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December 2007
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Drug Policy Conference – Saturday Noon

Drug Policy Conference – Saturday noon
Workshop: To Snitch or Not to Snitch? Diverse Viewpoints on the Role of Informants in American Drug Law Enforcement

(l-r)
Matthew Fogg, LEAP (not part of the panel) (Bigots with Badges website)
Troy Buckner-Nkrumah, National Hip Hop Political Convention
Ethan Brown, Author of Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice
Marc Lamont Hill, Temple University
Moderator Davey D. Berkeley
Marc Hill
– An anthropologist who is on the streets every day, balancing stopping deaths on the street, yet also analyzing it.
– “Stop Snitching” is too often viewed as a two-dimensional sign of a morally bankrupt hip-hop movement.
– As people of color, the relationship to the state is complicated, and the notion that contacting the police means that the right person will be sought, caught, and jailed just isn’t reality.
– There is a distinction between snitching and witnessing. Stop snitching doesn’t mean that people stand by while grandma is hit over the head and her loaf of bread is stolen.
– There is a conflict in different anti-snitching positions.
Troy Buckner-Nkrumah
– Corporate media is helping to define the Stop Snitching movement, and is keeping it skewed to the morally bankrupt approach
– Historical effects related to views of snitching in the African American community — think back to the house negro and the field negro pitted against each other on the plantation (with the house negro snitching on the field negro).
– Stop Snitching is not about ignoring problems — it’s about not depending on the police to solve the problem. “It makes no sense for us to call upon them to protect us.”
Ethan Brown
– Traces the stop snitching movement to the sentencing guidelines in the 80’s, which established extraordinarily harsh prison sentences for small amounts. Section 5k1.1 of the law provides that the only way to get a downward reduction in sentencing is to cooperate with the government against someone else. This has established a cottage industry in snitching, which leads to a blowback against this kind of government intrusion.
– The media has interpreted the Stop Snitching as being about an existing code of silence. The Stop Snitching movement is coming about because everyone is snitching.
– Rule 404b Evidence related to uncharged acts can be introduced into the courtroom. Power has been shifted to the prosecutor into a he-said, she-said enforcement.
– All these laws were passed without a second of thought, reflection, or study.
– Since the guidelines were passed, efforts have been made to change these unfair guidelines, yet nothing changes. In the 2006 sentencing hearing, the Justice Department essential said that they don’t care if the sentences are unfair. They need them to be harsh in order to get cooperation.
Troy
– I’m more of a conspiracy theorist. I think they did think about those laws and saw it as a though-out plan to go after unrest in the country.
Matthew (LEAP) (a former U.S. Marshall who worked with the DEA)
– He brought up, to colleagues, the fact that there was a disparate emphasis on locking up black people for drugs. And they said: ‘We’re making money. Why are you bringing this up? If we start locking these [white] people up, there will be a phone call and they’ll shut us down. And there goes the overtime.’
Ethan
– Often the most dangerous people out there are the cooperators. They get out for cooperating and go on killing people. Prosectors and police are only looking at numbers, not at dangers.
…There was then some discussion regarding Madisonville, Texas with an organizer from that area. A beautiful black woman snitch named Dawn was used to seduce black men and then frame them for drug sales. Since there was no evidence, the feds needed more, so they went into the town and threatened people to cooperate against these defendants. ‘Give up some information or we might come after you.’ Then someone in government leaked transcripts of these informant testimony and now the whole town is now at war against each other.
– The whole informant process is a government action to destabilize the community.
Regina Kelly talked about her situation getting arrested for drugs from an informant who lied about everyone. The informant – a drug-using mentally challenged man who was told to get a specific 15 people and that anyone extra that he identified would be extra money for him.
Regina was identified as someone named Jennifer (she’s never been called Jennifer), and arrested. She spent three weeks in jail and took two years to get her record expunged. She is a single mother of four.
Marc Hill
– The Bill Cosby nonsense about ‘sentencing guidelines aren’t an issue if you don’t do drugs’ ignores the fact that: If you have a ghetto snitch industry, then even if people don’t do something wrong, they can still end up in jail or having their lives ruined.
Ethan
– A disturbing development is, related to the terrorism war, the notion of pre-emptive indictments, which say that we will indict based on intentions, not actions. Informants have been given huge incentives to find people this way.
Audience comment: – The primary reason for having snitches is to keep freedom in check. We know damn well why this is happening. This is a racial justice problem.

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