Illinois Lawmakers Seek To Call Criminals ‘Justice-Impacted Individuals’ Instead Of ‘Offenders’

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Jeff Charles Contributor
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Illinois lawmakers are pushing to change the term “offender” to “justice-impacted individual” when discussing those convicted of a crime in an ongoing effort to update language in state law. Proposed House Bill 4409 has elicited sharp disagreements between Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature.

During a Wednesday hearing, Republican State Sen. Terri Bryant criticized the proposed change, pointing to the amount of taxpayer money spent when government agencies have to alter language, according to The Center Square.

“Over and over again, we keep changing the name of how we are referring to those who have entered into criminal activity, and each time we make that change, each agency has to make that change on every one of their documents,” the lawmaker argued. “Right now in the Department of Corrections, there’s multiple changes that have been made, and it’s costing thousands and thousands of dollars just to do a name change. Why is it necessary to make the name change?”

Republican State Sen. Steve McClure argued that “There seems to be this rush to take away all accountability for people who commit crimes” and that “apologizing for the criminal, the person who chooses to commit crimes to the detriment of our victims … is absolutely incredible.”

The lawmaker also brought up the case of “the man who killed 11-year-old Jayden Perkins a day after his release” and said the perpetrator was not a “justice-impacted individual” but an “offender,” according to The Center Square. (RELATED: Chicago Crime Gets Even Worse In First Months Under New Mayor Brandon Johnson)

On the other side of the debate, Democratic State Sen. Robert Peters supported the name change, saying they are “adding the DOC, adding Human Services, Sangamon and Cook County adult probation and two members who have experienced ARI system as offenders or as justice-impacted individuals.”

Peters also insisted that language plays a critical role in rehabilitation outcomes, arguing that the terminology “means someone who has been impacted by the criminal justice system … is an individual.”

The bill has passed both the House and Senate and will soon be sent to the governor for his signature.