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Johnny Cash: The Criminologist Within
Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture (2010)
  • Patrick Gerkin, Grand Valley State University
  • Aaron Rider
  • John D. Hewitt, Grand Valley State University
This paper examines the criminological underpinnings of song lyrics in the collection of Johnny Cash. We have examined the lyrics of 60 songs performed by Johnny Cash (although not necessarily written by Cash) that reflect on issues including crime, prison, chain gangs, the death penalty, and redemption. Using a content analysis of these lyrics, we examined Cash’s criminological view of crime and punishment. While not versed in criminological theory, Cash nonetheless sang eloquently of a rational choice model of crime in which offenders accepted responsibility for their acts, punishment was justified, and yet incarceration should be humane and rehabilitative.
  • Johnny Cash,
  • content analysis,
  • song lyrics,
  • criminology
Publication Date
Citation Information
Patrick Gerkin, Aaron Rider and John D. Hewitt. "Johnny Cash: The Criminologist Within" Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture Vol. 17 Iss. 1 (2010)
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