The Color of Prime-Time
Justice: Racial Characteristics
of Television Offenders
Television helps to define our world and is a major source of information for the average individual. The typical American spends one-third of his/ her leisure time watching television (Stossel, 1997). Television offers viewers vicarious experiences of numerous events that one would not normally encounter. With television it is possible to get live news around the clock, see the ruins of ancient cultures, experience the music of the hippest new bands, and glimpse into the lives of both fictional and nonfictional criminals and victims. In short, television and other forms of media have created a new [electronic space] in our society (Manning, 1996). Though this space is remarkably different from actual experience, in many ways it presents the appearance of reality.
Scholars, politicians, criminal justice professionals, and members of the general public frequently implicate the media in the United States crime problem (Drummond, 1990; Surette, 1998; Van Dijk, 1991). Whereas most public discussion focuses on the impact of the media on violent behavior, scholars also hypothesize that the media has a more general impact on public perceptions, such as fear of crime (Gerbner & Gross, 1976; Heath & Gilbreth, 1996). Additionally, several media events such as the Amadou
The author would like to thank Ted Chiricos for his valuable assistance and guidance in
developing the idea for the project and Kimberly Martin for her editing work.