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Copaganda Perpetuates the Myth That Freedom Puts the Public in Danger

Even as violent crime decreased in the U.S., media coverage of crime increased.

What do successful alternatives to policing, prosecution and prison actually look like? And how would they work? A group of Chicago’s leading public safety, health and justice innovators gathered at the DePaul Art Museum last summer to provide much-needed clarity on these crucial questions.

Artists, survivors of violence, entrepreneurs and business leaders, public defenders, policy experts, restorative justice practitioners and system-impacted people sat down for a series of conversations while exploring Remaking the Exceptional, a groundbreaking exhibition on torture and incarceration.

The conversations expose common myths about crime and punishment and explain a range of critical issues and innovations, including restorative justice, violence interruption, copaganda, pretrial detention and the criminalization of survivors, among others.

This short film — the fourth in a series named after the exhibition and produced by Zealous, Truthout and Teen Vogue — focuses on the concept of “copaganda,” or police-centered media coverage and propaganda. It explains how journalists and media outlets — sometimes inadvertently — help police and prosecutors amplify misleading narratives around crime and violence at the expense of community health and safety.

The film features Sharlyn Grace and Takenya Nixon, both from the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; entrepreneur and trauma specialist Johnny Page; and advocate and policy expert Briana Payton from the Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts.

Read more on copaganda from Teen Vogue and Truthout.

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