New Law Requires Use of Term ‘Incarcerated Individual’ Instead of ‘Inmate’: New York

The governor also doesn’t use the term “woman” to discuss reproductive issues.

QUICK FACTS:
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has demanded that criminals instead be referred to as “justice-involved individuals.”
  • The governor, who is running to keep her unelected position this November, changed several pieces of language within a new piece of legislation.
  • The law has more than one part, and the first is said to be an attempt “to promote greater fairness and restore dignity” for criminals.
  • The governor called the convicted criminals “justice-involved individuals,” and only wants them to be referred to as “incarcerated individuals” going forward.
  • Hochul has determined that the term “inmate” is “stigmatizing” and should not be used in state law. She also does not use the term “woman” when discussing laws on pregnancy and reproduction.
  • The governor had support from several lawmakers, including Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, who said that “Using a term such as ‘incarcerated individual’ recognizes the humanity of people and exemplifies the redeemable value of human beings. This new law seeks to correct outdated terminology that adversely impacts an individual’s transition back into their community.”
STATEMENT FROM HOCHUL’S OFFICE:
  • “Legislation (A.9273/S.8216) replaces instances of the word ‘inmate’ in state law with ‘incarcerated individual,'” the statement from Hochul’s office said. “Individuals impacted by the criminal justice system have long noted that terms such as felon, inmate, prisoner, and convict dehumanize individuals and perpetuate the idea that incarcerated people should be permanently demonized and stigmatized.”
  • “This language change within state law will reduce stigma against people involved in the criminal justice system and therefore eliminate barriers to opportunities that they face. Previous legislation covered all instances of state law but did not cover active pieces of legislation in 2021 that were signed into law and included the term ‘inmate’.”
BACKGROUND:
  • According to her website, Gov. Hochul started her career in public service on the Town Board in her hometown. She most recently held statewide office as the state’s lieutenant governor, and she is now the State of New York’s first female governor.
  • She once worked as the Erie County Clerk and later as a representative for New York’s 26th Congressional District.
  • Hochul recently replaced the scandal-ridden former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) after scandals overtook his administration.