snitch
Discussion
What are your views on the government's use of informants in prosecuting drug crimes?


Dear FRONTLINE,

My fifteen years of law enforcement has taught me that the social and economic policies of this nation have been destructive to the minority community. The mandatory drug sentencing laws are a prime example of the bias of the criminal justice system. The law increases the penalties for non-whites for drug related offenses while clogging our court system with the prosecution of relatively minor drug offenses. It has also caused an overload of our prison system with thousands of minority males who have been sentenced to longer periods of incarceration for similar offenses committed by their white males counterparts. A prosecutor who relies on the tainted testimony of co-conspirators is a corrupt as the law breakers.

newton, nh


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a white, conservative, criminal justice student. I was sickened by the harsh sentence that was received by Clarance Aaron. It appears to me that our Federal prosecuters have now resorted to enlisting law-breaking individuals with prior criminal records to carry out their professional duties. It amazes me that this man received a life sentence with no prior criminal history. All of the other defendants did have previous criminal records and Clarance Aaron was handed down the harshest sentence. We as a society, need to make an attempt to eliminate the process of 'snitching.' It is horribly unjust, while it allows many criminals to receive minimal punishment if any.. Thanks for an enlightening program PBS. We need to expose and correct the flaws in our system. Keep up the great work.

Taylor Bench
springfield, illinois


Dear FRONTLINE,

Most disturbing is how Senator Hatch, perhaps the only person interviewed with actual power to enact change in the clearly corrupt, immoral, and ineffective justice system, so easily defends the system in the name of protecting the safety and well being of families and children. How callous that is in view of the way these policies subvert exactly what the Senator claims to protect.

David M. Gravatt
ewa beach, hawaii


Dear FRONTLINE,

I learned much about justice from watching "Snitch". First, if I know someone who deals drugs, I am guilty of conspiracy. I will watch my family and friends much more closely. I also learned that I should never publicize my name, lest a felon use it as part of his fabricated snitching story. Furthermore, I began to understand some basic logic: that darker skin leads to longer prison sentences, that "justice" and "vengence" are synonymous. Surely we have the finest justice system our imaginations can possibly conceive.

Michael Litwak
san rafael, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Every time a drug dealer gets taken out of the picture, with guns or handcuffs, someone is ready to replace him. And for what? So that they can sit in prison and watch rapists and murderers leave after a couple of years. People that buy drugs make their own decision to do it. No child asks to be molested, yet the attackers are free much sooner. What does that say about us as a society?

Sonja Tofani
greenfield, in


Dear FRONTLINE,

There is an industry out there that feeds on young black men and women and the poor. The kingpins are prosecutors like that disgusting J. Don Foster. I live in San Francisco where we have Alcatraz for tourists to visit so they can know what it is like to be incarcerated. What they don't realize is that they are closer to being locked up in the real thing than they think. This country is sick and getting sicker all the time. Too many cop shows on tv. Too many courtroom dramas. This program didn't need a "slant" to show the reality of what ails us. I too am wondering just what can I do to start changing this absurd system. Count me in. Fire Orrin Hatch and other idiots in government.

Steve Windows
san francisco, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

As I watched your program this evevning it bought tears to my eyes, as it was an all too familiar story. My husband is currently serving 97 months. The people that snitched on him were under investigation 2 years prior to ever meeting my husband, yet my husband was named the king pin. The female in his case openly admitted to selling drugs and prostituting to buy drugs. She walk away free. Although his time is nearly done, it has been a long road. Not only was he sentenced to 97 months in Federal Prison but during his incarceration he required medical treatment. That will most likely lead him to life in a wheel chair. He was in need of a hip replacement and ended up having to have 3 in a two week period, and another 1 year later. If you should ever decide to get in to the medical treatment of Federal inmates, please feel free to contact me.

crestview, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

These conspiracy laws that were illuminated on tonightís show illustrate just how perverse well-intended laws can be applied. Do we want dangerous drug dealers off the street? Yes I hope so. Would we use corroborated witness testimony to help divine the truth? Yes how else will the truth be found. Will we use criminal testimony to fabricate and convict unjustly to the benefit of the truly guilty? I would like to say no we would not but I cannot because we have and will again, as it seems to be common. This blood lust for prosecution has blinded and perverted the ambitions of our prosecutors and it is here were the blame must most heavily fall, but it must also stain the judges that allow it to be so. Seeing our politions waste their time on trivialities when there are example like this that they could move against makes me deeply ashamed that they do not. How low have we fallen. We can begin to understand why whole peoples become disenfranchised. Who do we blame?

William none
san diego, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I call for the congress to repeal these mandatory sentences and alow judges to use their descression in these drug cases. Certianly our judges can't make make as many and awful misstakes as the prosecutors have in the last 10 years. Congress should work on correcting their misstakes instead of judging the President and making another misstake. I also call for a review of all drug cases in since the manditory sentancing was enacted.. Lets correct the injustuces.

Gill Sorg
las cruces, nm


Dear FRONTLINE,

The case of Clarence Aaron, is particularly disturbing. Guilty or not his sentence was imeasurably harsh. It infuriates me. I have long considered joining the A.C.L.U , and I believe your program has helped me make my decision. What happened to this young man was certainly not justice, especially in light of the evidence presented. What is being done to combat this injustice? Is it too late for Mr. Aaron? What, if anything can I do to help?

Christopher Girard
lodi, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for your thoughtful documentary. As a former inmate at Maxwell FPC in Alabama, I was glad that someone finally exposed this travesty of justice for what it is. I witnessed many of the type of cases that you displayed while incarcerated. The toll on the lives of these men was only eclipsed by the sad prison that their families were caged in, without a primary breadwinner. Many had lost their homes and businesses, all due to the overzealous work of a Federal prosecutor. I hope that your documentary will enlighten and alert the citizenry of our country to the awesome power that the members of Congress have given to prosecutors with their minimum mandatory laws and seizure acts. It is incomprehensible in a free society that such draconian punishment should exist.

Don May
memphis, tn.


Dear FRONTLINE,

I was appalled at how rabid the prosecutors were in getting a large numbers of "conspirators" in the cases presented and that after cutting deals with known liars (I consider criminals liars among other things)that it was so easy to obtain a conviction without, apparently, any other corroborating evidence.

I consider myself to be conservative and a firm backer of our criminal justice system but the heavy use of informants is wrong.

The sentences handed down were extremely harsh. Only convicted durg kingpins should receive such sentences.

Steve Henderson
greenwood, sc


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am apalled at the law, the way it is being used, the way it was enacted (and the fact that one of my heroes, Tip O'Neil played a large role in its passage) and the fact that, in spite of its negative impact on all of our constitutional rights, it has had little or no impact on the drug problem. We need to form a coalition to change the law and the manatory sentences. What we do?

Robert Hartl
weston, ma


Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel that the government is using the wrong tactics to prosecute drug crimes. There should be more investigations and less reliance on informants that are themselves the very criminals the government is after.

Angelo Betemit
elizabeth, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

It should be obvious to those in the law enforcement community , the policemen, the prsecutors, and the judges alike that these drug dealers would probably turn in their mother if it got them a lighter sentence. I'm not saying those that have been named are not without guilt. What I am saying is that their cases and the people who accused them should be looked at with a sharper focused reading glass. Any one who was accused by someone who has his own butt as his agenda should have a jury which has been instructed what this man's sentence would be if found guilty and the integrity and reward of the person accusing him.

norwalk, ct

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