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"Convicted felons caught in drug sweep"



Person-first language humanizes people and whereas words like "felon" and "criminal" define someone's humanity. When identifying sources and characters who are currently and formerly incarcerated, words like "convict" and "offender" elicit negative attitudes and stigma. People are more than the things they've done. 

The Tired Narrative: 

There are over 2 million people currently incarcerated in America. News articles typically use words like "inmate," "felon," "ex-con," "ex-offender," "ex-felon," and "criminal" to describe a diverse group of people. 

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The Informed Narrative: 

Person-first language is to be used when introducing someonen who has experience with the justice system. Instead of identifying someone as a "convict" or "criminal," use phrases like "person with justice-involvement, "person that is justice-involved."


You can also describe someone as having been formerly incarcerated instead of "convicted felon." 

Criminal justice organizations recommend person-first language, and to avoid identifiers that label someone as a criminal first.

Connect with Expert Sources:

 Tracie Gardner, Legal Action Center

Robert Ashford, recovery researcher, University of the Sciences

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