Criminally bad choice of words


I read your banner headline last week, ‘Ex-cons to help with facelift?’, and initially had visions of maybe the Great Train Robbers coming to Sidmouth.

However, you were referring to the Community Payback scheme run by Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust.

Your piece opens by using the expression ‘Reformed criminals....’ and continues with ‘Sidmouth in Bloom....hopes that ex-cons on probation can carry out the work,’ and has ‘ex-cons’ again under the photograph.

It is incorrect to call them ex-cons. A simple check would have told your reporter that: persons convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentences often are not termed “convicts”. Ex-convict (or short: ex-con) is a common way of referring to a person who has been released from prison.

Community Payback workers have not ‘been released from prison’; in fact Community Payback requirements are made instead of sending people to prison.

Tipton St John Scout Group currently has people working under the Community Payback scheme and as one of the scout leaders involved in planning and supervising the work on our headquarters site in Tipton St John since July last year, I have worked closely with the Community Payback workers.

I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure working with the people we have had on site. They have all been skilled craftsmen, with full-time jobs, and have certainly committed themselves to carrying out the work to a high standard. I felt very offended on their behalf at your report calling them ‘Reformed criminals’ and the expression ‘ex-cons’ that your reporter uses.

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I am confident that the Community Payback people we have had working with us at have benefited from the experience, and I feel the use of language in your article makes a mockery of all we and the Probation Trust are trying to do.

Brian Foulkes

Newton Poppleford