Examining Prisoners Rights And Prison Reform Criminology Essay

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Politicians look for votes that usually are not the same or anything similar to those votes that belong to the voters who are concerned with prisoner's rights or prison reform. Prisons are exaggeratedly draining taxpayer funds in which they are largely having an effect in the lives of Americans, and most of us do not care. But worse than not caring, many people are under the belief that the growing harshness on criminals is not only fair but something that is crucial. When trustworthy research sources report regularly declined rates of violent crime, we ask ourselves where is this fear coming from? A recent study showed that 95% of Americans shape their impression of crime from the mass media (Blanpain 63). Many forms of media for example like television has been welcomed into our society as a form of open minded and acceptable education and information, in which children are continuously being pushed to watch the news and stay up to date with what is happening in our world. By the time a kid graduate's high school, they will have spent more time watching television than any other activity besides sleeping (Blanpain 114). The massive impact media has on molding the public opinion is undeniable, and is important because of how interconnected influential systems affect prisons. The media makes citizens believe that they should be afraid. When public opinion polls show that voters are looking for greater crime regulation politicians usually step up, and oblige them. The role of political consultants and "right hand men" enhances the power of public opinion polls, because the consultant backs this survey information as fact (Macnicol 56). It can be hazardous when the opinion of the public is presented and explained as fact, because of the lack of educated people in society and how greatly influenced people are by the biased and money driven media. Politicians are gaining from this false perspective of fear by making their campaigns everywhere as being "tough on crime", which leads them to support the current state

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of affairs. A Virginia Politician was chosen while speaking in opposition to violent crime, and townspeople rooted him on even though their town had virtually no violent crime itself. They were basing their decisions off of the constant barrage of violent images that mass media is pouring into our homes (Macnicol 97).

Violent crimes are responsible for about 35% to 50% of crime all over, while they are responsible for less than 3% of crimes committed. News channels, radios, and newspapers exaggerate the harshness of this impact by entirely ignoring the context and motives that surround these crimes. This increases the fear of viewers who picture themselves as being the next possible victims even if they are far left of the victim profile (Robinson 64). T.V channels are also swamped with cop shows, where violence against police officers is blown out of proportion (Robinson107). These shows bloom off of real life violence, in which they are chosen from hours of footage and typical nights. All these programs contribute to the fear of the public, and increases ratings, and all this while influencing and shaping more opinions about prisons and crime.

The media is conscious of the power they have, and are either careless and insensitive or more interested in the profits. Or they simply do not see it as a conflict of interest. These attitudes are changing journalism. A reporter was quoted as stating that the role of journalism as "It is no longer to serve the public by reporting the news, but rather to create emotion through drama, which increases the audience for the advertiser" (Nelson 112). Profits are also the cause of this attitude, and the profit that is made off of self centered news is extremely higher than other genres. The notion of shareholder primacy emphasizes capitalism and our communal culture puts more emphasis on this than journalistic freedom. Because of this, CEOs of

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corporations are obligated to consider stock prices as more important than the content of what they produce (Nelson 58). Advertisers play a part in all this as well, which has become very important as the time arranged for ads continuously increases. In which reciprocally increases advertiser's power (Nelson 62). Advertisers admit to having put pressure on media companies to expurgate what news they run. Also, when only nine corporations have the control of the greater part of popular media this becomes a major monopoly on what 90% of Americans internalize to form their ideas of crime, and therefore the prison system's purpose (Robinson 71). The network of profits and diverge interests is more complex when one considers that the media corporations and other financially invested groups fund legislations that are tough on crime, and keeps prison populations growing . A linked example of conflicting interests would be the following: Governor Frank Keating took part in an argument between CCA and Oklahoma government ensued defending CCA and stopping the threats (Macnicol 148). It had been no accident that CCA had been a contributor kindly to Keating's campaign fund. In this situation the media benefited the public by highlighting the connection. Indeed, a few examples of where the media has had its bigger purpose to free the press and its public are not sufficient. It is safe to make the assumption that even this educational story of dishonesty was probably left between gruesome stories of murder from a few states over.

