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Prison Gangs

Updated November 1, 2018
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.. hey are a part of the family as well.

The Mexican Mafia coined the term Blood in, Blood out which refers to the gangs policy concerning gang loyalty. Blood in relates to the blood spilled during initiation, while blood out alludes to the consequences of trying to depart from the gang. Concerned with drug trafficking, extortion, pressure rackets, and internal discipline, the Mexican Mafia has been a long-time powerhouse amongst prison gangs. Another Mexican-American/Hispanic gang that sprung up in California during the middle of the century was La Nuestra Familia.

This gang was originally formed for protection purposes against the Mexican Mafia because cultural and social difference had created hatred between these two gangs. La Nuestra Familia has different organizations for prison and street segments. Members typically wear red rages and have initials like NF, LNF, ENE, and F tattooed in various places on their bodies. Another common symbol among members tattoos is a sombrero with a dagger. Their most outstanding rivals were Texas Syndicate, Mexikanemi, and Aryan Brotherhood, while they maintained working relations with the Black Guerrilla Family. They focused on similar means of productivity, such as drug trafficking and extortion, as did most prison gangs.

The Texas Syndicate came out of the Folsom prison in California during the early nineteen seventies. Its members were Mexican-American/Hispanic males who joined as a direct response to the growing reality of violence and rape by other prison gangs member. The tattoos that were generally located on the back of the right forearm, were intricate designs that somewhere adopted the initials TS. An interesting characteristic of the Texas Syndicate which displays the existence of hierarchical organization, are the terms used by gang members to describe themselves, groups, and recruits. The term Carnal refers to any gang member, and the term carnales represents a group of members. They use the term cardinal in reference to the recruits, and chairman in reference to the leader.

Their enemies are the Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familia, Mexican Mafia, Mexikanemi, and Mandingo Warriors. The Texas Syndicate had the tendency to fall in disfavor, whether by choice or action, with most of the other prison gangs. With no real allies, Texas Syndicate has developed relations with the Texas Mafia and Dirty White Boys. The members carry with them a growing Hispanic and Latino supremacy ideology and have said to be recruiting at a desperate rate. The need to fight back against to reality of prison violence is evident in the origin of most prison gangs, and the development of white prison gangs is a classic example.

Being so racially outnumbered in an unfamiliar subculture, white inmates also had to create a protection network. The William King closely relates to this concept, as his attitude toward race as radically changed from the time he went in to the time he was released. With rape and abuse common inside prisons, the means fight back is essential if one was to avoid being bought and sold to various gang member as a bitch. Under such circumstances, staying neutral or claiming nothing makes an inmate a prime victim for gang members. Unfortunately, joining a gang harbors racism and hate that manifests itself violently. The Aryan Brotherhood is a very well known prison gang consisting of white males.

This gang first made it appearance in California in 1967. Members are known to be covered in identifying symbols such as swastikas, shamrocks, double lightening bolts, the initials AB, and other neo-nazi symbols. They often use Gaelic symbols as a way of coding communication. The Aryan Brotherhood has a fine working relationship with the Mexican Mafia. Although racial hate runs rampant, the Aryan Brotherhood utilizes black associates to sell drugs to the black prison population, along with lending moral support to black groups that may cause prison disruption.

The Aryan Brotherhoods enemies are the Crips, Bloods, El Rukns, and Black Guerrilla Family. Members engage in all sorts of prison activities such as contraband, distribution of drug, and breaking facility rules. They are a violent gang. Between the years of 1975 to 1985, Aryan Brotherhood members committed forty homicides within the California prisons and local jails, along with thirteen homicides in the community.

And between 1978 to 1992, member were involved in twenty-six homicides within the federal system, three of which had staff members as victims. Once out of prison, Aryan Brotherhood members are expect to score for the members in prison. Maybe William King was scoring for some member remaining in jail. The Black Guerrilla Family is the only major black prison gang. A former Black Panther member founded this gang in 1967 at the San Quentin Sate Prison in California.

The Black Guerrilla Family is by far the most politically oriented of the major prison gangs, formed to eradicate racism, maintain dignity, and overthrow the United States government. Stricter than any other gang, the Black Guerrilla Family was a death oath, requiring all members to make a sincere life-long pledge. Should this pledge by broken, the member would be killed. Their most typical symbol is a black dragon overtaking a prison tower. They also tattooed the initials BGF and crossed sabers and shotgun as a sign of allegiance.

Their enemies consist of the Aryan Brotherhood, Texas Syndicate, and Mexican Mafia. The Black Guerrilla Family uses many of the black street gangs and other allies include the Black Liberation Army, Symbionese Liberation Army, Weather Underground, and numerous black street gangs. Probably the biggest difference between the Black Guerrilla Family and the other prison gangs, is their dedication to a cause. With other gangs are concerned with power, luxury, and respect while in prison, the Black Guerrilla Family has a larger mentality.

Their anti-government and anti-official beliefs cause a deeper, more serious threat to correction facility and law enforcement personnel. Each gang listed above had certain symbols and initials that were tattooed on their body to show allegiance to their gang. Prison gang tattoos are very important within the prison subculture. During the William King investigation, Kings tattoos were brought in as piece if evidence concerning the defendants radical racial views.

Kings defense attorney tried to convince the jury that the tattoos were merely protection devices during Kings stay in prison. Williams numerous tattoos included, a black man hanging from a tree, all of which King acquired in prison. These tattoos not only reflect the racist attitude King acquired in prison, but they also reveal the gangs values and ideals. Inmates display their tattoos fearlessly.

They are a sense of empowerment and a means by which to brag. A tattoo tells someone three distinctive things bout the inmate: who they are, what theyve done, and where theyve been. Many times the inmate will have his nickname or street name tattooed somewhere on his body. Tattooing the name of a loved one is not uncommon either.

Also, symbols like swastikas and other racial markings help to give insight on that inmates belief system. These can help to decipher who the inmate is. What the inmate has done can be seen in the different weapons and the directions in which they point. For example, should the inmate have killed someone with a specific weapon, there may be a tattoo of his weapon pointed outward. A teardrop located under the eye used to be a strong implication of a murder committed, now it typically speaks of family or gang members that had died during the time the convict had spent in prison (Lichtenstien).

Where the inmate has been can be determined from specific landmarks tattooed on his body. Specific gun towers or cell doors may be tattooed to indicate the different prisons that inmate has stayed in. Some convicts get tattoos of specific areas of their ‘home turf’ revealing a pride toward his culture and community. Tattoos can be done in prison two different ways.

The first is the free hand method in which the inmate gets ink and a needle and uses the original Polynesian weapon. These tattoos tend to illegible and sloppy. If the inmate can acquire the right supplies, he can also get a tattoo through the use of a homemade machine. This consists of a simple motor, a hollowed out ball point pen, guitar string, and a battery. Which basically can be constructed in such a way as to create a pivoting pen head that needs to be continually dipped in ink.

This method is more precise and generally creates a better product. Getting caught with a tattoo gun, our in the act of getting a tattoo results in a major disciplinary response. The convict will loose privileges, be moved to a more restrictive wing, and sometimes face a disciplinary hearing. Due to the popular demand of tattoos, these rules do little to discourage the inmates from getting more tattoos.

Within the prison subculture, a good tattoo artist is held in high regard.

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Prison Gangs. (2018, Dec 11). Retrieved from