Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Linguistic hierarchy

So we used to call them felons, but that wasn't nice, so we called them criminals. That itself was demeaning, so we called them offenders. Now we are being asked to desist from that,

Lawbreakers should no longer be branded offenders because the term is “insulting”, a leading criminal justice campaigner said today.

Frances Crook, head of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the phrase demeaned criminals and hindered their rehabilitation.

She said it was “easy” for politicians to treat some sections of society as “other” and less than human.

“Someone who commits an offence is not an offender, they are someone who has done something. The action does not define the whole person,” she wrote in the journal Criminal Justice Matters.

“By insisting that the offence overcomes all other parts of the person we are condemning them to a sub-human category for whom there is no hope.”

To offend is to insult society. If you rob it is an insult to the robbed, you are a robber.

If you rape it is an insult to the raped. You are a rapist.

If you defraud. You are a fraudster. If you murder you are a murderer.

You can be whateber you wish to be as your actions will speak louder than your words. You can be a con, convict, crook, culprit, delinquent, desperado, deuce, evildoer, felon, gangster, hooligan, jailbird, lawbreaker, malefactor, outlaw, racketeer, repeater, trespasser, wrongdoer, yardbird any of the above.

But don't go crying for sympathy.

As Mathew puts it,
7. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

AM puts it rather better


PJH said...

Call them whatever you like, as long as you call them Mister.

Eurogoblin said...

I rather like the idea of calling criminals "evildoers." At least it underlines the fact that their actions were unambiguously wrong.

Obviously, we can't entirely respect the human rights of evildoers. Whilst I'm all for reforming people, we nonetheless have a certain need as a society to restrict the rights of said evildoers (this shouldn't really need to be spelled out).

On the other hand... is a person really ever referred to as an "offender" when not talking about them in the context of their actual crime? I don't tend to call people with a criminal record "offenders."

FoolD said...

How about calling them "Crooks" - or would that offend Frances Crook ?

Somebody wake me up - this dream is getting too surreal for me!

Gawain Towler said...

Ne'er do wells is my favourite.

The thing is they are only ever referred to that way in reference to their offence. Nobody goes around calling someone and offender as they rock up to some greasy spoon