Prison Gangs and Ethnic Lines

Another important characteristic of the prison gangs in the US is that all of these are formed along racial and ethnicity lines. There are gangs for whites, for African Americans, for Hispanics and for Asians. “Many feel they must seek out membership for personal protection. Adult prison gangs are generally founded along ethnic lines as protection against other ethnic groups (Samaha 489).

” The founders of these gangs, which are usually race and ethnicity-based, believe that the unity among those coming from the same race is an important tool in surviving inside a prison where there are many threats to life and security if a person is fending off for and by himself. The characteristic of the US prison gangs as being ethnicity and race-based groups may have been the result of the fact that the founders of these gangs – usually a small group of individuals – are most likely coming from the same race or ethnicity.

“All races form gangs in prisons, identified as ‘security threat groups’ in the parlance of the American Correctional Association (Stacy 670). ” The author provided one explanation and an example about how the groups were formed along ethnicity and race lines. Using the case of the formation of the very old and very influential US prison gang Mexican Mafia, Stacy explained that the case of the formation of this particular gang is somewhat a microcosm of the struggles that individuals are burdened with inside the prison walls, making them resort to the formation of gangs that are race and ethnicity based.

The Mexican Mafia wanted power and influence. In fact, it was trying to challenge the superior gangs inside the Duel Vocational Institute during the group’s early days and immediately after its creation (Stacy 670). But more than that, it was also the vision of the founders of the group that this gang is necessary. This is because there is a need to protect themselves and their countrymen inside a confined space where some of the wardens and other members of the prison staff and security are racist.

Furthermore, the minority group members inside the prison house are threatened by acts of violence in the hands of these racist individuals. “Inmates banded together to challenge the supremacy of white gangs such as the Blue Bird Gang within prison walls and as protection against racist prison staff (Stacy 670). ” Because of this, it can be considered that it was also the fault of the system that made these groups (like the Mexican Mafia) very influential and very powerful. The people who are threatened by the prison officials and other gangs come to them for protection.

Another reason why US prison gangs, particularly those originating from California, are very much race related is because of the history of the place. Take for example California. In its early years after it was annexed to the US many immigrants from Mexico and from other parts of the world, it migrated to California in search of gold. These people settled in and around California. Soon there were groups and neighborhoods that are centered on ethnic roots, like the presence of barrios among Mexican Americans living in California at that time.

According to Stacy, these race based community and social life extended in prison. As California prison population expanded because of criminal acts, people with different racial backgrounds found themselves clustered together, and instinctively, those who are of the same racial origin joined each other. Members of the gangs that found each other inside the prison established their own clique (Stacy 670). “These divisions (racial/ethnic) remained in the formation of (prison) gangs (Stacy 670). ”