The News Media, Public Opinion, and Criminal Justice Legislation: The Rise and Fall of Mass Incarceration 公开

Elsayed, Hagar (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3484zh779?locale=zh
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Abstract

The United States has become the most punitive country in the world with over 2.2 million people in prison and 4.7 million people under community supervision. Previous studies suggest that all growth in the incarceration rate since the late 20th century can be mainly attributed to sentencing policy that put more people in prison for longer sentences. Public opinion is argued to be the main driving factor of the "tough on crime" era that produced these policies, and the news media's distorted framing of crime is linked to this increase in public punitiveness. The incarceration rate has seen recent decline. In this paper, I continue to explore research on public opinion, coverage in the news media, and criminal justice legislation related to criminal justice and sentencing reform. I then conduct a content analysis of newspaper articles from the Lexis Nexis archive about the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 introduced in the Senate (and its equivalent Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 in the House) to explore how the media covered criminal justice reform within the context of a specific congressional bill. Using MaxQDA to conduct a qualitative analysis of coverage and collect quantitative data of mentions of themes, I find that fiscal cost is the major argument in support of criminal justice reform, non-violent drug offenders are distinguished from violent offenders as the beneficiary of reform, and coverage of this act is largely in the form of opinion articles with significant input from editorial boards, local and federal political actors, and religious leaders.

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….……..7

Literature Review………………………………………………………………………………………………………….………...10

1. Traditional Explanations for Mass Incarceration Debunked……….…………………….....10

2. The Real Cause of Mass Incarceration………………………………………………………………....13

3. Public Opinion and the "Tough on Crime" Era………………………………………………….....18

4. The News Media's Role in Increasing Public Punitiveness…………………………….….....21

5. Changing Public Opinion After the "Tough on Crime" Era…………………………………….24

6. The Prison-Industrial Complex and Maintenance of Mass Incarceration………………26

7. Criminal Justice Reform……………………………………………………………………………….……...29

8. Media Coverage of Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform………………………………..31

Summary of Literature Review………………………………………………………………………..………………...…...34

Data and Methods……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………37

Findings……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………..40

Discussion and Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………………….………48

References………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..……………..53

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