The Effects of Media on Mass Incarceration

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Criminal Images
In American society, the media plays an overwhelming role in shaping how people think and what people believe. The images and spins that come from every form of media eventually become the immediate thought in one’s mind when certain topics are brought up. How can this not be the case when stereotypes are being thrown at people in rapid fire from every direction? The media is everywhere and is not an easy force to be reckoned with. One particular area in which the media have formed images in the minds of the people is the idea of criminals. From pictures on television to descriptions in books, the criminal is commonly portrayed as a black male. The consequences of this stereotype may not been seen or felt by all, but they affect the lives of many in serious ways.

In a study published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education in 1995, people were asked to picture a drug user and describe that person to the questioner. The results showed 95% of respondents pictured the user as African American (106). There are likely many reasons behind this phenomenon. However, none of these reasons is that African Americans use drugs more often than whites do. In fact, most drug dealers and users are white (99). If this is the case, then why when asked to describe a drug user do most people picture a black man? In short, the answer is because of the media. Television, newspapers, books, magazines, the Internet, and most any other media source typically show African American criminals more often than white criminals. “For nearly three decades, news stories regarding virtually all street crime have disproportionately featured African American offenders (106).” Because the media so heavily reports on African American crimes, this is the image beaten into the minds of those watching. People now have a stereotype in mind of the black man as a dangerous drug user.

This unfortunate stereotype has many consequences, seen and unseen. First of all, it creates an...
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