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Becoming an Informant

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 28 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2011 Pages: 203-220
J. Mitchell Miller
Date Published
April 2011
18 pages
This study investigated the process by which individuals become confidential informants.
Though widely acknowledged as vital to law enforcement, social scientists have largely ignored the practice of confidential informing. The extant literature on the topic is primarily comprised of experientially based practical guides to informant management and a handful of field studies drawing information from informants in the study of other undercover practices. This study features data obtained from in-depth interviews with 84 former informants drawn from 5 Southern States identified through a purposive-snowball sampling strategy. Informant accounts suggest that the practice of confidential informing is an institutionalized component of a general narcotics enforcement pattern characterized by duplicity and social control irony. Confidential informant work is observed as a moral career entailing deviant identity maintenance through neutralizations and insider perspective. Narratives confirmed a motivational typology accounting for role assumption and informant-agent dynamics and orient discussion around practice and research implications. (Published Abstract)