at real criminal justice reform. I don't think it's a bad thing to do on its face, but the opportunity cost may be something more impactful getting done (or it may not, given the state of many legislatures these days).
 
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