Abstract/Details

The prisons outside and the prisons in our heads: Television and the *representation of incarceration


2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

During the latter part of the twentieth century, the prison population in the United States rose to unprecedented levels. Despite the increasingly powerful impact that the penal system has on U.S. society, prisons and prisoners are virtually invisible in television news. Simultaneously, however, prisons and prisoners are frequently the focus of fictional narratives in both television and film. Films such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Con-Air have been successful Hollywood products in recent years. On television, prisoners are frequently seen in many popular crime dramas such as Law and Order and NYPD Blue. Cable television offers a serial drama set entirely in a maximum-security prison, Oz.

This dissertation explores the nature of U.S. television portrayals of prisons and prisoners. The argument is made that these representations are the raw material from which most viewers forge their conceptions of prison life and prisoners. Years ago, Lippmann (1922) argued that the media help to create a “pseudo-environment” in people's minds. Audiences may believe that they possess knowledge about places, people, and events that they have never experienced, and the “pictures in our heads” may not accurately reflect the “world outside” due to media filtering and distortions. Because most audience members probably have little personal experience with prisons or prisoners, our primary sources of images of incarceration are television programs and films.

In the following chapters an initial statement of the need for this research is followed by a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical literature. After introducing several research questions, a description of the methods employed to respond to those questions is offered. The next two chapters examine local television news coverage of prisons and prisoners and national network news about incarceration. Then four prime time crime dramas are analyzed in regard to their images of prisons and prisoners, and the subsequent chapter discusses the prison series, Oz. In the conclusion results are summarized and thoughts on the social significance of the material covered are offered, as well as a discussion of the limitations of this project and suggestions for future research.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Mass media;
American studies;
Criminology
Classification
0708: Mass media
0323: American studies
0627: Criminology
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts, Social sciences, Incarceration, Prisons, Representation, Television
Title
The prisons outside and the prisons in our heads: Television and the *representation of incarceration
Author
Yousman, William
Number of pages
503
Publication year
2004
Degree date
2004
School code
0118
Source
DAI-A 65/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Advisor
Morgan, Michael
University/institution
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3136799
ProQuest document ID
305177412
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/305177412
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