By: Sayyedeh Parastoo Vakili
At times the media manipulates and misleads the public opinion and knowledge about not just the criminal justice system but also shapes the public’s policy preference. People tend to believe the images produced by the camera men and may not be aware of the true facts of the story. One could argue that the greater the quality of these exaggerated messages, the more they are accepted as the truth by the public. Media’s portrayal creates anxiety about crime and this provides an opportunity for any politicians’ platform to discuss crime the way people want to hear. Some argue that private corporations and politicians benefit from the expansion that comes from the exaggerated messages in the media. Advertisement signs or news reports play an important role in simplifying the complexity of an issue and forcing the public to derive a steadfast conclusion based on the information given to them. Media demonstrates violence in many different ways in order to get the viewer’s attention. For example, certain television shows display violent scenes that demonstrate how crime is pervasive and violent than ever before. More often politicians use these images and messages to demonstrate how our society is not a safe place and argue for expansion of prisons and placing nonviolent offenders behind bars.
Joel Dyer, in his book called The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, illustrates how America profits from crime and prisons. Dyer explains that the perpetual prisoner machine creates the political and economic chain reaction that is responsible for growth in prison and prison population. He further explains that three components together create a perpetual prisoner machine: the media industry, the rise of influence of the politicians and political consultants, and the shareholders of corporations or the collection of interests whose financial well being increases and decreases with the size of the prison population. He suggest that crime becomes a valuable commodity for these three components.
It is fair to say that the media possesses a great amount of power over the criminal justice system. The media demonstrates motive, appearance, race, an historical account of an individual who allegedly committed a crime, and then describes the criminal justice personnel responding to a crime committed or attempting to justify the behavior of a corrupt individual. Due to the media exaggerating and persuading the public that there is constant threat of criminal activities, the public becomes vulnerable and anxious believing they live in a dangerous society. The violent related content of mass media convinces the viewers that the world is not a safe place and everyone is at risk. This fear within the general public will establish reliance on certain politicians who have a “war on crime” platform. Mandatory sentencing such as the three-strikes and truth in sentencing are weapons that politicians use on crime and criminal conduct. Politicians declaring “war on crime” convinces the general public that they are living in a war zone environment.
Although some people may argue that there is no exaggerated portrayal of crimes by the media, it is crucial to consider the connection between the media and social perspectives. Despite its efforts to serve as a prominent form of true and accurate portrayal of criminal reports, the media certainly shapes and influences the public’s perception of criminal justice by providing its own version of a story that may create fear. The media may also implicitly shift its coverage towards a particular politician by endorsing their particular political view. Thus, in order to avoid misconceptions, the public must critically analyze every information promoted by the media.
Bio: Sayyedeh Parastoo Vakili is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 2L at Suffolk Law. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology, and a M.S. in Crime and Justice Studies (MSCJS) both from Suffolk University.