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Thursday, December 5, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Prison officials softening terms used to label inmates

In this Aug. 16 file photo, an inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. Washington prison officials are changing how they label inmates. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
In this Aug. 16 file photo, an inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. Washington prison officials are changing how they label inmates. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
Associated Press

SEATTLE – The state Department of Corrections is changing the language it uses to describe Washington’s nearly 19,000 people behind bars.

KOMO-TV reported that corrections Secretary Richard Morgan sent a memo to staff saying those serving time in prison will no longer be referred to as prisoners, offenders or convicts. Instead, they will be called students if they are in some type of class and patients if they are in the prison infirmary. Spokesman Jeremy Barclay says if no other moniker applies, they will be identified as incarcerated persons.

The change is meant to help remove negative connotations surrounding terms, such as “offender” and “convict.”

Barclay says it’s also about allowing those in Washington’s 12 state prisons to have a positive self-image.

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