DENVER (KCNC-TV)– The way sex offenders are being branded is changing in Colorado. The board, which sets state standards, voted today to change the term “sex offenders” to reflect the so-called “person-first” language.
The Sex Offender Management Board, which consists of everyone from public defenders to prosecutors, sets standards and guidelines for practitioners so that the new terminology will only be used in that context. It does not change the term sex offender in the law or the criminal justice system, but some worry that it is a step in that direction.
“I’m involved today after hearing that it would be inappropriate or offensive in any way for me to refer to the man who raped me as a sex offender,” Kimberly Corbin, a rape survivor, told KCNC-TV in Denver.
Corbin is among those who spoke out against changing the term sex offender to something less stigmatizing, saying that labels based on traits that people cannot control are one thing. “It’s very, very harmful to them, as people who are labeled when it comes to gender, race, sexuality, abilities, but it’s not their choice, the biggest thing for me is that these are choices that sex offenders take, “she said.
Derek Logue says he should not bear the mark of life, “Referring to me with a label for something I did half my life ago is inappropriate and directly offensive.”
He argued that “client” would be a better term.
Public Defender Kathy Heffron agreed: “It takes into account the uniqueness of individuals receiving treatment.”
“Client” is one of five options the board considered.
Support for the change in terminology claims that it will reduce recidivism. Opponents say it will only reduce accountability, noting that victims and survivors live with their mark for life.
In the end, the board voted 10-6 to go with “adults who commit sexual offenses.”
“I believe this creates a balance that respects the impact on victims and recognizes the current and lasting effects of sexual assault, but also avoids the notion of labeling that has negative consequences for those who commit sexual crimes.”
Jessica Dotter of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council is concerned that the change will not end with the Sex Offender Management Board, “I am concerned that the use of person-first language is generally intended to remove accountability from offenders and to reduce the experience of the victims “
Last year, lawmakers considered a bill that, among other things, would have removed the term “sexually violent predator” from the bylaws, but they ended up withdrawing it. Meanwhile, a task force charged with reforming sentencing is considering asking the legislature to change terms such as “accused,” “convicted,” and “criminal” to “justice-involved people.”
Ironically, the Sex Offender Management Board will not drop the “sex offender” from its name because only the state legislature can change the name of the board.
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