Why you need to stop using the word criminal…

Untitled design.jpgLast weekend, I was doing some readings for school and came across this passage,

Take a spiritually underdeveloped person, for example, a criminal. Such a person will use self-will in a very obvious way to serve his immediate seeming advantages, disregarding all laws—spiritual as well as human.

And I felt my blood begin to boil.

A couple of years ago I spent time working in a youth custody facility with teenage girls.

Each girl I worked with had had an incredibly challenging childhood. There was violence in their homes and then they were taken away from their families by the Children’s Aids Society. They ended up with foster families or group homes that treated them poorly. And soon, usually at age 12 or 13, they turned to alcohol or drugs and from there ended up in the criminal justice system.

They were teenage girls. Some were shy, some were sassy.  They giggled about who they had a crushes on.

And they wanted to help others who’d been through what they’d been through.

There are many words I would use to describe these young women: strong, resilient, passionate, kind and caring. Criminal is not one of them.

Did they make mistakes? Yes.

Did they commit crimes? Maybe. Some were just accused and awaiting trial and I honestly don’t know details of why each girl was in custody.

Were they doing the best they could with the resources they had access to? I wholeheartedly believe that they were.

And the criminal justice system doesn’t treat all races equally.

According to National Geographic you’re much more likely to be pulled over if you’re black than if you’re white and according to the Toronto Star Aboriginal youth are more likely to get a harsher sentence than their non-aboriginal peers for the same crime.

So who gets convicted of a crime depends on many factors that are out of the individual’s control.

Lastly, when you use the word criminal, it makes it more difficult to see the person you’re talking about as a human being.

It makes it more difficult to be empathetic.

And I’m not saying that there should be no consequences for committing a crime.

I’m asking we don’t dehumanize those who end up in the criminal justice system.

To learn more about the problems with the US prison system, check out Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th on Netflix.

I know this is a diversion from the topics I usually talk about in this newsletter so I’d love your feedback. What did you think? Do you want more newsletters like this?

Take care and have a great weekend,


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Author: Bryn Bamber

Career Coach Bryn Bamber helps people like you find a career that’s aligned with your goals. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up tons of energy for the things you really love. Start today with your FREE Checklist: Decrease Stress and Get an Hour of Your Day Back! Get it here - tinyurl.com/getanhourback. Learn more about Bryn & the Burnout to Brilliance program at www.brynbamber.com.

3 thoughts on “Why you need to stop using the word criminal…”

  1. I like this! One of the first things I learned in Ireland: one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. And yes, the violence in Northern Ireland is gendered. For sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts : )


  2. Interesting point of view. I hold a slightly different one. I prefer the term criminal as it was meant to be used either a. as a person who committed a crime or b. as related to a crime. Many people have taken the word and used it to dehumanize individuals but I bet 95% if not more of the people that do that are criminals themselves. I am a criminal I have committed crimes.(I will commit more in the future. I speed i fail to yield etc etc.) But by not using the term you are not admitting that they broke the law(YES innocent till proven guilty). Yes, a lot of them receive harsher sentences because of race religion or creed. I agree no judicial system is perfect it is run by humans, Yet by not using a descriptor of a word in its proper form you give more power to the ones that misuse it. Education is the key but unfortunately most education is just indoctrination. Very few schools teach a child or young adult how to think they just want you to memorize and regurgitate the text book answer. Take common core math, I cannot do math as they teach it now but even though i come up with the correct answer i am wrong because my method is different even if it is valid.

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