Media’s Influence on the Criminal – Justice System

Television shows play a significant role in influencing peoples’ perceptions regarding the criminal-justice system. An evaluation of criminal-justice-themed shows such as CSI, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, and Prison Break demonstrate the justice system’s image that television shows have created. Although much of the content presented through these shows are fictional, a considerably large number of individuals measure the justice system’s performance in comparison to the highly effective crime-prevention methods used in television shows. In this regard, viewers set high expectations regarding the criminal-justice system. A large percentage of individuals who expect the justice system to operate in the manner depicted in television shows have not had any real-life experiences related to the justice system. Viewers obtain much of the information regarding the justice system from the media. Although some of the shows contain some form of reality concerning various loopholes in the criminal justice system, most of them portray unrealizable crime-prevention methods. In addition, these shows present viewers with the wrong perception regarding crime trends.

The influx of television shows that focus on matters relating to crime and the criminal justice system has had considerable effects with respect to viewers’ perceptions regarding the functioning of the criminal justice system. Criminal-justice-themed programs constitute some of the most-watched programs. In this regard, a large number of individuals obtain information regarding the criminal-justice system from fictional television shows (Byers & Johnson, 2009). These shows influence individuals’ expectations concerning the justice system since most people lack first-hand experience with the criminal-justice system. The programs affect perceptions regarding the investigation and prosecution of crime.

The television show, CSI, depicts forensic evidence as a crucial aspect in any criminal investigation. However, there are misrepresentations concerning the frequency with which prosecutors use forensic evidence. Although CSI portrays forensic analysis as a procedure that is easy to conduct, studies show that the process involves high costs, which limit its frequency of use. Furthermore, forensic analysis is a lengthy process, which requires a lot of time. Obtaining a DNA match may take several days. However, CSI depicts a process that provides results within a very short time. CSI exaggerates the benefits associated with forensic evidence. Most of the capabilities that CSI associates with forensic analysis are impossible to achieve in real-life situations. The show depicts a method with minimal chances of error. However, in real life, most of the forensic methods exhibit some form of inconsistency concerning crime investigation.

The show, Criminal Minds, highlights crime prevention approaches that evaluate behaviors and thoughts of criminals and use the results to tackle various criminal cases. This show depicts an efficient crime prevention approach, which enables FBIs to analyze criminals in terms of their behavioral and psychological aspects, and prevents future crimes. In this regard, it is possible to prevent crimes before they occur. Although psychological and behavioral analyses play a crucial role in criminal investigation, the Criminal Minds show creates fictional expectations by portraying that these analyses can help to prevent crimes. In this regard, the show creates unrealistic expectations concerning the criminal justice system.

The television show, Prison Break, portrays a flawed justice system in which powerful members of society can engage in criminal acts and escape punishment. This show depicts the criminal-justice system as a tool that the rich use to oppress the poor. Such a show strengthens conviction among people with the notion that justice is subject to the social status of an individual.

The show, The Mentalist, depicts a justice system that disregards the laid down procedures and allows an individual with personal interests in a particular case to become part of a team of investigators. The team largely bases its investigations on directions from a psychic. In real-life situations, investigators ensure that they depend on unbiased information. Using psychics and employing other forms of spiritual intervention to tackle crimes does not portray professionalism in the justice system.

Criminal-justice-themed shows project an unrealistic image of the criminal-justice system in various ways. In most shows, murder is the most rampant criminal act. This contradicts crime statistics that indicate crimes relating to property as the most rampant. Shows such as Criminal Minds depict serial killers as the main players in homicide cases. However, various surveys illustrate that serial killers account for an average of 1percent of all homicide cases (Surette, 1992). While statistics indicated young African-Americans as the majority of perpetrators of crime, television shows portray a different image.

The perception that criminal-justice-themed shows created among viewers has negative effects on the functioning of the criminal-justice system. Measuring the performance of the criminal-justice system based on fictional concepts has put considerable pressure on the justice system. However, shows such as Prison Break depict some form of reality regarding the functioning of certain justice systems. Although most shows portray exaggerated crime-prevention approaches, the theme concerning effective justice systems cannot be ignored (Katherine, 2011). Improving crime prevention strategies can help create a safe society. Enhanced investigation techniques will minimize cases of unsolved crimes and discourage criminal acts. However, the trend regarding crime commission as depicted in various television shows conflicts with most crime reports.


Byers, M., & Johnson, V. M. (2009). The CSI effect: television, crime, and governance. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Katherine, E. S. (2011). Primetime Crime and Its Influence on Public Perception. University of Rhode Island. Web.

Surette, R. (1992). Media, crime, and criminal-justice: images and realities. Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.

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Premium Papers. 2023. "Media’s Influence on the Criminal - Justice System." October 30, 2023.

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Premium Papers. "Media’s Influence on the Criminal - Justice System." October 30, 2023.