In this article, I argue that despite the massive prison population explosion that has occurred in the United States since the 1980s, most television viewers have not experienced prison life directly. Thus, our primary source of information (or misinformation) about this "backstage" area of our society is through cultural products such as television programs and films. Research has previously established that most people form their impressions of crime and the criminal justice system based on what they hear, read, and see in the media. This may be particularly true for our impressions of prison because it is the most alien facet of the criminal justice process for most individuals. The information, images, and ideas that come from the media then may become the basis for public opinion on issues related to criminal sentencing and incarceration.
Yousman, B. (2013). Revisiting Hall's encoding/decoding model: ex-prisoners respond to television representations of incarceration. Review of Education Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, 35(3), 197-216. doi:10.1080/10714413.2013.803340