TALLAHASSEE, FLA. The Crime Stoppers program that rewards callers anonymously for tips that help solve crimes is about to expand to an unusual place: the Florida prison system.
Taking their cue from Texas, state corrections officials plan to establish hot line for inmates to call to snitch on each other though they prefer not to call it snitching.
Details like whether cash rewards will be used and when the program would start are yet to be ironed out, but prison officials, at the suggestion of state corrections chief Mike Moore, are looking for guidance at the program that has been working in Texas for seven years.
"We think there's a lot to be gained from what they know," said Department of Corrections deputy inspector general Walton Murphree.
Inmates would be encouraged to report crimes they know about, even if the case is old, Murphree said. To crack cold cases, corrections officials would work with area police departments to show inmates videos of unsolved crimes. The tips would be whispered over a two-digit, toll-free number that could be dialed from any telephone designated for inmate use. Calls would be handled by the inspector general's office.
In Texas, prison authorities say they are very pleased with the results. Inmates in the Lone Star state's 100-plus prisons can write in their tips most don't have access to phones and are assured anonymity.
University of Miami criminal law professor Bruce Winick said he fears encouraging inmates to rat on each other could make prisoners wary of confiding in one another.
"The idea of living in an environment where everyone could be a snitch is a little troubling, a little Big Brother," Winick said. "But it could well be an opportunity to produce some highly valuable law enforcement information. It's a mixed bag."