Snitches Get Stitches with Alexandra Natapoff (S3 Ep.38)


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My guest today is Professor Alexandra Natapoff. Alexandra is a law professor at Harvard University. She writes about criminal courts, public defense, plea bargaining, wrongful convictions, and race and inequality in the criminal justice system. Her new book, which is an expanded edition of her older book is called "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice"

In this episode, Alexandra and I discuss a phenomenon that's rarely encountered outside of shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, which is the use of criminal informants in the American justice system. Not all countries allow cops and prosecutors to reduce an accused criminal sentence in exchange for his cooperation and other investigations. However, Alexandra argues that most local and state agencies in America are allowed to do this with no documentation and no transparency. We talk about the advantages as well as the flaws of this system. We discuss the risk of informants giving false information or even planting evidence to reduce their own sentences. We talk about the triangular relationship between cops, informants, and prosecutors. We talk about the secretive nature of the informant system and how that prevents academics from studying it. I also press Alexandra on whether her proposal for transparency in the informant system would hinder the cops' ability to solve violent crimes and protect unsafe neighborhoods.

52 episodes