On Thursday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proposed legislation to amend the Philadelphia Code to replace the term “ex-offender” with the term “returning citizen.” He also decided to change the name of the Office of Re-integration Services for Ex-Offenders to the Office of Re-integration.
In a press release, Nutter explained that when a convict is released from prison, it can be difficult to reintegrate into society due to a lack of education, few opportunities for work, and, you know, having spent time in prison for a crime for which one has been convicted.
The mayor points out that the city has already successfully integrated “Ban-the-Box” legislation, which prevents prospective employers from asking job candidates about criminal convictions on job applications, a real win-win if you’ve been in jail. “But,” he adds, “it is also important that we reexamine how we refer to these people. The commonly used term ‘ex-offender’ carries with it a stigma which may increase the challenges these citizens face, while the term ‘returning citizen’ more appropriately focuses on their engagement in the process of reintegration.”
While the code change has to go through the normal legal process, Nutter has already signed an Executive Order declaring that all City of Philadelphia offices and employees must use the term “returning citizen” to describe anyone “who has recently been released from a federal, state or local correctional facility, or a person who, while not recently incarcerated, has a criminal record or history.”
So does that mean that I can ask a prospective employee, “So, are you a returning citizen?”