U.S. Prison Gangs

It is one of the inherent natures of men to assimilate themselves in the society by joining a group or to guarantee their survival by joining a group or creating a new group. This new group can challenge the old group and provide protection for the individual and for its future members from the threat posed by other groups or individuals who possess superior characteristic and the ability to subdue other people. Everyday, and in different settings and locations in everyday life, this has been the case.

The experience inside the prison during incarceration is no different for any man or woman. “Prison gangs are a part of men’s life, despite strong prohibitions against them (Samaha 489). ” Even if the person does not want to become a member, the impact of being neutral or gang-less in this particular set up poses many negative impacts in a person that is very difficult to take for granted. “Under mass incarceration, the prominence of prison gangs has made it difficult for inmates to remain unaffiliated or neutral (Mutua 164).

” Indeed, the US prison gangs have become significant part of the society particularly of the prison culture. Because of this, the paper aims at discussing the nature, characteristic and other important facets of the different US prison gangs and how they affect their immediate vicinity or community (prison), as well as the rest of the society. There are many different reasons why US prison gangs were created in the first place. Usually, a particular US prison gang has more than one reason for creating the group (i.

e. protection, unity, defense, organized crime etc). The reason for the recruitment of the members and the sustenance of the organization through manpower and membership maintenance also vary, and usually more than just one reason too. “These groups are typically based on race, ethnicity, geography, ideology, or a combination of these factors (Hensley 4). ” According to Hensley, prison gangs go way back as far as the 60s and the 70s.

“Traditional prison gangs originated in state and federal correctional institutions in the 1960s and 1970s (Hensley 4). ” Through the years and through the history of the evolution of US prison gangs, many places have been identified as locations where US prison gangs, as well as connected street gangs, have strongly established the reputation of the group. “As for prison gangs, there are states – Illinois, Texas, and California come most immediately to mind – where organized prison gangs have included some street gang membership (Klein 58). ”

True to the tradition of gangs, prison gangs also adhere to marks and insignias that are placed in the body as tattoos or worn as patches or as clothing accessories to identify the affiliation of a particular individual in a particular prison gang. “Prison gangs will mark themselves with symbols associated with being incarcerated (De Mello 125). ” Joining a particular prison gang is a very important decision to make for the individual because aside from the things that the individual should do and go through, most prison gangs require lifetime membership.

“In most prison gangs, membership is considered a lifetime commitment (Mahan, O’Neil 190). ” Identifying the US Prison Gangs Through the years, the gangs present in the US prison facilities seemed to indicate consistent growth, not just in the presence of different gangs, but also in the growth of membership of these gangs. Take for example, as an indicator the study made by the American Correctional Association, which, according to Stacy, found that in 1992 there were already 1,000 different gangs that has 46,000 members all in all (Stacey 670).

While there may be more US prison gangs today nearly two decades after this particular information has been revealed, the status quo is that there are selected few groups that are considered dominant in these prison facilities. While there are many prison gangs present in the many different US prisons, there are several groups that most prison system agencies in the US consider as prominent or major groups that stand out above the rest and are more dominant compared to other groups. Take for example, the agency responsible in managing the Florida prison system.

In its website, it identified six different gangs and considered these gangs as the most dominant among the many gangs operating inside the prisons of Florida. “The gangs are namely Neta, Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerrilla Family, Mexican Mafia, La Nuestra Familia and the Texas Syndicate (Major 1). ” Among the six, the Florida prison agency identified the Neta and the Aryan Brotherhood gangs as the two most dominant gangs in the many different gangs operating in this particular location (Major 1).

The US Department of Justice also named the six gangs as prominent US prison gangs. They also added in the list, other groups which are also considered by the government as prison groups which contribute to the criminal activities found inside and outside of the prison. Besides the aforementioned gangs, the US Department of Justice also identified other gangs like Barrio Azteca, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, Mexikanemi, Nazi Low Riders, Public Enemy No.

1, Surenos and Nortenos and the Four Horsemen/Tangos/Tango Blast as groups that the government is closely monitoring because of its established links with criminal activities, not to mention the gangs’ potential threat to the security and peace and order in the society (Prison 1). The US Prison Gangs The following are some of the US prison gangs which many experts and analysts believed to be dominant and powerful even until today operating inside many different US prison.

There are those which are consistently identified as dominant prison gangs because of the power, influence and extensive membership and the notoriety that these groups possess as prison gangs. “The Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia, Black Guerilla Family, and Aryan Brotherhood are notable for their ethnic homogeneity and interethnic gang fights. They also specialize in narcotics trafficking inside the prison, a line of work that often continues after their release (Samaha 489). ” Mexican Mafia The Mexican Mafia traces its origin in the late 1960s, particularly in 1957, as the year of its formation.

As the name suggests, this name represents one of the few groups that features members who are of American Mexican decent. The Mexican Mafia is also identified with the initials EME. The group was created by its founding members during the 50s. Today, the gang is known for its participation in drug trafficking, as well as in other criminal actions and racketeering inside prison houses. According to Manning, the group was named the Mexican Mafia because it was the members’ way of showing their admiration for another criminal group, La Cosa Nostra. “They called themselves the Mexican Mafia out of admiration for La Cosa Nostra (Manning 177).

” Black Guerilla The Black Guerrilla Family is a gang that is composed of members coming from the African American section of the prisoner communities in different US prison. The group’s origin is San Quentin State Prison. Like some of the major prison gangs, this group is also characterized by its being politically oriented. Founded in 1966 by an African American inmate who is also a member of the leftist Black Panther Party George L. Jackson, the Black Guerilla has many different allies, including associations and non-prison gang groups (Major 25).

Neta The membership of the gang Neta is composed mainly of individuals who are sent to prison with American-Puerto Rican or Hispanic lineage and descent. The gang started in the 1970s. Oddly, this very prominent US prison gang was formed outside of the US, particularly in a prison in Puerto Rico named Rio Pedra Prison. This group, like the Aryan Brotherhood, is considered as one of the largest gangs found inside the Florida Department of Corrections, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website (Major 8). Aryan Brotherhood

The Aryan Brotherhood maybe considered as a dominant US prison gang, but some critics like Stacy believe that there are factors outside of the gang’s control that helps the gang in being low key, low profile and under the radar when it comes to the knowledge of the public about this gang is concerned. Take for example, the role of the media in keeping the Aryan Brotherhood a low profile group. According to Stacy, the media played an important role in highlighting African American and Hispanic US prison gangs because of the groups’ involvement in many acts of violence inside the prison.

While the Aryan Brotherhood and its actions are very seldom found in any form of mass media (Stacy 670). “The media highlight hundreds of stories each year about gangs and gang violence, more than 90 percent of them related to African American and Hispanic gangs, with less attention paid to white gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood (Stacy 670). ” Like the group Neta, the Aryan Brotherhood is a gang that enjoys the reputation of being a prominent gang in the Florida Department of Corrections according to the agency’s official website (Major 19). La Nuestra Familia The group La Nuestra Familia, upon its inception and creation, showed potential.

It was a new threat and rival among many other existing gangs. For one, this gang actually challenged the Mexican Mafia, a gang that was very influential and recruited heavily among inmates with Hispanic roots. When the La Nuestra Familia was created, inmates with Hispanic roots are now torn between the Mexican Mafia and La Nuestra Familia. This was a serious setback for Mexican Mafia (Stacy 670). “The Mexican Mafia quickly came to gain control of prison activities in most institutions across California. Their recruiting for Mexican American inmates was rivaled only in 1968, when La Nuestra Familia was formed (Stacy 670). ”