Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes

Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes

Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes

Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes

Synopsis

Callanan tests the link between individuals' media habits and punitive attitudes toward criminals, finding that the more crime-related television people watch, the more fearful they become, and the more supportive of three strikes sentencing. Although there are some differences between forms of crime-related media consumption across race/ethnicity, the link with punitiveness still holds. The test provides evidence for Gerbner's cultivation hypothesis of a 'mean world' view. Heavy consumers of crime-related media are more fearful of crime, more likely to believe crime is increasing, more likely to rate crimes seriously, more likely to believe the world is 'just,' less likely to support rehabilitation, and much more likely to support three strikes sentencing.

Excerpt

On June 29, 1992, Kimber Reynolds was shot in the head when two men tried to steal her purse as she exited a California restaurant. She died two days later. Shortly thereafter, the alleged shooter was killed in a gun battle with police. the other assailant pled guilty to robbery and was sentenced to nine years in the state prison, with the possibility of parole after fifty percent of his sentence was served. When Kimber's father, Mike Reynolds, learned of the short sentence he became outraged and vowed to change the sentencing structure.

Within weeks, he had met with members of the criminal justice system and the local media to see if he might be able to craft a new law that would not only significantly increase the sentencing received for habitual violent offenders, but any serious repeat offender. He was able to garner support from his state assembly representative and in March 1993, they put forth Assembly Bill 971, which tripled the usual sentence received for any third felony conviction. Assigned to the Public Safety Committee of the Assembly, the bill failed in committee.

Disheartened by the Democratic-controlled legislature, Reynolds decided to attempt to get his proposal on the state ballot for the election in Fall 1993. With his own financing, some funding from the National Rifle Association and the California Correctional Police Officer's Association (more commonly known as the prison guard union), and a direct mailing effort by the Christian Coalition, the process of signature gathering began. After three weeks, he had only collected 15,000 signatures - less than five percent of the minimum required. Then the unimaginable happened.

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