Corrections for Academic Medicine: The Importance of Using Person-First Language for Individuals Who Have Experienced Incarceration

UMMS Affiliation

Commonwealth Medicine, Health and Criminal Justice Program; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Criminology and Criminal Justice | Health Law and Policy | Health Policy | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research


This Invited Commentary addresses the use of labels and their impact on people involved in the criminal justice system. There are 2.2 million adults incarcerated in the United States and close to 6.6 million under correctional supervision on any day. Many of these people experience health inequalities and inadequate health care both in and out of correctional facilities. These numbers are reason enough to raise alarm among health care providers and criminal justice researchers about the need to conceptualize better ways to administer health care for these individuals. Using terms like "convict," "prisoner," "parolee," and "offender" to describe these individuals increases the stigma that they already face. The authors propose that employing person-first language for justice-involved individuals would help to reduce the stigma they face during incarceration and after they are released. Coordinated, dignified, and multidisciplinary care is essential for this population given the high rates of morbidity and mortality they experience both in and out of custody and the many barriers that impede their successful integration with families and communities. Academic medicine can begin to address the mistrust that formerly incarcerated individuals often have toward the health care system by using the humanizing labels recommended in this Invited Commentary.


labels, criminal justice system, justice-involved individuals, health care system

DOI of Published Version



Acad Med. 2019 Feb;94(2):172-175. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002501.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID