Gang Members, Career Criminals, and Prison Violence
June 30, 2014
CRJS 201-Online (Summer II-2014)
“Once inside, I was walked through a gauntlet of desperate men. Their hot smell in the muggy corridor was as foul as their appearance. None of them seemed to have a full set of front teeth. Many bore prominently displayed tattoos of skulls or demons. One could argue whether it was the look of these men that led them to prison or whether it was the prison that gave them their look. Just looking at them made me fear my life.” Victor Hassine, Author-Life Without Parole
In communities and within correctional facilities, among youth and prisoners, gang membership is a vigorous correlate of delinquency, violence and other forms of antisocial behavior. “This research takes one of two general forms. On one hand, investigators view street gang involvement as a pre-prison characteristic that is imported by inmates into the facility and contributes to their involvement in prison violence, misconduct and maladjustment (DeLisi, 2004).” There have been many studies conducted concerning gang violence in prison. Most studies are based on outside affiliations with gang members, age, race, and ethnicity. Most of the empirical research and practically all of the fieldwork conducted on gangs has been devoted to street gangs. The authors also examined a measure of street gang research, so it can be shown that core members of a prison gang were more likely to commit violent and other kinds of misconduct than more exterior members. Both specific and more generic gang indicators were related to violence and other forms of official prison misconduct. A composite measure of gang misconduct represents the threat that particular gangs pose to prison order. The “threat index” is model based and provides a graphical representation of the relative magnitude of the threat posed by different gang affiliations.
Prison gangs tend to display a distinct hierarchical structure. A single inmate who best embodies the gang's value assumes the role of the leader. A leader time in control is normally short, partially due to the prison system's ability to relocate inmates. It is usually the strongest remaining gang member that assumes leadership or the gang's elite counsels a decision. A member's degree of influence flows down a criterion of ranks, with the recruits having no say in any aspect of the gang's direction and function. Gaining higher position in the ranks usually involve violent acts against opposing gang members. Each member takes an oath to maintain loyalty and obedience to the gang; any signs of defiance or inability to represent gang ideals would lead to violent confrontation. Because most inmates have tendency to join gangs inside prison due to over exposure and the need for protection, it is important to figure out ways to combat the violence these gangs encourage. By inmate deportation, the department can ensure that the inmate will be hard-pressed to find new racial alliances. Unfortunately, gangs tend to be regenerating in nature. There is always someone 'next in line,' and by deporting a leader, the prison may only increase the gang's anger toward the system, encouraging further violence.
Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, prison gangs focused primarily on uniting inmates for self-protection and the monopolization of illegal prison activities for monetary gain. They combined the philosophies and practices of street gangs and more traditional crime families. At about the same time, some gang rivalries began to develop, fostering predatory and violent behavior. As the groups became more formally organized, command and control structures were established to strengthen the ability to carry out group goals. Most gangs recruit along racial and ethnic lines and while actual membership is limited to males, most groups rely to a certain extent on the cooperation and assistance of wives, girlfriends, and...
References: DeLisi, Matt. Berg, Mark T. Hochstetler, Andy. “Gang Members, Career Criminals and Prison Violence.” Criminal Justice Studies, Vol. 17, No. 4, December 2004, pp. 369–383. http://www.soc.iastate.edu/staff/delisi/Gang%20Members%20Career%20Criminals%20%26%20Prison%20Vioolence.pdf. Visited June 30, 2014.
Trusty, James M. “Prison Gangs and Photos.” The United States Department of Justice. 1997-2014. http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ocgs/gangs/prison.html. Visited June 30, 2014.
Walker, Robert. “The History, Origin and Evolution of Prison Gangs and Security Threat Groups (STG).” Gangs Or Us. 1999-2014. http://www.gangsorus.com/prison_gang_history.htm. Visited June 30, 2014.
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