Abstract: (Withdrawn) Multiple Streams Framework and Criminal Justice Reform: A Qualitative Analysis of Local News Coverage (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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23P (Withdrawn) Multiple Streams Framework and Criminal Justice Reform: A Qualitative Analysis of Local News Coverage

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Erwin, JD, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL
Allison Carter, MSW, MSW Student, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL
Boluwatife Ojewande, MSW Student, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL
Background and Purpose: In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, some cities and states successfully passed criminal justice reform, while other efforts faltered. Prior research has demonstrated that through agenda setting, media coverage influences public opinion of criminal justice policy, and the multiple streams framework has been used to explain why some policy efforts gain traction while others do not. The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze local media coverage of criminal justice reform in a metropolitan area situated on the border of two states. A content analysis of news stories from June 2020 through December 2021 was conducted to examine reform efforts to better understand the influence of problem formulation, policy proposals, and local- and state-level politics on whether reform efforts were successful.

Methods: The research team conducted a content analysis of local news media coverage of criminal justice reform between June 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Purposive sampling was used to gather news stories by searching for the phrase “criminal justice reform” on the websites of five main television stations and two widely distributed regional newspapers. Stories were then reviewed to determine if they met inclusion / exclusion criteria and 102 stories were included in the analysis. An iterative, inductive approach to coding was used to identify codes and key themes in the sample of articles.

Findings: The content analysis revealed 14 codes in total, including stories of police brutality, provisions of reform, alternative approaches to policing, and the role of police. The codes clustered together in three main themes – specific types or areas of reform, advocacy efforts for reform, and the politics of reform.

Conclusions and Implications: These three themes align with the three streams identified by the multiple streams framework, and this framework helps explain why reform efforts gained more traction in one of the two states in the metropolitan area. One of the states passed a relatively comprehensive reform bill during the Fall of 2020 that included standardization of police use of force and bans on both chokeholds and cash bail. The other state saw several proposed policies with similar objectives, but many of the bills failed to become law. Our data indicate that this discrepancy between states is related to local- and state-level politics and how the problem is framed by both the media and political leaders. Findings from this study can help guide future advocacy efforts in the area, as they help illustrate the role politics and problem framing play in successful efforts to reform policy. Our professional Code of Ethics direct social workers to “advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice” (National Association of Social Workers, Standard 6.04, 2022). Therefore, it is imperative that social workers understand the different factors that influence policymaking so that they can have more targeted and successful advocacy efforts.