Criminal informants are a large and 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 can lead to important law enforcement victories. They may also result in leniency or even freedom for thousands of informant-offenders, some of them serious criminals in their own right. Yet these influential decisions are largely informal, unregulated, and secretive.
This website provides educational information about all aspects of criminal informant use, law, and policy. It does a number of things:
Resources. SNITCHING.ORG provides resources for lawyers, journalists, law enforcement, legislators, and members of the public who want information about the law and 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, and cultural insights into 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 through the link at the right. There also additional 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.
Like all complex public policies, 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 government, 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 how these policies work, or the full extent of these risks.
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