Philadelphia’s government wants to stop calling people who served time in prison “ex-offenders” and start calling them “returning citizens.”
What is in a name? “Ex-offender” may be better than being called an “ex-con,” but William Hart says there’s still a stigma attached to the term.
Hart, of the Mayor’s Office of Re-integration Services says it’s worth trying new language if it helps connect with people trying to turn their lives around.
“The commonly used term ex-offender carries with it a stigma which increases the challenges of many who are already hard to serve. The term ‘returning citizens’ more appropriately focuses on their activities in the process of reintegration,” he said.
Those testifying at a City Council hearing admitted it’s unlikely a name change will be enough to eliminate that stigma. A committee approved the change for official forms and policies.
Councilman Wilson Goode introduced the bill. He said people with prison records have a hard enough time finding work, nevermind in the current job market.
“The issue is that people are returning one way or the other and we should be prepared for them and prepared to provide opportunities for them,” Goode said.
Over the past two years the city’s Office of Re-Integration Services has matched 800 people who have paid their debt to society with jobs.