Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Elena Mateus Humanities and Social Science

Perception of Prison with Experience: Volunteering for San Quentin News

If you turn on the television, chances are high that the news will be painted with violent criminals, Cops will be on all night, and Law and Order will be playing steady reruns. There is a plethora of scholarship investigating the ways media sensationalizes crime and portrays prison in a violent light; however, there exists a gap in research into understanding the ways in which people digest and make of use these images. People, whether they are affected by the criminal justice system or not, view fictitious media depictions that, in turn, inform their opinions about prison and criminality in reality. By interviewing people who volunteer at San Quentin News within San Quentin State Prison, my research attempts to answer the following question: in what ways do volunteers use their first-hand experience to understand media depictions of prison and criminality? My research is focused on San Quentin News volunteers’ meaning-making process on this subject in order to understand the ways that direct exposure can mediate reception of stereotype-laden media representations.

Message To Sponsor

To The Banatao Fund: Thank you for providing me with the most enriching experience of my academic life. This experience helped me grow as a scholar by challenging me to situate my findings among research that has already been published. I have been challenged as a person in more ways than one-- whether it be interviewing for long hours or trying to make sense of dozens of interview transcriptions. This experience helped me become confident that research into prison in the media in necessary. I have gained so much confidence in myself through this process, especially after presenting my work at the conference. I learned how to work with the real world in front of me while attempting to see the general picture within the specific picture. I am confident in my next steps and I would not have this confidence and sense of validation were it not for your generosity. I am not only excited to continue my research, by broadening my scope to include volunteers in other programs within San Quentin State Prison, but I am also excited to pay it forward in the future and donate to SURF. Thank you for the most meaningful summer experience I could have hoped for.
Profile image of Elena Mateus
Major: Media Studies
Mentor: William Drummond
Sponsor: Banatao Fund
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