Above else do not snitch
Department of Child Studies Linköping university Linköping, Sweden
This paper investigates how ?snitching?, or reporting someone to the police, is discussed by young men at a Swedish youth detention home who are taking part in Aggression Replacement Training (ART). ART is a peer intervention programme directed at violent and anti-social youth, originating in USA it has become increasingly popular in Sweden. Previous research has argued that some intervention methods are more effective than others in decreasing youth recidivism and identified ?what works? in intervention programmes. Recidivism is argued to be conditioned by pro-criminal attitudes and weak problem-solving, etc. Therefore, it is considered important to work with reducing anti-social attitudes and replacing criminal behaviour with more pro-social alternatives. The ART programme aims to give ?anti-social youth? the chance to enhance their skills and is in that sense a programme that ?works?.
This paper analyses two ART exercises and ensuing discussions on whether it is right to tell on someone. In 1975, Wieder identified the ?Convict code?, stipulating: ?Above all else, do not snitch?.?Code? should here be understood as a secret understanding stressing solidarity between inmates. Some thirty years after Wieder?s study, snitching is still relevant in young men?s lives in a comparable institutional context in Sweden. The paper investigates how the programme is intended to invoke change in aggressive youth by training them in moral reasoning by discussing moral dilemmas closely related to the youths? own experiences. The article analyses how alliances are created between the young men, and how the discursive context positions both the young men and the trainers. It is argued that both the pupils and the trainers draw on discourses of masculinity. The paper shows how the intent of the ART exercise to alter ?anti-social youth?s? criminal discourse may cement already fixed perceptions and establish alliances between young men. The analyses show how gendered notions of victims and offenders are affirmed. The paper shows how sticking to the convict code facilitates positioning oneself as knowledgeable within the field of criminality. Moreover, how drawing on the code regulates the relationship to other men and how it polices ones own behaviour, as well as that of others.