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How are ‘snitches’ treated in prison?


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A question recently posted to Quora asks, “how are ‘snitches’ treated in prison?” Joseph Demerson, an inmate participating in San Quentin’s ‘Last Mile’ program, gives his response below. Add your own thoughts in the comments.

In 1990 when I first began serving my prison sentence, “snitches” had a rough time in prison. I began my prison sentence at the maximum security level 4 prison called Old Folsom. In those days, when a prisoner was found or said to have given the officers information or testified against someone, it wouldn’t take long before someone would stab the individual on the yard, in their cell or on the tier.

Most of the time, the word was spread to stay away from certain areas or people or races that day. Some snitches back in those days were robbed of their canteen and then stabbed. The stabbing was meant to not only remove the “snitch” from the population but to send a message to other prisoners to keep your mouth closed. If groups would weed out the weak prisoners who would “snitch” than other rival groups wouldn’t dare cross their paths. The atmosphere was crazy because if you saw someone getting stabbed you better look the other way so no one could say you told them if they were caught.

Normally “snitches” were stabbed in the neck and vital organs if they were trying to kill them. Some were slashed crossed the face to be marked for life as a “snitch”. The word would some how make its way around to other prisoners that, so and so group were cleaning up their back yard. That a prison term that is commonly used to justify their actions.

Now in 2014 they are not called “snitches.” They were calling them SNY’s or PC’s, meaning “sensitive needs” or “protective custody.” Now they are called special program. They are escorted by officers everywhere they go. Special Program inmates can be individuals who have committed a crime against children, women, dropped out of a gang, gave up information on someone or their crime partner. Now that I’m at San Quentin Prison on the level two facilities which is actually a level one filled with older lifers. No stabbing thank God but prisoners do get rolled-up are punched on, are told to roll it up off the yard before something happens to them for “snitching.” For the most part now prisoners once an inmate is questionable inmates just avoid them.

Times have change for the better for everyone; inmates are smarter and less emotional about issues concerning inmates. The focus is on improving self and not on the affairs of others.

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