February 14, 2013

The Movie "SNITCH"

Next week, a new movie entitled "Snitch" opens in theaters. It's based on a true story described in a 1999 Frontline documentary of the same name, in which a father becomes an informant to work off his son's mandatory drug sentence. Here's a link to the trailer.

Participant Media has created a great public information site to accompany the movie, with stats and stories about the drug war, mandatory minimums, and informants. Check it out: www.TakePart.com/SNITCH. They've also made a hilarious mini-video about the crazy world of the war on drugs. Watch it here: SNITCH: Lock it Down America!

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May 14, 2012

Radio interview: Law & Disorder, WBAI-New York

Here's an interview I did with the syndicated radio show Law & Disorder, hosted by Heidi Baghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and New York attorney Michael Smith: Law & Disorder, April 23, 2012, (about 9 minutes in).

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May 11, 2011

MIT Professor Gary Marx reviews "Snitching"

Gary T. Marx is professor emeritus of sociology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is author of the seminal book Undercover: Police Surveillance in America (1989) and he has written extensively on the new forms of surveillance, social control across borders, and comparative law. His book review of "Snitching," forthcoming in Theoretical Criminology, is here. Here's the beginning of the review:

It is rare to encounter a book that nurtures the passion for justice while also remaining respectful of standards of scholarship. Law professor Alexandra Natapoff has done that in a splendidly informative and lively book. The topic of criminal informants (which need not be the same as informants reporting on criminals) has never been has so comprehensively, disturbingly and clearly analyzed -- not only should criminal justice practitioners and students be required to read it, they should be tested on it.

Among the most significant and least studied aspects of American criminal justice is how the government obtains evidence. Apart from what can be learned from direct observation, searches, forensics or accidents, authorities in a democracy are forever sentenced to making deals, rewards, threats, manipulation, covert surveillance, undercover operations and tips. Negotiation, compromise and voluntary compliance play a much larger role than in more authoritarian societies lacking our expansive notion of procedural rights. Coercion, deception and actions off the books are just beneath the veneer and support the table of our high civic ideals -- ironically partly because of them.

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February 16, 2011

"Secret Justice" article

Here's an article I wrote for Prison Legal News entitled "Secret Justice: Criminal Informants and America's Underground Legal System." The article is a brief overview of many of the themes I cover in the book--here's the first paragraph:

Although it is almost invisible to the public, the use of criminal informants is everywhere in the U.S. justice system. From street corners to jails to courthouses to prisons, every year the government negotiates thousands of deals with criminal offenders in which suspects can avoid arrest or punishment in exchange for information. These deals typically take place off-the-record, subject to few rules and little oversight. While criminal informants-sometimes referred to as "snitches"-can be important investigative tools, using them has some serious costs: informants often continue to commit crimes, while the information they provide is infamously unreliable. Taken together, these facts make snitching an important and problematic aspect of the way America does justice.

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May 01, 2010

Book wins ABA Gavel Award

I'm honored to announce that Snitching has received the 2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books. The Gavel Awards are given to outstanding communication media that are "exemplary in helping to foster the American public's understanding of the law and the legal system."

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March 04, 2010

Guest blogging at the Washington Post

I recently posted this entry on the Washington Post Political Bookworm blog. From the blog's introduction:

Criminal informants are a powerful weapon in law enforcement. Snitches typically provide incriminating information about someone in exchange for lighter treatment for themselves. But there is a dark side to the popular practice. In "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice," published by New York University Press, Alexandra Natapoff explores the hidden, unregulated tradeoffs that officials increasingly accept. Natapoff, a professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, isn't seeking a ban on plea bargaining but she wants to raise public awareness of the practice's disturbing results and encourage improvements.

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Zocalo video interview

Here's a link to a video interview I did with Zocalo. Zocalo is a wonderful cultural and civic organization that presents speakers, videos, conferences, and other forms of discussion around key public issues. From their website:

Zocalo takes on compelling ideas from a wide range of fields-politics, governance, health, economics, technology, foreign policy, arts, science and beyond. Believing that over-specialization and narrowcasting undermine the public square, Zocalo seeks to restore broad-mindedness to civic and intellectual life and to welcome a new, young and diverse generation to the conversation. Since 2003, Zocalo has roamed around Los Angeles, to Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and as far as Shanghai, Berlin and Guadalajara. We have featured over 800 thinkers and doers online and on the ground, using our live events to build community and feed the open, accessible, non-partisan spirit of our magazine.

