Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jailhouse snitching formalized, compensated in Harris County

Use of jailhouse snitch testimony is fairly commonplace in Texas courts, but I'm not sure I've ever heard of jailhouse informants being processed through the Crime Stoppers program, which will begin happening soon in Harris County. Reports AP:
Snitching could lead to up to $5,000 for Harris County Jail inmates as investigators encourage detainees to phone in tips to Crime Stoppers.

The Houston Chronicle reports Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia planned to announce the program Tuesday.

Garcia says inmates have crucial information that could help deputies solve or prevent crimes. Garcia says the money can be used by the inmate to post bond or pay an attorney.

The jail will soon have monitors that flash Crime Stoppers contact information, in English and Spanish.

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos backs the program.
According to the Chronicle, jailhouse snitches will get paid through the regular Crime Stoppers program "if the information results in the filing of felony charges or lead to an arrest, they will receive a reward up to $5,000." One critical difference between them and others who call Crime Stoppers, though: While an arrest may be made or criminal charges filed based on testimony from a jailhouse informant, in 2009 the Texas Legislature, in a bill authored by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, required corroboration for jailhouse snitches' testimony in order to secure a conviction. Another difference: Jail calls are never anonymous.

I'm hopeful Texas legislators may file more legislation this spring related to reining in informant abuses, perhaps modeled after recent efforts to improve disclosure in Washington state or Rachel's Law in Florida.

28 comments:

Hook Em Horns said...

Two thoughts come to mind. First, why let anything stand in the way of shady testimony, after all, this is Texas where we have been paying liars for years. Second, who said crime doesn't pay, it's HUGE money here!

Anonymous said...

TDCJ has operated a "Crime Stoppers" program for several years with some success. The primary difference in these programs is that the tipsters remain anonymous and most importantly, DO NOT provide testimony.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:47, how do you remain anonymous if you're calling from jail - they record and log every call!

Anonymous said...

TDCJ approved request from Texas CrimeStoppers Advisory Council to allow inmate communication regarding crime solving information to be privileged communication free from inspection.

State Prison Crime Stoppers “Behind the Walls” - TDCJ HomeOffice of the Inspector General - Crime Stoppers .
www.tdcj.state.tx.us/inspector.../inspector-gnrl-crimestop.htm

Anonymous said...

I guess it would be OK to let those unsolved crimes go. Problem is, there are real victims here who are still suffering over what has been done to them. I know, we don't want to think about that.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Interesting, 1:36, I didn't know about that. Presumably HCSO has a similar agreement. But I still don't see how they can ensure anonymity within the agency given the constraints and documentation surrounding calls. They can agree not to release the information, but the agency can tell who uses the phones to call who, even if by policy they don't record them.

2:22, why all of a sudden do you assume everyone in jail is a reliable source? That's an interesting turnabout - usually you think they're all lying scumbags. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

One other things Grits, you can call the Office of the Inspector General who will give you more information

512) 671-2480

Charity said...

This is such a stupid idea so I'm not surprised it was thought up in Harris County....after all we have learned from The Innocence Project about jailhouse snitching and now this? $5000 is the jackpot for some of these guys....in addition to the deal they make with the state....stupid, stupid, stupid!

Anonymous said...

Good grief! Is there any kind of evidence that you hug-a-thug bleeding hearts won't whine and bitch about? It's all just evidence. Some kinds are more credible and relevant than others. Juries can and do get it right most of the time. They're more than capable of figuring out why jailhouse snitches aren't that reliable. Why should we unilaterally forego any potential source of evidence? Oh wait, if your only objective is to keep criminals from being caught and punished, then I suppose that question really doesn't have to be asked.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:32, nobody's whining or bitching here but you, and please point to where I (or anyone) suggested "we unilaterally forego any potential source of evidence." You're arguing against some phony caricature in your brain, not what I've written here.

That said, if the system were "more than capable of figuring out why jailhouse snitches aren't that reliable" then they wouldn't so frequently be used to bolster false or unreliable convictions. Willful blindness is an unattractive feature.

halides1 said...

Grits,

There are stupid ideas, and then there are jumbojet-sized stupid ideas. This is the latter: paying someone to be a liar.

Hook Em Horns said...

"Juries can and do get it right most of the time."

OH REALLY? TELL THAT TO THE EXONEREES, ALL OF THEM! WAKE ME UP WHEN YOU ARE DONE, IDIOT!

Anonymous said...

No, Grits, you may not be complaining. But when you mention the legislature "reigning in informant abuses" in the context of the discussion of this new program, you certainly seem to be suggesting that in some way it's not a worthwhile program or you're automatically discrediting the notion that jailhouse informants may, actually, sometimes provide useful information which leads to the solving of crimes.

At least two intelligent posters on this thread have decried the program as "stupid." The articulate Hook 'Em has called other posters "idiots." You chastise 2:22 for "automatically assum[ing] everyone is jail is a reliable source," when he/she said nothing of the sort. I think that begs the question: Is there any kind of evidence that you so-called criminal justice "reformists" believe to be reliable?

At the end of the day, I suspect that many of you just support making the criminal justice system unworkable to the point that no criminals are ever prosecuted or brought to justice. Maybe you're just a bunch of anarchists. Or maybe you're actually criminals yourselves. But really: Do you want to go back to a time when vigilante justice is the norm? Where we no longer delegate justice and, yes, retribution, to our government rather than taking the law into our own hands? It's one thing to support improvements to the system. It's quite another to advocate "reforms" which will simply paralyze the system or make it so expensive to prosecute and convict someone that it becomes totally dysfunctional.

Anonymous said...

To add more discussion to the debate.......

A Texas Department of Criminal Justice
(TDCJ) "Behind the Walls" Crime
Stoppers tip lead the FBI and IRS investigation
team to the skeletal remains
of four individuals identified as
Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Jon Garth
Murray, Robin Murray-O'Hair, and
Danny Raymond Fry.
During this investigation, an individual
came forward to TDCJ Crime Stoppers
with tip information relevant to the investigation.
Since that time, the individual
has continued to provide beneficial
information without any type of
promise. As a result of the individual's
contribution a plea agreement was negotiated
leading the FBI, IRS, and the
Texas Department of Public Safety to
a remote location where the skeletal remains
were recovered.

Audrey said...

I think Hook Em has it right. Those juries are still believing what they learned in 9th grade Civics class...that is...the justice system is about truth. That couldn't be further from the truth...the justice system is about drama. Tell the exonerees AND everybody else that has been wrongly convicted but isn't so lucky to have DNA evidence.

rodsmith said...

i have to agree with hook as well. so-called jail house snitching should be illegal UNLESS your confessing the fact that your an ACCESSORY of the crime your telling on!

between fake "jailhouse snitches" and messed up eye witness testimony they account for a big part of the messed up convictions in this country. Long past time to toss em.

DEWEY said...

If I commit a crime and snitch on myself, do I get $5,000?

titfortat said...

While getting it wrong is tragic, getting it right is (right). For some the suggestion here is that Prosecutors and Investigators are suspect in their efforts to get it right and that’s simply not true. They too are very capable of discernment and can sum up a snitch’s information as credible through their investigation.

The fact is that if we had to find a place to go to in order to receive a wealth of information about criminal activity the jail is a virtual gold mine.

Investigation does not mean go out and make an arrest it means (investigate). Crime stoppers pays if the information leads to the filing of a felony complaint or if a felony arrest is made.

Aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon is a way of life for some and when caught on video their identity is immediately recognized by those who know them and sometimes impossible to make out by authorities. The possibility of a snitch coming forward increases dramatically when the snitch has some skin in the game plain and simple.

The whereabouts of practically all fugitives are known by friends and family this is a widely known fact among investigators as well as the knowledge of how the defendant they now have in custody on a new charge is associated with a fugitive. If that means making a deal or paying for information is necessary to obtain credible information that takes potentially dangerous people off the street then every reasonable resource should be utilized.

The notion that investigators and prosecutors purposely seek to incarcerate innocent people as the norm is egregious.

If an investigation supports the filing of a complaint then everything else is left up to the courts as it should be. It is incomprehensible that anyone would have a problem with this.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

titfortat, imo "the suggestion ... that Prosecutors and Investigators are suspect in their efforts to get it right" is false in most cases but justified in others. Look at the use of jailhouse informant testimony in the Anthony Graves case, Todd Willingham, Richard Winfrey, etc.. Yes, it's "egregious," but it happens often enough to raise concern.

To 5:55, back to my earlier point, it sounds from your description like the source in the O'Hair case did not, in fact, remain anonymous. Am I interpreting correctly?

Anonymous said...

08:11

"The whereabouts of practically all fugitives are known by friends and family this is a widely known fact among investigators ..."

Isn't that the purpose of the "No Snitching" campaign--to hide the rapist?

It's not just friends and family who hide them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"It's not just friends and family who hide them."

Exactly who else is hiding them, 9:31? Enemies and strangers?

titfortat said...

I agree that the tragic results of false testimony are equally egregious, however to sway in the direction of this being the norm is simply not the case.

The vast majority of criminal investigators and prosecutors, especially in the realm of violent crime should not be stereotyped and the information they derive from informants gives them insight and information that otherwise may never be discovered.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

titfortat, crime in general is not the "norm" but we still have police and jails for the minority of citizens who are criminals. Similarly, restrictions on informant use are needed not for the bulk of good cops/DAs/etc. but for the minority who are willing to violate basic ethics to secure an arrest or conviction. You don't have to believe it's the "norm" to think there should be restrictions to keep abuses from happening.

Further, it's not an insult or "stereotyping" the good guys to say so. E.g., I've never made meth but I still must sign to purchase pseudoephedrine, and the fact that I must do so is not a statement about my own character, predilections for drug manufacturing, etc.. It's just a regulation to stop malefactors. Regulating informant use is the same thing.

Anonymous said...

The "No Snitching" campaign keeps the truth about violent crime from being known. What other purpose does it serve? It's message is: don't tell what you know about a murder or a rape. It protects the murderer or rapist. It says "to hell with the victim."

Anonymous said...

Jail inmates have been calling Crimestoppers since they started the program. They've also been calling the police, FBI, DEA, CIA, and anyone else that will listen to their BS tips. These rocket scientists in Harris County just burned every confidential informant in their jail by going public for the sake of politics.

Anonymous said...

How do you find snitches where abouts,there phone numbers,there addresses,there complete where abouts, and there first and last name! Another question is,if they don't show up for court,will the charges be dismissed?

Dr_Plankenstein said...

I know of people who have been using this type of service to get cash payments for setting people up. I am certain that this is taking place because it came right from the mouth of someone who I believe to be engaged in this practice. I think it's a very bad idea. False convictions will be made, and gangbangers will be cashing in. I have seen it in action.

Anonymous said...

So you are truley saying that if there is a felony arrest from anonymous phone call they collect money, how much ? I want to know how much someone made off a friends behalf.