The “person-first” movement is the latest pox to afflict the English language. Never heard of it? Maybe you’re familiar with “people experiencing homelessness” — the trendy and unwieldy way of referring to the homeless in some circles. It’s person-first.
The premise is that the use of a mere adjective as shorthand — the homeless; the unemployed; the poor — depersonalizes those who suffer from the malady.
It’s well intended if superficial — as if nagging the public to use a mouthful of words in place of just one or two somehow eases the plight of being homeless or unemployed or poor. “Abracadabra” probably would do as much good.
And it probably would be harmless enough — if the verbiage only turned up in the brochures of advocacy groups and the stump speeches of pontificating politicians. It’s even kind of funny; it already seems to be inspiring plenty of parodies.
But it’s no laughing matter when the fuzzy thinking behind person-first starts to infect public policy. That’s what happened last week when the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board voted to stop using the term "sex offender.” That’s right; a term that’s part of the board’s own name no longer will be used by the board.
As reported by our news affiliate the Washington Examiner, the board, which writes the rules for rehabilitating and monitoring convicted offenders, voted 10-6 to nix “sex offender” from official use. It instead will refer to sex offenders as "adults who commit sexual offenses.”
No, this is not one of those person-first parodies. It’s for real.
The “thinking” behind the change? Proponents say labeling convicts as sex offenders creates a perception they continue to be a threat to public safety. They contend the change would help reduce recidivism and minimize the chances of repeat offenses.
In other words, taking the “offender” out of a convicted “sex offender” is merely a matter of restoring self-esteem. Who knew it was so simple!
Presumably, there’s no need for sex offender registries, either, right? Or therapy. They won’t reoffend as long as nobody insensitively labels them.
If only it weren’t for generations of data about the likelihood of sex offenders offending again and again unless they get help for their disturbed behavior. Maybe that’s why many sex offenders require extensive therapy as well as monitoring via a registry after they have served their time.
This may come as a stunner to the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board members who endorsed this flight from reality: Victims’ feelings matter, too. And not surprisingly, some victims spoke out against the unfathomable change. Sexual assault survivor Kimberly Corbin was among them.
“I’m involved today after hearing that it would be improper or offensive in some manner for me to refer to the man who raped me, as a sex offender,” an incredulous Corbin told the board in remote testimony.
Incredibly, a sex offender tuned in to testify as well — calling it “downright offensive” to be labeled for something “I did half my life ago.” He prefers “client.” A public defender added her voice in agreement with the sex offender: “It takes into consideration the uniqueness of individuals who are receiving treatment.”
Jessica Dotter, a prosecutor representing the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council on the board, was among the dissenting members. Said Dotter, ”'Adults who commit sexual offenses' fails to convey or represent any sort of victim-centeredness.”
Dotter put it politely; let’s be blunt: This spit wad of an idea from the peanut gallery of public policy insults the victims of sexual offenders — in the name of restoring the offenders’ dignity and self-worth. It’s yet another assault on reason, truth and basic decency by the new criminal justice “reform” movement. Putting the “person first” when it comes to sexual offenders — puts the victim last. It’s a true mockery of justice. Woke-ness wins the day again.
Much ado about mere words? After all, the board doesn’t even have the power to take “sex offender” out of its own name. Only the legislature can do that. Same goes for the statutes governing convicted sexual offenders. So, who cares if the board majority has taken leave of its senses? At least, some members like Dotter remain tethered to reality.
But it’s the trend here that should worry Coloradans. “Person first” as a substitute for justice may be the hobby horse of only a few and the passion of even fewer, for now, but when it influences public boards that make real policy, it sets troubling precedents. It normalizes madness — and opens the door to more of it.