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Because of the fact that gangs commit illegal activities, there is a higher chance that they do or will end up in the prison system. However, it doesn’t stop there. Their illegal activities continue even when they are locked up. According to statistics, “on December 31, 2000, a total of 1,237,469 inmates were confined in state and federal prisons in the United States.” (Carlie, 2002) With that being said, there are five gangs that are common in the prison system and have an impact on the prison system which will be reflected upon. Those gangs include the Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerilla Family, the Folk Nation, the Mexican Mafia, and MS 13.
The Aryan Brotherhood is a gang that was created in the prison system, according to (Fiero, 2019). It started at San Quentin back in 1967 which is a prison in California. It was founded by Barry Mills, who was the leader of the gang the Aryan Brotherhood. However, when the gang was first created many of the members had come from previous gangs. A few of those gangs were known as the Bluebirds, the Diamond Tooth Gang, and the Nazi Gang. Originally, whenever the Aryan Brotherhood was created, their mission was to protect the members of the gang from other ethnic gang groups including La Nuestra and the Black Guerillas whom belonged to African American and Hispanic people.
When it comes to the beliefs of the Aryan Brotherhood, their views fall in the category of racial beliefs, according to (Fiero, 2019). Their beliefs are like those that are referred to as Neo-Nazi or, in other words, called white supremacists. These sorts of people not only believe, but feel like they are superior to those of any other race just like Hitler. To say the least people who are Caucasian are above all other races, including African American, Hispanic, etc.
Looking at the geographics of the Aryan Brotherhood gang when it comes the prisons where it is strongest, according to (Stoffers, 2015), it would be in California where the gang originated, and another state known as Arizona which is the next state over. On the other hand, it would be classified as weakest in Texas, according to (Fiero, 2019) due to the simple fact that this part of the gang that migrated to Texas is not part of the larger gang anymore. Because of this it was found five years ago that this part of the gang has been working together with the Gulf cartel.
The Aryan Brotherhood is a gang that continues to grow from the time that it has originated, according to (Fiero, 2019). This happened as a result of the Aryan Brotherhood joining alliance with the Aryan Nations, which has allowed them to be able to grow tremendously to the point that they are not just in California or just in the United States for that matter but all the way to New England.
Although, the Aryan Brotherhood is known for a lot of illegal criminal activities, there are several that they continue to commit behind prison walls. According to (Fiero, 2019) a few of those criminal activities include trafficking of drugs, extortion, and racial violence. On the other hand, when it comes to extorting an example of this would be beating someone up for their commissary.
The Black Guerilla Family is a gang which was created back in the 1960’s at the San Quentin by a prisoner, according to (Zohrabi, 2012). The prisoner’s name was George Jackson, who hasn’t only become the leader of the group, but also was a person who wrote and whom was also a political theorist. Because of the fact that during this time, African Americans were going through hardships concerning racial equality, this is where the missions and beliefs of the gang had evolved from. This is also where the decision to join an alliance with the Black Panther Party came from. On the other hand, according to (Siegel & Bartollas, 2018) the gang was created to give them a sense of protection when it comes to abuse as well as intimidating.
When it comes to where the Black Guerilla Family is strongest concerning the prison system, according to (Do, n.d) it would be in the state of Maryland. On the other hand, considering the fact that it is more in the East as well as West Coast, because it is strongest in Maryland which is considered to be the East Coast, it would be weaker on the West which is towards California where the Black Guerilla Family originated from.
Even though the Black Guerilla Family went through a time where the gang began to decline which was back in the ninety’s, according to (Do, n.d) it did begin to recover afterwards. This happened when the Black Guerilla Family started getting other African American gangs engaged like the Bloods and Crips.
When it comes to criminal activities that are committed in the prison system by the Black Guerilla Family, there are several that they are involved in which includes extortion, violence, drug trafficking, and smuggling, according to (Do, n.d). A few things they are well known for doing is using gang members who aren’t in prison in order to get drugs inside the prison system or even a cell phone so that they are able to communicate to others on the outside. In fact, because they are against the government, they will even use cell phones that are smuggled to plot attacks against other inmates and the correctional officers.
Folk Nation is a gang that was created back in 1978 which took place in Chicago, according to (Folk & People Nation, n.d). It all began when the leader of another gang called Gangster Disciples Nation had become deceased. It was after this event that a guy by the name of Larry Hoover took over power and action immediately by forming a meeting amongst himself with other gang leaders in the area. His reasoning behind this was to attempt to make the presence of the African Americans in the community of South Chicago stronger. Once they had made this agreement to do so they began helping any gang in the area that had a hard time surviving. They even worked with other gangs in the area to defend the neighborhood as well as business interests that arose.
When it comes to where the Folk Nation is strongest geographically concerning the prison system, it would be Chicago, which is where the gang originated, according to (Folk & People Nation, n.d). However, the Folk Nation is a gang that has weakened over the years since it first started. On the other hand, it still has other gangs in the area that are dispersed through the cities that they can rely on for help.
