Date of Award

Fall 2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Kathanne Greene

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Troy Gibson

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Iliyan Iliev

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies


Rhetoric is arguably of more importance than the message that is being overtly conveyed. Therefore, it is of great importance to understand how rhetoric can be utilized to convey one message while simultaneously transmitting another distinct message (Walter 2017). In this study, discourse analysis was conducted by examining the rhetoric associated with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (VCCLE), through the use of legislative speeches and newspaper articles, to determine how language has effectively resulted in the relegation of felony offenders within a class-based society. Utilizing two theories, class structure theory and distributive justice theory, an understanding was gained as to how the rhetoric utilized for the enactment of the VCCLE has affected the lives of felony offenders overall.

The main question posed for this research is how did the use of certain language to enact the VCCLE effect felony offenders post release, broadly? The conclusions of this research suggest that the use of language embedded with messages of division and preference helped to facilitate separations in society based on class, as well as facilitated ways to order individuals regarding benefits and resources. It was ultimately concluded, based on the following analysis, that felony offenders were portrayed as being inferior to other citizens and considered less worthy as a result. Thus, the rhetoric utilized before the enactment of this legislation demonstrated how the characteristics of a newly formed caste system was created, and subsequently led to the overall relegation of felony offenders regarding society.