snitching = when police or prosecutors offer a deal to criminal suspects in exchange for information or cooperation
Criminal informants are an influential part of the American criminal process. Every year, the government makes thousands of deals with criminal offenders in exchange for information. That information affects every aspect of the system, from investigations to arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing. These deals also result in leniency or even freedom for thousands of informant-offenders. Yet these important decisions are largely informal, unregulated, and secretive.
This website provides educational information about all aspects of criminal informant use, law, and policy. It is for litigators, legislators, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, and the general public. It does a number of things:
- Resources. SNITCHING.ORG provides resources for individuals, lawyers, law enforcement, legislators, and others who want information about the law and public policies associated with snitching. Under the "Litigation" and "Legislation" tabs, there are links to sample court filings, state and federal legislation, government documents, reports, and other educational information. SNITCHING.ORG does not provide legal advice.
- The big picture. SNITCHING BLOG continues to offer ongoing news analysis, legal commentary, cultural insights, and discussions of how snitching affects the criminal system and the lives of ordinary people. A more complete story can be found in my book, SNITCHING: CRIMINAL INFORMANTS AND THE EROSION OF AMERICAN JUSTICE (New York University Press, 2009) (you can read the Introduction for free through the link at the right), and the books, articles, films, and resources listed under the "Resources & Scholarship" tab.
- Education for families and youth. Have you or a family member been affected by criminal informant policies? Perhaps your child felt pressured into becoming an informant. Or maybe a relative was convicted of a crime based on the unreliable testimony of a criminal snitch. People from all walks of life have begun speaking out about these experiences — you can find their stories and other information under the "Families & Youth" tab.
Criminal informant policies have costs as well as benefits. On the one hand, informants can be powerful investigative tools against organized crime, gangs, corporate fraud, and corrupt political practices. But many informants get away with serious crimes while they are cooperating with the goverment, while numerous innocent people have been convicted based on unreliable information from informants. Sometimes vulnerable people are unfairly pressured into becoming informants, with devastating consequences for them and their families. Finally, in some high-crime neighborhoods criminal snitching can be so pervasive that it affects the safety of innocent residents. All too often, the public does not know the true extent of these costs.
In 2009, I started SNITCHING BLOG. Since then, I have heard from many parents, lawyers, government officials, reporters and advocates that the blog and its resources have been helpful to them. This site expands on the blog with the same goal: to promote better understanding of this important and problematic feature of our criminal justice process.
Professor Alexandra Natapoff
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles