“Offender” is a word recently ousted from the state Department of Corrections’ lexicon.
Five Republican state senators think that’s dangerous and totalitarian, according to a letter they signed and sent to DOC Secretary Dick Morgan.
“It strikes us as Orwellian that the state would attempt to manipulate the psychology of a population simply by changing a term by which that population is referred,” the letter from the concerned lawmakers reads.
It’s signed by Sens. Mike Padden of Spokane Valley, Pam Roach of Sumner, Kirk Pearson of Monroe, Ann Rivers of La Center and Steve O’Ban of Tacoma. DOC employees have contacted their offices to express concern about the change, the senators wrote.
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“Lives could be endangered by lack of clarity and hesitation as DOC employees attempt to recall the politically correct designation for the offenders, based on the activity in which they are engaged,” they wrote.
The senators also argue the change might have legal ramifications, because state law defines the word “offender.”
The letter ends with a dig at DOC’s mistaken early release of up to 3,300 prisoners due to a computer programming error, which was publicized last December.
“Your agency’s focus on semantics creates doubt in our mind that it has learned from its mistakes,” the letter concludes.
Morgan recently told staff that he wants them to use less-stigmatized language for those in the state’s prison system, such as “individuals,” or “students” and “patients,” depending on what the inmate is doing at the time.
DOC spokesman Jeremy Barclay told KOMO-TV that other places, such as the federal prison system and the one in Pennsylvania, also have changed how they refer to their inmates. He said the change also helps reduce stigmatization of inmates’ loved ones, who have been referred to as offender families.