Words matter because the meaning that we give words matters even more. This is especially true of the words we use to describe each other, which is why it’s useful to have a discussion about the words we use to refer to those who have committed crimes, those who are currently incarcerated or are otherwise serving their sentences and those who have rejoined society at large.
And it’s why a recent decision by the state Department of Corrections to phase-out the use of the term “offender” in written policies and daily use shouldn’t be disregarded as another instance of “political correctness.” …
Morgan’s change in state policy, which will be continued by Jody Becker-Green, the deputy corrections secretary who will become acting secretary of corrections on Friday, does not affect the use of the term for those convicted of sexual crimes. The term “registered sexual offender” is codified in state law and will remain in use.
One objection to the more general use of “offender” is that in the public’s mind the word has become closely linked to the term “sexual offender.”
That, in itself, might be a good argument to reserve the term for sexual offenses. State law has identified the need to require the registration of those who have committed sexual offenses and, after serving their time, are released into public life. Overuse of the term “offender” in a general sense could weaken its impact where we need it to identify sexual offenders. Full Editorial