CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Snitching: The Institutional and Communal Consequences

Although the dangers and risks of the widespread use of snitches in our criminal justice system have been explored to some extent, Alexandra Natapoff takes the issue to the next level by examining the deeper problems snitch-use has caused in our inner-city communities. In the abstract to her article to be published in the University of Cincinnati Law Review, Alexandra writes:

"The informant institution is . . . an under-appreciated social force in low-income, high-crime, urban communities in which a high percentage of residents - as many as fifty percent of African American males in some cities - are in contact with the criminal justice system and therefore potentially under pressure to snitch. By relying heavily on snitching, particularly in drug-related cases, law enforcement officials create large numbers of informants who remain at large in the community, engaging in criminal activities while under pressure to provide information about others. These snitches are a communal liability: they increase crime and threaten social organization, interpersonal relationships, and socio-legal norms in their home communities, even as they are tolerated or under-punished by law enforcement because they are useful.

The Article . . . hypothesizes the harms imposed by the informant institution on socially disadvantaged, high-crime communities in which snitching is common. These harms may include increased crime, the erosion of trust in interpersonal, familial and community relationships and other psychological damage created by pervasive informing, the communal loss of faith in the state, and the undermining of law-abiding norms flowing from law enforcement's rewarding of and complicity in snitch wrongdoing."

For more, click here

Mark Godsey

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2004/11/snitching_the_i.html

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