Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science

Degree Program

Political Science, MA

Committee Chair

Merry, Melissa

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Enders, Adam

Committee Member

Enders, Adam

Committee Member

Grossi, Elizabeth

Author's Keywords

social construction of target populations; content analysis; media framing


Private prisons have existed in the United States since 1986, but research about prison privatization has been limited. To date, there have been two published studies examining how mainstream media sources frame prison privatization to their audiences. This thesis attempts to address this gap in the literature. Using content analysis, I evaluate how mainstream media frames prison privatization and inmates housed in private prisons. The analysis is conducted in two parts. The first tests if private prison reduction or expansion is the focus of the news story if framed using economic benefits, ethical concerns, or prisoner violence. The second tests if prisoners are portrayed as deserving or undeserving if private prisons are framed using economic benefits, ethical concerns, or prison wrongdoing. The results suggest that how private prisons and inmates are framed matters when considering how privatization and inmates are portrayed by media sources.