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Happer, McGuinness, McNeill, Tiripelli (2018).pdf (357.28 kB)
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Punishment, legitimacy and taste: the role and limits of mainstream and social media in constructing attitudes towards community sanctions

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posted on 2023-06-09, 14:31 authored by Catherine Happer, Paul McGuinnessPaul McGuinness, Fergus McNeill, Giuliana Tiripelli
Although criminologists have studied public attitudes to community sanctions, and there has also been some attention to media representations of them, there has been no serious examination of the relationships between media and public understandings. This article presents an interdisciplinary analysis (drawing on sociology, media and communications and organizational studies) of the potential influence of media consumption practices on penal tastes among diverse participant groups. We aim to develop a clearer understanding of how these processes shape the public legitimacy of community sanctions. In particular, we report on original research employing innovative methodologies to explore the dynamic set of practices deployed by audiences in the process of making meaningful the media landscape on punishment and community sanctions. Our findings offer some confirmation of the primacy of the prison in the popular imagination; the media profile of community sanctions is delimited by their perceived banality, in turn leading to confusion surrounding their purpose and potential. However, this study suggests that the legitimacy problem for community sanctions may be far more complex than ‘newsworthiness’. Community sanctions, we argue, may be subject to appraisal in line with penal ‘tastes’ in which the function of moral censure is of central significance. However, we also uncover some evidence about how traditional markers of taste are disrupted by processes of media convergence (of appropriation, circulation, response) in ways which can operate to limit deliberation even amongst more liberal audience groups, and conversely open it up amongst those who are more punitive.


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Crime, Media, Culture




SAGE Publications





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  • Sociology and Criminology Publications

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  • Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth Publications
  • Crime Research Centre Publications

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