Governer Hochul says change designed to ‘reduce stigma’ and ‘demonisation’ of people serving time
The state of New York has replaced the word “inmate” to refer to people serving prison sentences with “incarcerated individual” in all its laws.
State governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation on Monday that will allow paroled prisoners to attend mandatory drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes outside business hours, making it easier for them to keep a day job.
Alongside, Ms Hochul also signed a law finally removing the word “inmate” from state law in an attempt to “reduce stigma” and “eliminate barriers” faced by people in prison.
Her predecessor Andrew Cuomo had signed similar legislation in 2021, but it did not cover new state laws that were passed during that year.
Ms Hochul said: “In New York, we’re doing everything in our power to show that justice and safety can go hand-in-hand.
“We can make our streets and communities safer by giving justice-involved individuals the chance to complete their rehabilitation program and work at the same time.
“By treating all New Yorkers with dignity and respect, we can improve public safety while ensuring New Yorkers have a fair shot at a second chance.”
State assembly member Jeffrion L Aubry added: “Penological terms such as ‘felon’, ‘inmate’, ‘prisoner’, ‘offender’, and c’onvict’ dehumanidr, degrade, and stigmatide people.
“Using a term such as ‘incarcerated individual’ recognizes the humanity of people and exemplifies the redeemable value of human beings.”
However, this year New York’s prison system has suffered a string of scandals that go beyond its choice of language.
On Wednesday, a state judge ordered the city of New York to pay compensation to potentially thousands of people who were deprived of medical appointments while confined in the infamous Rikers Island jail.
The same day, the family of a 25-year-old man who killed himself in a New York City jail alleged that officials had failed to treat his diagnosed mental health condition and illegally placed him in a segregation zone where he then took his life.
At least 27 people have died in the city’s jails since the start of 2021 amid severe staffing shortages caused by Covid-19.
Meanwhile, state prison officials bowed to pressure to stop denying inmates access to a history book about the prison uprising at Attica Correctional Facility in 1971.