Prison gangs are criminal organizations that form inside the penal system and still function within correctional facilities inside the United States today. The original five groups of gangs began forming in the 60s and 70s. These gangs consisted of the Black Guerilla Family, Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Neta Association, Aryan Brotherhood and La Nuestra Familia.
San Quentin prison located in California was the birth of what was one of the most common gangs in the 60’s and of what is one of the most notorious prison gangs today, the Aryan Brotherhood. The gang partakes in many illegal activities that include extortion, drug operations and violence. The members are unified through racist propaganda against Jews, blacks, and minorities. Their messages blame these specific cultural groups for much of America’s problems and presents whites as the superior race.
Folsom State Prison saw the rise of another popular gang, La Nuestra Familia in the 60’s. Nuestra Familia operates with the goal of attempting to preserve Latin/Mexican American culture. The organization bases their functionality off capitalist ideology in which there are people of all levels involved in the group’s regulation. The group contains business managers at one level that handles the finances. Then on another level there are what the group calls “soldiers” that are more physically involved in making sure that the gangs goals are met.
However, to become a part of a prison gang and to be affiliated with them prospective members have to go through a process of what is called “blood in-blood out.” Prospective members must spill someone else’s blood which usually involves a murder. One main reason for the creation of many if not all these prison gangs was to come up with a way in which inmates could protect themselves from other possible threats.
The war on drugs that began in the 80’s has called for an increase for gang related persons that are placed into prisons. The incarceration of present gang members fuels the gangs operations in a way that makes it hard for the growth of prison gangs to decrease. Due to the extreme amount of control that some gangs have they are able to grant themselves a sense of security and executive power. One of the few solutions found to effectively suspend this power is through violence. In the past gangs have been seen as problems in the “free world” but in recent years this problem has been taken behind bars where once primitive forms of protection are now growing empires of businesses among inmates.
“Racist Groups in U.S. Prisons”, Anti-Defamation League
“Prison Gangs”, United States Department of Justice
“Nuestra Familia”, Inside Prison