With regard to television in particular, Gerber and Groom’s Cultivation Theory contends that people cultivate an acceptance to the position or perspective espoused by the media after repeated and prolonged exposure and in turn ‘develop an exaggerated belief that the world is a mean and scary place’ (Gerber, as cited y Wisped). Data from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (Sass) would seem to confirm this assertion, where 89% of respondents were incorrect in their perception of crime increasing or decreasing in the prior two years.
And for those with the ‘greatest misconceptions of crime, it would appear that television (and family) plays the most powerful role in driving perceptions of crime’ (Davis and Destroy 2010). Cohen (1 987, pa as cited in Hayes, Preparer et al 2012) argues that at times the publics response to media representations of crime can lead to what has been termed ‘Moral Panic’, a term which is used to describe ‘a condition, episode, person or group of persons [that] emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests’ (Cohen, 1987, as cited in Hayes, Preparer et al 2012).
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The media is the prime resource for information outside the realm of people’s normal experience, but does it actually educate them on the facts of crime and how the criminal justice system works? (Tech and Make IAC 2000). The conclusion can be drawn that the media’s portrayal of serious crime leads to a significant portion of the public developing an unrealistic perception of rime and creating general conclusions about crime and the criminal justice system based on limited or selected information. Sexual Offences and the Media.
Seven-year-old Megan Sank was brutally raped and murdered on July 29 1994 in New Jersey by twice convicted and recently paroled sex offender Jesse Denominated. There was widespread community and media outrage at the lack of government disclosure of the location of sex offenders within the community (Cochrane and Kennedy 2010). Heavy media coverage of the event followed across the nation, The New York Times reports on August 3rd 994 that over 1 000 people attended a public vigil in support of laws regarding a sex offender register (Barron 1994).
This sort of pressure and the ensuing moral panic, lead to the enactment of “Mean’s Laws”, which required the registration and public notification of the location of sex offenders living, working or studying in the community. The intent was that once armed with this information, people could take steps ‘to protect themselves from these predators’ (Gobi, Watt, Talebearers and Vessel 2008).
By 1 996 the federal government had introduced mandatory laws squiring the states to establish community notification and registration programs for convicted sex offenders. The guidelines were fairly broad, except for the need for convicted sex offenders in the state to be listed online (Cochrane and Kennedy 2010). The problem with Mean’s law is that it has not resulted in a significant reduction in the rates of offending or refunding.
The 2008 study by Gobi, Witt, Talebearers and Vessel, which covers a 21 year period, the year of implementation and the 10 years before and after implementation indicates that Mean’s Law: ; did not alter the time taken till he first re-arrest of offenders (community tenure) ; had no apparent effect in the reduction of re-offending or the type of sexual re-offence ; had no effect on first time offenders (predominantly child molestation/incest) ; failed to reduce the number of sex crime victims In response to media coverage of reports in 2009 that the law had not prevented sex offenders from refunding, Megan Kansas mother was quoted in the New Jersey Times (Livid, 2009) as saying “We never said it was going to stop them from refunding or wandering to another town,” and that It was put there for parents to know where the offenders are living. Five million people have gone to the state web site. It’s doing what it was supposed to do. ” The focus of this law is on ‘stranger danger’ and espouses the concept of the stereotypical ‘sexual predator’ lurking in our neighborhoods. It is widely acknowledged in many studies that the vast majority of sexual offenses are committed by males and that they are known to the victim I. E. Immediate family member, extended family member, family friend, other known person or acquaintance or neighbor etc (Richards, 01 1).
Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Howard 2000, plop) put the figure at that time as 93% being known to their attacker and or unknown. Coffee and Reid-Nash (1 987, as cited in Cochrane and k 2010) theories that an increase in peoples fear of crime is directly amount of attention they pay to its reporting in the media. Research media and Mean’s Law by Proctor and colleagues (2002, as cited t Cochrane and Ken needy 201 0) confirms this theory. They were able way in which the media portrayed Mean’s Law with how public pee were altered. The research results showed that the positive media given to Mean’s Law, and participants’ exposure to it was firmly ill participant’s comprehension and adoption of the law.