The Stigma of Criminal Legal Involvement and Health: a Conceptual Framework

Benjamin A. Howell, Valerie A. Earnshaw, Marisol Garcia, Andrew Taylor, Karin Martin, Aaron D. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The USA incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. Exposure to the criminal legal system has been associated with a myriad of health outcomes but less is understood about what drives these associations. We argue that stigma due to criminal legal involvement, what we call criminal legal stigma, likely has a larger role in the association between incarceration and negative health outcomes than has been previously appreciated. There is limited research on the impact on health of criminal legal stigma despite abundant research on its negative social consequences. In this paper, we describe a conceptual framework of the health effects of criminal legal stigma drawing on previous research of criminal legal stigma and advances in other areas of stigma research. We outline key concepts related to stigma mechanisms, how they function at structural and individual levels, and how they might cause health outcomes. Finally, we identify potential areas for future research and opportunities for clinical interventions to remediate negative effects of stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-101
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Criminal legal involvement
  • Health inequities
  • Incarceration
  • Prisons and jails
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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