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Snitch System: How Informants Affect Prison Security

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 51 Issue: 4 Dated: (July 1989) Pages: 26-28,72
P Johnson
Date Published
4 pages
This article focuses on three common situations involving prison informants: the snitch system, innocent witnesses or victims, and co-conspirators.
Reasons for understanding the ethics and realities of information gathering in prison are discussed: the prison culture taboo against informing, the value prison society places on deception and lying to officials, and protecting informants against death threats. The author cautions that a formal snitch system, using inmates as spies in return for special privileges, causes more problems than it solves. The 1980 riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico is cited as an example of the evils of this system. The article comments that information must be sought from inmates when investigating crimes, rule violations, or threats to security, but that protection must be provided to witnesses. A discussion of inmates as innocent witnesses versus co-conspirators recommends a high degree of skepticism and reliance on conclusive evidence.


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