Three most important policy issues that are condemning our country to danger are Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, three strikes legislation, and truth in sentencing. These three major policy issues are harming our country. Our increase dependence on prisons is expensive, and irrational. All we are doing is perpetuating racial and socioeconomic disparities, and taking away the ex-prisoner's right to vote and change the system (Blanpain 180).

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People who can vote maintain an unclear view of crime and prisons due to the media and its goals. Using the previous example of California, over 70% of inmates report drug or alcohol Problems while only 6% of them receive any type of treatment. Only 33% or less are offered job or education programs while they are in jail, and the state as a result spends massive amounts of money on re-imprisoning parole violators (Robinson 164). The ones that should be in prisons are rehabilitating offenders instead of using prisons as punishment or storage for corporations or for politicians to obtain profit from. Why are the media images of crime so important? In the end, all of us are paying for their results and the rising incarceration trends need to come to an end at some point. These readings are mainly paying attention to how the media portrays image from the inside the prison system to the outer public, all of the factors that influence, and the resulting aftermath. We need to keep in mind that with so many late night shows documenting prison life and talk shows that feature inside interviews with violent prisoners it is important to be familiar with how the media also has an affects on the prisoners themselves. I went in investigated how the media has an influence on prisoners on a more personal level that we tend not to see. Also, individual level and how this plays a role into a larger picture. I came to find out that the media tries to straightforwardly connect with prisoners for two reasons; One being to display how prisons are working and what the conditions are, and secondly to have access to precise high profile or tear jerker stories from the prisoners themselves. Frequently, high security prisons are obligated to present videos of their code of behavior because visitors are not permitted in and inspectors are not pleased about entering close quarters with dangerous prisoners. This use of media can be a guide to improving living conditions, and to have a smaller amount of brutality or abuse.

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On a different point of view, the approach of trying to get inside a killer's head is what makes many popular shows and movie industries. With money always being the more important Aspect and following shareholder primacy rules, media glorify high profile interviews or videotapes that are morally controversial. These interviews we talk about can have huge disturbing impact on the unpublicized victims: "Doris Tate often asked why prison officials allowed Charles Manson, the man who was convicted of murdering her daughter, Sharon, and seven others, to appear on television talk shows where he could influence vulnerable young people. Another woman complained that she felt re-victimized every time she saw the man who stalked and stabbed her appear on television" (Nelson 101). It is sad, disturbing, insensitive, and uncertainly moral of legislators to permit these overvalued interviews to take place for the media's profit.

To control how the media gets the right to use prisoners and prisons there has been laws set to control how the media can access prisoners and prisons. The Supreme Court passed a law, Pell v. Procunier, that "the right of media access is no greater than that of the general public". In Pell and in Turner v. Safley (1987), U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that "prison administrators must show that a prison regulation impinging on inmates' constitutional rights is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest". One of the court's inspiring factors was the idea that media attention glorified inmate's crimes. That is also deterred them from taking responsibility for their actions, as well as prevent rehabilitation. These legal precedents are steps in helping towards the direction of enforcing constructive media influences in regards to prison system that is opposed to exploitation.

In all reality do innocent people and our whole nation really need to hear what Charles Manson has to say? In an article I read about how the media shielded its actions regarding

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extreme crime stories by stating that it was simply giving the public what it wanted. It is clear that the media could work in a constructive way to increase awareness about issues in prison, stress exploitation and transgression, and to protect victim's rights and better inform the public. Claiming innocence and sweeping in money is not enough and the task is molding the public views and affecting prisoner's needs to change.

Reference Page

Blanpain, Roger." Media and Crime". (2008). Frederick, MD: Kluwer Law International.

Macnicol, John. " Crime, Justice and the Media". (2006). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nelson, Todd. " Crime, the Media and the Law". (2002). Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Robinson , David A. "Criminal Visions: Media Representations of Crime and Justice". (2003). Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press.