In the world today, the media plays a critical role in relaying of information to the public. Besides this, the media serves as a source of entertainment and information, helping to relay both important and other information to the public. The implication of this is that a lot of information that people have has been acquired mainly through their favourite source of media. Some of the most favourite media channels for entertainment include novels, movies and the television. Since these serve the double function of information and entertainment, there is a tendency that whatever is relayed through the media is taken to be true or a clear resemblance of the reality. In this way, people have ended up forming negative perceptions or wrong images of correctional practices and penitentiary institutions (Gondles, 2004).
Entertainment is usually characterised by lots of fictional stories and exaggerated stories. This is done in a bid to entertain and draw audience. This leads to a case where whenever people do not have sufficient information about whatever is being portrayed, they tend to base their ideas about it based on what they have seen in the media. For many years, correctional facilities have continued to draw a lot of interest in movies and other entertainment circles. This is due to the common trend where there is a lot of crime involved in these entertainment circles. Unfortunately, the picture portrayed in these forms of media is not always correct and sometimes, it is falsely misleading.
The media has many times served to create awareness on the correctional efforts that is done in the correctional facilities. Sometimes, there is deliberate effort to inform the public on what goes on in correctional facilities, and how they are positively working to build and develop responsible behaviour. The documentary 'High Tech Prisons' aired by the National Geographic Channel is a good indicator of how media can be used to promote public support for correctional services in the United States. It depicts the correctional staff as a team that is working to restore sanity and good morals among the errant members of the society, through guidance, counselling and general rehabilitation. It shows the importance attached to correctional practices through the use of the right facilities and practices. This helps to promote positive image of the correctional facilities to the public.
In other cases, the media portrays some extremely different picture of correctional facilities. Unfortunately, this is the most common case especially in movies and novels. This has sometimes led to a very negative perception of correction practices, since people tend to believe what they see. A popular television series ran by Fox Channel titled Prison Break (2006) is a typical example of such. Although it was purely fictional, we cannot ignore the fact that it helps people form a perception of how correctional facilities are. The movies portrays the correctional staff as corrupt individuals, who have little or no regard for those under correction. It shows the penitentiary institutions as the epitome of disorder and lawlessness, which is not the case in both the United States and Canada. There dozens of such practices that are portrayed in the media, making the public to have a negative attitude towards the correctional staff. The penitentiary institutions are portrayed as the centres for murder, drugs, rape, sodomy and other evil, all done under the watchful eye of the correction staff.
When this false perception is created, most of the people lack a true perception of these institutions and whatever idea they have is biased due to this misinformation. A negative attitude is created towards the correctional staff, and the institutions appear as so destroyed beyond redeem. They tend to assume that nothing can be done to change this. They view penitentiary institutions as the places where hard core criminals are made out of petty offenders. This is far from reality.
The public tends to think that any attempt to better these institutions is a sheer waste of the taxpayers money, since the systems there are beyond redemption. Additionally, the inmates are seen as evil people who must suffer for the crimes committed. This is due to the fact that the public view these institutions as serving to punish and not to correct. As a result, the correctional facilities and systems do not receive much support from the public as other causes like rehabilitation of drug addicts do. This may have an effect even in funding of their operations, as this is always the attitude even from the lawmakers. In other cases, the correctional staff are seen as the ones who are in the wrong and therefore are the ones perpetuating this negative behaviour. Cooperation with the public is therefore lost and any correctional measure is taken as punitive. In some cases, the members of the public have even aided those under correctional measures to unlawfully avoid custody.