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Dane Co. Sheriff to stop referring to incarcerated people as ‘inmates’

The Sheriff’s Office will use the term ‘residents’ or ‘those who are in our care’ instead.
Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop...
Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop using the word 'inmate' to describe incarcerated people.(WMTV-TV)
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 11:02 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 5:24 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Declaring “words matter,” the Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office will be eliminating the term ‘inmate’ from its official vocabulary going forward. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announced the move Monday, explaining the change is designed to “maintain the dignity and respect for all who are involved in our criminal justice system.”

Going forward, people who are incarcerated in Dane Co. will now be referred to as ‘residents’ or ‘those who are in our care.’ Barrett added that his agencies consider titles as important, noting how they prefer the term peace officers to law enforcement officers when describing themselves and their colleagues.

“I view this change in name as a way to humanize those who are within our care,” he said.

Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop...
Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop using the word 'inmate' to describe incarcerated people.(WMTV-TV)

Barrett’s decision comes following conversations with his staff, deputies and people housed in the Dane Co. jail, as well as those who were recently released. Attending a session with Nehemiah, a Madison-based organization for those re-entering society, Barrett explained he learned how the word inmate can have negative connotations, even to the incarcerated person themselves.

The members of the group, Man-Up, told Barrett during their session that resident was a better term and asked that he use it in the future.

“As your sheriff, I believe our philosophies, policies and practices should be proactive and not reactionary like many other areas of our criminal justice system, said Barrett. “The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is a national leader in appropriate progressive reform, and many follow our lead.”

Barrett added that other law enforcement agencies across the country have made similar changes and compared the deprecation of ‘inmate’ to the elimination of an older term, ‘convict.’

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