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Crime and the Media. What do Americans believe about Crime and the Justice System? Where and how do they develop these beliefs? What are the consequences of these beliefs?. Criminology vs. Other Science. How many “crime related” T.V. shows can you name off the top of your head?

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crime and the media

Crime and the Media

What do Americans believe about Crime and the Justice System?

Where and how do they develop these beliefs?

What are the consequences of these beliefs?

criminology vs other science
Criminology vs. Other Science
  • How many “crime related” T.V. shows can you name off the top of your head?
  • Crime and the CJS on T.V. news or newspapers?
  • Crime and the CJS in movies and fiction books?
  • How does this compare to biology, psychology, or physics?
who cares
Who Cares?
  • People get information about most things from television, newspapers
  • BUT—with regard to crime, the question becomes, “How accurately does the media reflect crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system?”
    • “Back stage” behavior
sources of media bias or reasons for skepticism
Sources of Media Bias—or “Reasons for Skepticism”
  • Newspapers and T.V. news
    • Crime in general captures audiences
    • Violent crime, especially stranger violence
      • “If it bleeds it leads”
  • Politicians
    • “Get tough” on crime = political payoff
  • Entertainment
    • Need for “excitement” belies accurate portrayal of criminals and criminal justice system
types of distortion
Types of Distortion
  • Creation of “crime waves”
  • Attention to violent crime
    • What about “white collar crime?”
  • Creating/Spreading Crime Myths
    • Halloween psychopaths
    • The Serial Killer Epidemic
    • Satanic Daycare
class survey crime trends
Class Survey: Crime Trends
  • In the past 10, has crime increased, decreased, or remained stable?
    • 46% said crime has increased
  • How many murders occur in the U.S. in any given year?
    • Mean (average) = 44,472
    • Actual = 13,500
class survey myths
Class Survey: Myths
  • Halloween, strangers with bad candy
    • 43% yes
  • Percent of murders by serial killers?
    • Average = 12% (actual about 2%)
  • Random child abductions
    • Average = 12,000 (actual less than 300)
operation of the criminal justice system
Operation of the Criminal Justice System
  • What is the nature of police work? How effective are police?
  • What is “profiling” and how many cases are solved using this technique?
  • What typically happens after arrest?
  • What are prisons like?
  • How often are criminals “let go” because of “loopholes” in the system?
class survey answers the criminal justice system
Class Survey Answers: The Criminal Justice System
  • Percent found guilty by jury trial? 40%
    • Actual = Less than 10% of felonies, less than 5% of all crimes

Percent of police time fighting crime? 30%

    • Not too bad….nice work.
  • Is “profiling” an effective way to catch serial killers? 73% yes
    • Remember the “sniper” case folks?
    • Behavioral Science Unit of FBI?
media and crime summary
Media and Crime: Summary
  • Tendency to distort reality:
    • Political rhetoric
    • If it bleeds it leads (other types of crime?)
    • Overemphasis on crime (crime waves)
    • An “effective” criminal justice system
  • Why is any of this important
    • Dorthy and W.I. Thomas (1928), if people believe it, it is “real in its consequences.”
fear of crime
Fear of Crime
  • Why is “fear of crime” important?
  • How fearful are Americans?
  • Are some Americans more fearful than others?
    • Structural Factors (size of town/city)
    • Individual Factors (age, race, gender)
seriousness of criminal events
Seriousness of Criminal Events
  • Why important?
  • General trend here is agreement across groups
    • But, some differences exist
    • What about “White Collar Crime?”
attitudes towards punishment
Attitudes Towards Punishment
  • When polling questions are broad/general, it appears that Americans are punitive and punishment oriented:
    • Do you support the death penalty for convicted murderers? (75% yes)
    • In general, do you think the courts in this country deal too harshly or not harshly enough with criminals? (80% not harsh enough). (Our Class = 50% not harsh enough)
    • Consistency across race, class, other factors
  • BUT: Adding complexity to the questions affects answers
more complex questions
More Complex Questions
  • Class Survey Responses
    • Do you support the Death Penalty?
      • 64%
    • If given the option of “life without parole?“
      • 54%
  • Applegate, Cullen, Turner and Sundt (1996)
      • 3 Strikes legislation
      • 90% of Ohio residents supported 3 Strikes in general
      • Only 17% choose life in prison as a punishment when given specific cases
what about rehabilitation or prevention
What about “Rehabilitation” or Prevention?
  • Again, public attitudes are complex
  • Does the public want their pound of flesh?
    • YES, believe in retribution and deterrence
  • Does the public also want rehabilitation?
    • YES, especially for drug/property offenses
  • Is the public willing to use tax dollars for prevention?
    • YES
feature presentation
Feature Presentation

4 Things to Watch for:

  • Ideology (not my primary reason for showing)
    • BUT, very ideological movie
  • Role of media
  • Fear of crime
  • What is the central question of the movie?
    • This is a question we will address in “theory”
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