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Free Minds & Free Markets

The Right Not To Snitch: New at Reason

The First Amendment protects your right to not be a rat.

theblackrhino/123RFtheblackrhino/123RFIn 2010, New York state prison inmate Mark Burns says he was stocking the commissary when a can of spaghetti sauce fell on his head. He says he duly reported the accident, but afterward, two guards approached him and said they'd heard he'd been assaulted by another inmate.

The guards had an offer, according to Burns: They wanted him to become an informant and provide false testimony against another guard. When he refused to play along, he was put in "involuntary protective custody." For nine months, he spent 23 out of every 24 hours locked in a cell by himself—"for his own safety." So Burns filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming the guards violated his constitutional right not to snitch, writes C.J. Ciaramella.

Photo Credit: theblackrhino/123RF

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