Looking at the crimes that are committed within the prison walls by the Folk Nation, according to (Folk & People Nation, n.d) a few of those crimes include extortion as well as drug trafficking or as it would be called within prison walls would be drug smuggling. An example of drug smuggling would be where a member of the Folk Nation from the outside world would somehow hide drugs on them without being found and come visit another member in prison. They can end up paying off a corrections officer in order to get it in or even hide a small amount into the mail sent to the inmate without being noticed.
The Mexican Mafia is a gang that was created back in 1957 in Tracy, California, according to (Valdez, 2009). It started with thirteen inmates at an institution which was called the Duel Vocational Institution, whom happened to be street gang members of Latino gangs. They came from various neighborhoods that were in the area of Los Angeles.
Whenever the gang the Mexican Mafia was formed, they did it as a way to protect themselves from behind prison walls not just from other gang members but also other inmates and even the prison staff, according to (Valdez, 2009).
When it comes to prisons where the Mexican Mafia is the strongest geographically, it would be in the Southern parts of California, according to (Valdez, 2009).
The Mexican Mafia is a gang that continues to grow because there still continues to be recruitment going on to this day, according to (Valdez, 2009). As the Mexican Mafia continues to recruit gang members, it is something that is known among young street members especially.
There are several criminal activities that the Mexican Mafia is involved in when it comes to the prison system. According to (Mori, 2018) the Mexican Mafia is involved in the smuggling of drugs, extortion, and money laundering. On the other hand, the criminal activities that have been performed by this gang has been to the point, hits have been initiated. For example, there was a Mexican Mafia member by the name of Luis Vega, who not only did just that, but also engaged assault towards others who showed any form of disrespect or just didn’t go by the rules of the gang.
MS 13 is a gang that started in Los Angeles, California back in the 80’s, according to (MS 13, 2019). The start of this gang came as an effect of the civil war that was going on through the different areas of Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua where the refugees ended up going northbound. This is when the refugees ended up living in the neighborhoods in different parts of Los Angeles, where there were people of Mexican culture.
After the start of the gang MS 13, there ended up being a lot of conflict with other gangs, according to (MS 13, 2019). A few of the gangs that they had conflict with were known as 18th Street. On the other hand, once gang members ended up in prison there was conflict with them having to surrender to others in the prison system which is where they started seeking more protection.
The MS 13 gang is strongest geographically within the prison system in the Northern Area, according to (MS 13, 2019). However, a few of the areas that are biggest in the Northern Area would be cities such as New York City and Washington D.C.
MS 13 is a gang that continues to grow, according to (MS 13, 2019). In the Northern region where the gang is strongest, there is an estimation of 70,000 gang members alone. However, this gang is one that has started to make an appearance in other countries besides the United States such as Italy and Spain.
When it comes to criminal activities that are performed in prison by MS 13, there is one that is common amongst women in Guatemala, according to (Bonello, 2019) which is extortion. MS 13 has shown to have a big connection with this. There was a woman who was approached while visiting her son and asked to send someone’s grandfather some money.
After reviewing the five different gangs, they all originated in the same state which was California with one exception of a gang who originated in Chicago which was known as the Folk Nation. One thing that stood out about the mission of the gangs was they wanted a sense of protection amongst themselves against other races because they felt that others were trying to overpower them. On the other hand, when it comes to criminal activities within the prison system, they all dealt with the same things which included extortion and things such as drug smuggling. As members of gangs in prison, they try to find ways to keep the business going as well as protection amongst themselves.
- Bonello, D. (April 26, 2019) Women in Guatemala: The New Faces of Extortion? Retrieved from https://www.insightcrime.org/investigations/women-guatemala-new-faces-extortion-2/
- Carlie, M. (2002) Chapter 5: Gangs and Prisons. Retrieved from https://people.missouristate.edu/MichaelCarlie/what_I_learned_about/prisons.htm
- Do, H. (N.D) United States of America. Retrieved from http://research.ridgway.pitt.edu/topics/gang-intro/united-states-of-america/
- Fiero, J. W. (2019). White Aryan Brotherhood. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=96397759&site=eds-live
- Mori, K. (May 23, 2018) Federal Racketeering Indictment Targets Mexican Mafia Control of Inmates and Drug Trafficking Inside Los Angeles County Jail System. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2018/05/23/federal-racketeering-indictment-targets-mexican-mafia-control-inmates-and
- (N.D) Folk & People Nations. Retrieved from https://unitedgangs.com/folk-nation/
- (N.D) March 11, 2019. MS 13. Retrieved from https://www.insightcrime.org/el-salvador-organized-crime-news/mara-salvatrucha-ms-13-profile/
- Siegel, L. & Bartollas, C. (2018) Corrections Today. [Purdue University Global Bookshelf]. Retrieved from https://purdueuniversityglobal.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781337514859/
- Stoffers, C. (November 20, 2015) Aryan Brotherhood to La Eme: America’s Deadliest Prison Gangs. Retrieved from
Zohrabi, A. (2012). Resistance and repression: The black guerrilla family in context. Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, 9(1), 167-190. Retrieved from https://heinonline-org.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/hasrapo9&id=176&men_tab=srchresults#
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