Washington Department of Corrections Is No Longer Calling Inmates ‘Offenders’

at the State prison Thursday, March 3, 2011 in Jackson. Conservative legislators who championed strict three-strikes laws and other tough crackdowns that led to bloated prisons are now considering what was once deemed unthinkable: Reducing sentences for some drug and nonviolent offenders and releasing some felons early from prison. (AP …
David Goldman/AP

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) is no longer calling convicted criminals “offenders.”

DOC Secretary Richard Morgan sent a memo to the Washington State Department of Corrections staff that said the DOC is phasing out the use of the word “offender” and replacing it with terms like “individual,” “student,” or “patient,” KIRO reports.

“This is an opportunity to help others define themselves not for their criminal behavior, but for their future role in their communities,” Morgan said in the memo.

In the 2000s, the DOC used the word “offender” to replace “inmate.”

Jeff Clark, a man on DOC supervision, said he is not offended when called an offender. “(It) doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve been on paper since (I was) 17 years old,” said Clark. “It’s not going to change anything. Only way to change is yourself is changing what you want to do.”

The DOC would probably call Clark a “student” for the education he received while in prison. “I went and did a program, culinary program, graduated from it, got a freakin’ line cook job, I’ve changed my whole ways,” said Clark.

DOC staff dropped the word “offender” on Tuesday.


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