Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Ruth Mann

Second Advisor

Robert Arnold

Keywords

crime, criminal justice, media, youths

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

This thesis draws upon a social constructionist paradigm and content analysis analytic strategy to analyze two Canadian newspapers' constructions of the issue of adult sentencing and youth for whom an adult sentence was imposed or considered. The study is situated in the context of the federal government's efforts to amend adult sentencing and other sections of Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) following the 2008 Supreme Court decision that overturned this legislation's presumptive adult sentencing provisions. The thesis is predicated on the presumption that newspapers, as secondary claims-makers, have the power to influence public perceptions about youth crime, and that they present and advance the competing perspectives of competing claims-makers. The thesis finds that the newspapers contain mixed constructions; that is constructions of youths as out-of-control and dangerous, as well as deserving of rehabilitation and that newspaper articles that are primarily case-specific are more punitive, while legislatively focused articles are more likely to support rehabilitation. Since case-specific articles predominate, the primary message is punitive, though even in case-specific articles a balance or mix of punishment and rehabilitation is common. This finding helps explain the public's persistent support for rehabilitation and raises questions about the Harper Government's contention that a more punitive youth justice policy is needed to bolster public confidence in the justice system.

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