Prison officers must now say ‘prisoner’ and ‘person with lived experience’ instead, the Daily Mail reports
British prison officers have been ordered to stop using the term ‘convicts’ when referring to criminals after the Ministry of Justice ruled the word to be “offensive.” Warders have also been instructed to refer to former prisoners as “persons with lived experience” or “prison leavers” instead of “ex-con.”
As reported by the Daily Mail, a Prison Service spokesman has described the move as part of a “clampdown” on “inappropriate deviations” from its guidelines. He explained that the term ‘convict’ was “inaccurate, given a large proportion of prisoners are on remand ahead of trial and have therefore not been convicted.”
An official letter instructing officers to stop using this “offensive” word was sent by the Ministry of Justice to National Chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) Mark Fairhurst. He told the Daily Mail that the employee relations department of HM Prison and Probation Service mandated that terms like ‘prisoner’ and ‘offender’ should be used instead.
“But there is nothing offensive about that language when you are describing someone who has been convicted and incarcerated,” Fairhurst said. “When I talk to prisoners they call themselves ‘cons’. So what’s the problem?”
Another prison source complained that, “This is real nanny state stuff. Yet again, do-gooding civil servants are spending their working hours trying to manipulate the English language to fit their personal world view, rather than concentrating on things that really matter.”
Prison staff have responded to the new rules by blasting the Justice Ministry and criticizing it for focusing on supposedly offensive language instead of addressing high crime rates and the overcrowding of incarceration centers while prison service workers are “leaving in droves.”
Meanwhile, some have come out in support of the new language. Mark Leech, a former armed robber and editor of the Prisons Handbook, told the Daily Mail that he agreed with the change in terminology, arguing that prisoners shouldn’t be called ‘convicts’ because “that’s the language of 200 years ago.”
“Today our prisons are designed to reduce reoffending by treating prisoners with decency and respect – not by demeaning and disparaging them with titles that have no place in a modern prison system,” he said.