snitch
Press Reaction

Boston Globe Jim Sullivan

" ... 'Snitch'... is a distressing and depressing 90-minute program about the nation's so-called war on drugs. It's about the pressure to convict--the guilty and the highly criminal at best, the innocent or the lowly criminal, if that's the way it shakes down. It's about the mandatory sentencing laws hastily enacted during the crack cocaine wave of the late 1980s. It's about the overwhelming power that someone's--anyone's--word, truthful or not, has if the government has placed a target on your chest. It's about how the screws are turned on drug users or low-level dealers, and how their families are drawn into the case and destroyed. It's about the collateral damage --the inevitable innocent causalities. It is, of course, about race.

In a better world, the entire nation should watch 'Snitch'...and tomorrow those viewers could raise such a clamor that Congress would have to take notice."

The Miami Herald Terry Jackson

"Through its style of advocacy journalism, 'Frontline' makes the argument that the federal judicial system has been corrupted by the widespread practice of forcing people facing prosecution to inform on others.

One segment of the show details the case of a Broward teenager who was caught in a drug sting instigated by a friend who was facing federal prosecution. After the teen was busted, federal agents enlisted his father to try to set up business associates in other drug stings. If he delivered, his son would be spared a lengthy prison term. He didn't, so the son was sentenced to a mandatory 10 years--for his first offense.

'Frontline's' premise is that in its zeal to prosecute drug dealers, the government is trampling the rights and lives of first-time offenders.

It's a story that may not strike a sympathetic chord with viewers, given that police are attributing a get-tough stance on drugs to the recent sharp decline in crime nation wide.

It will spark spirited conversation, which is what 'Frontline' does best.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Bill Steigerwald

" ... 'Snitch' shows in powerful detail the damage done to real people and society in general by a judicial system that rewards snitching and lying. Along the way it also provides a frightening indictment of the totalitarian lengths to which politicians, government prosecutors and drug police are willing to go in their all-out effort to win the war against illegal drugs.

As one defense lawyer at the end of the 90-minute program sums up the argument, 'We're trading our paranoia to get rid of these drugs for our Constitutional rights, and we're making a terrible mistake in doing that.'"

Chicago Tribune Steve Johnson

"... [Producer] Bikel's compelling argument is that the mixture of almost unchecked prosecutorial authority and an unskeptical reliance on stories told by the inherently unreliable is corrupting the judicial system. The argument is carefully developed through the revisiting of several shocking cases, in which prosecutors go after small fish--drug dealers' mothers, cousins, even lawyers--either to prosecute them into testifying or because the big fish snitched first. One promising young Alabama man gets three consecutive life sentences for arranging a meeting between supplier and dealer, while the more culpable parties in the deal, who all decided to point to him, served minimal or no sentences.

In this chilling context, the defenders of mandatory minimum sentences, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), sound like they are merely offering simplistic platitudes about protecting kids. What Bikel does not address directly are the racial undertones to it all, although her examples are deeply disquieting, especially the one of a poor black Alabama town where prosecutors went after 70 people on conspiracy charges when a busted local dealer started pointing the finger. An invaluable followup to these 90 unsettling minutes would be a detailed look at race and drug prosecutions."

Daily News, New York Juan Gonzalez

" ... A stunning expose of our country's war on drugs. Producer Ofra Bikel has uncovered one outrageous case after another of individuals--even a whole town--victimized by federal mandatory-sentencing and conspiracy laws. ..."

The New York Times Walter Goodman

" ... The cases of apparent injustice are affecting and not implausible, but like any account that draws largely on defendants and their lawyers, you may be left less than certain that you are getting a straight story. At the least 'Snitch' adds another count to critics' indictment of a costly policy that has jammed prisons with nonviolent and, as life on the street goes, relatively inoffensive offenders."

St. Louis Post Dispatch Gail Pennington

"Producer Ofra Bikel, an award-winning filmmaker whose previous works include 'Innocence Lost,' the unforgettable three-part Frontline look at the Little Rascals daycare sex-abuse case, is an old-fashioned muckracker. Perceiving injustice, she builds a case against it relentlessly. Her point of view is clear, and although she gives time to the other side, her evidence is persuasive.

'Snitch' makes a strong case for changes in drug enforcement methods in America."

The Kansas City Star Aaron Barnhart

"Has the war on drugs made the American criminal justice system less just? That's the suggestion of...'Snitch,' which argues that a fundamental shift in anti-drug laws has bred a culture of snitching that is sending the wrong people to prison. Seeking to avoid harsh drug penalties, suspects inform on others who are then punished with the same severity--even though in many cases the accused haven't been caught with drugs and haven't done drugs in years. It's the urban version of false memory syndrome and it's chilling."

Hollywood Reporter Irv Letofsky

" ... An ardent 90-minute maligning of our much-maligned justice system, focusing on informants, tattletales and ratfinks who turn people in and save their own backsides.

No, there's no mention of Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp or even Sammy the Bull. In this case producer-interviewer Ofra Bikel refers to enthusiastic use of turncoats in drug cases, pals turning in pals, even sons turning in their mothers. Bikel doesn't invoke all the reasonable journalistic rules, like interviewing all sides, but she pokes the emotional buttons and her chronicle of horrendous abuses is likely to enrage.

Her targets are prosecutorial zeal (no, no mention of independent counsel Ken Starr) as well as the tragically flawed mandatory-minimum sentence law that effectively takes the clout away from judges and hands it to prosecutors.

... Snitching covers a lot of territory, a lot of righteousness and a lot of ironies. Consider the comment by Republican Bill McCollum of Florida, one of the crusaders on the impeachment-driven House judiciary Committee: 'Good Lord,' he says, 'informants are a way of life in American justice whether it's a drug case or not. How else are we going to find the bad guy?' (No, no mention of Bill Clinton.)"


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