chapter  6b
10 Pages

The Social Construction of Snitches

T. Shibutani's work on rumors will be used for describing the social conditions necessary for rumors to flourish when they appear and for his emphasis on them being social constructions. The identity of the informer is both something obvious - everybody knows who he is - and at the same time a social construction. The main sources for discovering informers, according to the interviewees, are personal communication, signs such as otherwise unearned privileges, types of wards and prisons where sentences are served, talking to guards, motives, and court and/or police records. First of all, inmates naturally talk to each other about people whom they believe to be informers. The chapter focuses on the importance of the social context for the construction of "snitches." Labeling is, as H. Becker among others has pointed out, always dependent on the social context - on the audience and the situation and not only on the act.