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February 18, 2010

Appearing in Baltimore this weekend

I'll be giving an author talk at the Enoch Pratt Central Library in Baltimore this Sunday, Feb. 21, at 2:00 p.m.; I'll also be signing books at the Barnes & Noble at the Inner Habor on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 3:00-5:00 p.m.

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January 27, 2010

C-SPAN2 Book TV

Here is the clip of my book talk given at Georgetown Law School, Washington, DC, on November 16, 2009.

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The Page 99 Test

Snitching is featured this week over on the Page 99 Test . The blog is driven by the writer Ford Madox Ford's adage: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Page 99 of Snitching reads as follows:

Today's informant culture goes beyond the inquiry in any specific case about whether it might be dangerous to reveal the name of an informant or whether a particular investigation might be compromised by such revelations. Rather, the system is moving towards wholesale policies of keeping cases, dockets, and practices secret. Today, the potential threat to some witnesses is now seen by courts as a reason to overcome the presumption of openness for all criminal records.

In these ways, the practice of using informants undermines public transparency throughout the criminal system. By resolving liability in secret, it insulates investigative and prosecutorial techniques from judicial and legislative scrutiny. This reduced public access affects numerous other constituencies as well, making it more difficult for the press, crime victims, families, and policy analysts to obtain information about the workings of the justice system or about specific criminal cases. Informant use has thus become a powerful and destructive informational policy in its own right, reducing public transparency and obscuring the real impact of criminal practices on individuals, communities, and other institutions.

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The Page 99 Test

Snitching is featured this week over on the Page 99 Test . The blog is driven by the writer Ford Madox Ford's adage: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Page 99 of Snitching reads as follows:

Today's informant culture goes beyond the inquiry in any specific case about whether it might be dangerous to reveal the name of an informant or whether a particular investigation might be compromised by such revelations. Rather, the system is moving towards wholesale policies of keeping cases, dockets, and practices secret. Today, the potential threat to some witnesses is now seen by courts as a reason to overcome the presumption of openness for all criminal records.

In these ways, the practice of using informants undermines public transparency throughout the criminal system. By resolving liability in secret, it insulates investigative and prosecutorial techniques from judicial and legislative scrutiny. This reduced public access affects numerous other constituencies as well, making it more difficult for the press, crime victims, families, and policy analysts to obtain information about the workings of the justice system or about specific criminal cases. Informant use has thus become a powerful and destructive informational policy in its own right, reducing public transparency and obscuring the real impact of criminal practices on individuals, communities, and other institutions.

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January 19, 2010

On the air in the Bay Area

On Thursday, January 21, I'll be on the KPFA Morning Show at 8:00 a.m. (you can listen here) and Forum on KQED at 10:00 a.m. (here). On Friday, I'm speaking at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at Boalt Hall.

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December 17, 2009

More radio interviews

November 30, 2009

On the air: Leonard Lopate & Joey Reynolds

While in New York I'll be talking about the book on the Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC Radio, on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at noon (eastern). You can listen to the live broadcast here. I'll also be on the Joey Reynolds Show, WOR Radio, which will air Thursday, Dec. 3, around 1:00 a.m. here.

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November 23, 2009

Book is out & media appearances

My apologies for the break in posting--now that the book is out I've been spending quite a bit of time speaking and on the radio. Last week I gave author talks at Georgetown Law School and Howard Law School in Washington, D.C. Next week I'll be presenting the book at an event jointly sponsored by the Innocence Project and Cardozo Law School in New York. I've done several dozen radio interviews: here are links to a few of them (past and upcoming): Nov. 4, 1:00 a.m., After Midnight with Rick Barber ; Nov. 16, Up Front with Tony Cox; Nov. 24, 8:30 a.m. Weekly Signals; Nov. 30, Issues Today with Bob Gourley.

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Snitching by Alexandra Natapoff A Barnes & Noble Best Pick of 2009

2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books
2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award
Honorable Mention for Books

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