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Criminal Justice and the Media

Crime and justice are subjects that are frequently presented on television. Prime time television shows, soap operas, music videos, and cartoons often portray images of crime and criminal justice.

Please list and discuss at least six television shows that you have seen that depict the police, courts, and correctional components of the criminal justice system (two television shows for each component for a total of six shows). If you prefer, you can use movies, radio, print media or any combination of them but two of any examples you use must depict each of the three components of the criminal justice system for a total of six illustrations.

How do these shows or events present each component?
Are the images positive or negative?
What stages of the process are depicted?
Do you think these images are fair representations of criminal justice?
Why or why not?

Solution Preview

To Kill a Mocking Bird - this was a book and then became a movie. To Kill a Mockingbird: Crime and Justice

While the first half of To Kill a Mockingbird concerns the attempts of Scout, Jem, and Dill to get to the bottom of the Boo Radley mystery, the second half centers around the trial of Tom Robinson. One of the most quoted passages in the book is part of Atticus's closing remarks, about the sanctity of the court itself:

We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe[...]But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal -- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.[...]Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

(This is an echo of the real-life judge, James E. Horton, who presided over the retrial of the Scottsboro Boys: "Now, gentlemen, under our law when it comes to the courts we know neither native nor alien, we know neither Jew nor Gentile, we know neither black nor white....It is our duty to mete out even-handed justice." [quoted in To Kill a Mockingbird: Threatening Boundaries by Claudia Durst Johnson])

Do you agree with this assessment, either within the context of the book (the norms of violent racial prejudice) or in real life? Can the fact that Tom Robinson is found guilty even with overwhelming evidence to the contrary be explained by "Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution"? Is Atticus's optimism (indeed, is Atticus himself) even believable?

Think about other cases that have reflected the toxic side of American ethnic relations, like, recently, the Duke lacrosse players (three white college students accused of ...

Solution Summary

The solution analyses the different ways that the criminal justice system is portrayed through movies and television. Examples include: Judge Judy, Cops, Law and Order, To Kill a Mocking Bird, A Few Good Men and Canterbury's Law. 1270 words total.