Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


May, David C.

Committee Member

Haynes, Stacy H.

Committee Member

Barranco, Raymond

Committee Member

Johnson, Kecia

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


The overarching goal of the current work was to explore sanctions experienced by sex offenders prior to incarceration, during incarceration, and after their release using three separate but interrelated studies. The first study analyzed how the media framed sex offenders, and how this compared to the media’s portrayal of murderers. The study used a content analysis of newspaper articles published in 2007, the year after the Adam Walsh Safety and Protection Act was passed, and 2017. Open coding (the identification of categories and concepts) and axial coding (the process of relating categories and concepts) strategies were used. Findings showed that the media relied on specific categories to describe offenders, victims, and offenses, with an emphasis on sensationalized stories. The second study was an exploratory effort to understand how sex offenders were treated in prison, whether they were subject to greater maltreatment and/or distrust than other inmates, and if certain segments of the inmate population were more accepting of sex offenders than others. The study used labeling theory to guide these efforts, with an emphasis on stigma and stigmatic shaming. The data were from 5 years of letters written by a convicted sex offender during his incarceration. A content analysis using open coding and axial coding were used. Findings suggested that public perceptions of prison life as dangerous and violent were not consistent with the offender’s lived experience. The last study examined which areas offenders were most likely to reside and characteristics of these communities. The study drew from social disorganization theory and focused on the concept of concentrated disadvantage. The study used ArcGIS, a mapping software program, to demonstrate the areas in which sex offenders reside and the locations in which they were in violation of current housing restrictions. The study found that a proportion of sex offenders in Mississippi were in violation of housing restrictions that prevented them from living close to areas where children were most likely to be present (e.g., parks and schools).