Life in prison is tough so prison inmates form gangs in order to protect their interests. The philosophy of prison gangs is simple. When people unite, they are better able to protect themselves. This is the underlying belief which precipitates the formation of prison gangs. Each of the prison gangs that is in existence has a reason for being. They did not just “drop out of the sky. ” There are a number of factors which led to the creation of these prison gangs. Prison gangs go a long way in United States history. There are five original prison gangs in the United States. These gangs were formed in the 1960s and 1970s in prisons in California.
These gangs are as follows: Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familia, Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate and The Neta Association. However, Zackasee writes that in 2004 the Federal Bureau of Prisons classified the following prison gangs as disruptive groups. These are as follows: the Mexican Mafia, the Black Guerilla Family, the Mexikanemi, the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Texas Syndicate. The threat of prison gangs Usually prison inmates join these gangs in order to protect themselves from other gangs and also to ensure some form of protection from the harsh conditions in prison.
These conditions are usually wide ranging. Prison gangs have had a major impact on prisons in the United States, however, some states are more notorious for prison gangs. These states are as follows: California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Over the years prison gangs have grown and spread throughout many of the states in the US. Some other prison gangs started elsewhere and spread to the US. For example, the prison gang called “Netas” started in Puerto Rico and spread to the United States. This particular group is found in prisons on the US east coast that has very high Hispanic population in prison.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the spread of gangs in various parts of the US has also continued behind prison walls. Prison gangs are spread across ethnic divides: black, Hispanic and White. Each of these gangs is known for their violence. Violence perpetrated by these groups includes murder of prison inmates and prison officials. Prison gangs are a problem in the correctional system because they are a threat to the lives of other inmate and the lives of staff working in these correctional facilities. Above all, these prison gangs establish a set of rules that run against the laws and rules of various states in the US.
The problem posed by prison gangs is encapsulated by Knox when he writes that, In 1992, only one out of ten institutions reported gang members being a problem in terms of assaults on correctional staff. By 1999, the number of institutions who reported gang members being a problem in terms of assaults on correctional staff rose to 33. 6%… In 1992, only a fourth of the institutions surveyed reported gang members being a problem in terms of threats against correctional staff. By 1999, the problem of gangs threatening correctional staff escalated to nearly half. (1) Prison gangs are a growing problem in the US. What is a prison gang?
Prison gangs are recognized entities within the correction system. Over time, the features of these prison gangs have been identified and these attributes are used in defining such gangs. Beck et al define prison gangs as, having at least five of the six characteristics: formal membership with a required initiation or rules for members, a recognized leader or certain members whom others follow, common clothing such as jackets, caps, group colors, symbols, tattoos, a group name, members from the same street, neighborhood, or school, and turf or territory where the group is known and where group activities usually take place.
(1) The characteristics of prison gangs are essential in the definition of these gangs. These characteristics are the essence of prison gangs, thus describe what these gangs are. On the other hand, Fleisher writes that, Prison gangs constitute a persistently disruptive force in correctional facilities because they interfere with correctional programs, threaten the safety of inmates and staff, and erode institutional quality of life (2). This definition highlights the disruptive nature of prison gangs.
These gangs run contrary to the law and the correctional programs in which inmates are placed. They are indeed a force which needs to be controlled. Spergel writes that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has two classifications of prison gangs. In the first place, it recognizes five disruptive groups that exist within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Secondly, there are three levels of membership within these disruptive groups namely: member, suspect and associate. Members are prison inmates who are active members of the gang. These are active participants in the activities of the gang.
A suspect is an inmate who has not been fully accepted as a member in the gang. However, such a person is on the verge of being accepted as a member in the gang. An associate is someone who conducts business on behalf of the gang. An associate protects the interest of the gang but is not a member of the gang. Associates may not have joined the gang because they are not able to join the gang. Since some prison gangs are based on ethnicity, members of a particular race are not permitted to join the gang. Thus, they remain as associates to the gang.