- Hardcover: 276 pages
- Publisher: NYU Press (November 16, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0814758509
- ISBN-13: 978-0814758502
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice
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“This is a useful book that can be read with profit by practitioners, scholars, and the general public.”-Choice
“It’s truly an eye-opening book and a fascinating look at how much police work depends on a system no one wants to talk about, as ironic as that may be. I can’t imagine anyone devoted to police procedurals wouldn’t find it engrossing.”
-Barnes and Noble
“Alexandra Natapoff has written analytically and creatively about informants and their handlers.”
“Natapoff has written a compelling and searing book about snitching. It not only comprehensively describes the problem, but offers sharp, clear, and unambiguous solutions. If we really want to address the legal and moral implications of snitching, every judge, defense lawyer, prosecutor, and police officer should read this book.”
-Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.,Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
“Superb. . . . A searing indictment of how the secretive dynamics of informing have helped corrupt inner city life in America, and a deep scholarly analysis of how our legal rules contribute to this problem and can be reformed to mitigate it. This brilliantly original book is . . . wise and ruthlessly honest in its understanding of the street level practices of informant-reliance.”
-Robert Weisberg,Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, founder and director of the Stanford Center for Criminal Justice
“Natapoff does a good job of explaining the law that governs the use of informants, and of describing how the all-too-rare regulatory schemes, such as FBI guidelines, work. One would expect this much from any law professor; Natapoff, however, goes much further. One of the truly impressive contributions of the book comes in her explanation of the effects of widespread use of informants for the criminal justice system, our social structures, and our democracy... If it simply described [the] dramatic downsides in order to properly tally both benefits and risks of informant use, Snitching would be a very successful book. But to her credit, Natapoff does more than just catalogue these problems. She gives us a comprehensive picture of what we must do to make the use of informants acceptable within our criminal justice system... Alexandra Natapoff had produced a useful, timely, and important book. Snitching should find a place in every law school course looking at legal issues in the criminal justice arena, and on the syllabi of every university course in criminal justice that aims to give students a realistic and nuanced view of how the system really works. Natapoff’s observations, as fair as they are, may not sit well with those committed to getting the bad guys at any cost. But that is the book’s real gift: showing us what that cost is, and suggesting ways of constructing a system of criminal justice that accurately mirrors the values to which we aspire.”-Criminal Justice
“As [Natapoff] reveals in this scrupulously researched and forcefully argued new book, our system of rewarding criminal snitches for information is a ‘game without rules,’ played almost entirely in the shadows and off the books. . . . Snitching is a highly readable, provocative argument for reforming a system that allows our machines of criminal prosecution to commit near-criminal acts of compromise.”
“If there is one form of communication that criminals universally condemn, it is snitching. Yet the use of criminal informants is everywhere in the American legal system, says Alexandra Natapoff.”
-The Chronicle Review
“[T]hought-provoking. Natapoff…offers the most up-to-date and trenchant analysis of ‘snitching’ in the criminal justice system [and]…insightful proposals for reform…. Th[is] impressive text make[s] important substantive and theoretical contributions to the scholarship on race, class, crime, and the legal system.”-Du Bois Review
About the Author
Alexandra Natapoff is an award-winning criminal legal scholar. She is Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, an elected member of the American Law Institute, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her publications include Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press, 2009).
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The problem, IMO, is that most Americans have been so conditioned to fear "drugs" and "the other" that they have entrusted their safety to the criminal justice system. This has allowed police and prosecutors to target people they think most Americans want them to target. It has been the rule of men rather than the rule of law, not something Americans should be proud of.
In her "Conclusion" She summarizes the problem and proposes reasonable -- and politically practical -- steps to fix it. It is a book that can serve as a reference point for legislators.
What needs to be better understood is that there is vast difference between someone actually being unequivocally guilty of a crime, and there being enough "evidence" - often in the form of testimony and circumstantial evidence - to convict them. During the 1960's and 1970's I was a Special Deputy under four Sheriffs, and have published a number of investigative books. The cases I ran into where I felt that injustice had been done were depressingly common. The cases passed legal muster in the courts, but the outcomes were tragically wrong.
Police informants, often criminals themselves or defendants trying to bargain their way out of a very bad situation, account for a fantastic number of criminal cases leading to conviction - in some jurisdictions nearly 50%, especially where narcotics are involved. Law enforcement justifies this situation by claiming that they don't have the resources to actually develop good physical evidence or reliable surveillance, and without dubious informants many guilty defendants would go free. In other words, convicting the innocent is part of the cost of reigning in the bad guys, a kind of "kill them all and let God sort them out" rationale. This kind of thinking has ramifications far beyond the criminal justice system.
I don't mean to imply that most criminal defendants are innocent -- most are clearly guilty -- but the number of wrongful convictions is disturbingly high. If you're impressed by the number of capital defendants cleared by the Innocence Project -- now over 250 -- think how many people are wrongfully convicted of lesser crimes that don't draw nearly the attention of a murder trial and where convictions are expected and routine.
I think this book is a genuine and very necessary contribution to understanding this problem.