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Looking Into Gangs in the U S PrisonsResearch Paper

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Gangs in the U.S. Prisons

Who are they?

The definition of 'prison gangs' according to Lyman (1989) is a group that operates in prisons as a self-maintained criminal unit, comprising of a selected bunch of prisoners having a fixed, ordered command chain and regulated by a set standard of conduct. These gangs typically operate covertly. One of its objectives is performing gang activities through the control of their respective prison environments, via aggression and bullying directed at non-gang members (p. 48). They constitute a relentlessly disruptive force within correctional facilities. Their activities end up disrupting correctional programming, eroding institutional culture, and threatening staff as well as fellow inmates' safety (Fleisher & Decker, 2001).

Commonly, prison gangs engage in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution, rape, extortion, loan sharking, gambling, theft/robbery, murder, and abductions; some activities of theirs may even go beyond the walls of their prison. Further, gang conduct is often characteristically violent, with dominance and terrorization tactics, like physical, sexual, and verbal abuse typically being utilized. Consequently, gangs are believed to aggravate the already difficult living environment for other prison inmates, having potential debilitating impacts on their rehabilitation by decreasing their chances of successfully reintegrating into normal social life (Jones, 2016).

The abovementioned gangs are a threat to security, and if they are not managed effectively or left uncontrolled, may result in riots or severe disruption. They represent a critical management concern and challenge at prisons. Handling this issue effectively alone can, lower violence rates will be witnessed in prisons (Campbell, 2014).

How are they dealt with in prisons including their growth and influence?

The activities of groups that threaten security are curbed and managed successfully using management tools. Unfortunately, they are not equally effective in all prisons. Leadership starts at the correctional organization's management. Normally, wardens are present at prisons -- they lay down the direction, tone, and support for prison organization management. However, their effectiveness is constrained by the effectiveness of the non-uniformed and uniformed staff and team they are assigned to lead. All employees within prison organizations have a significant part to play in the maintenance of a healthy, safe, and secure atmosphere. For accomplishing this, every employee must be aware of their organization's mission, grasp what their role is in the management of prisoners, and have a chance to voice their concerns. Staff represents another precious prison resource. No excuse can be given for staff's inadequate training or the lack of ongoing training for preparing them to handle the dangerous and challenging prison gangs that pose a threat to security. One depressing fact observed in prison settings is that often, one will come across inmates who have more knowledge of departmental policies, rules, and regulations to tackle the threat of prison gangs, than some members of prison staff. The reason for this is a lack of efficient management and leadership at every level of the organization. Adequate support and training will go a long way to build confidence among the workforce and motivate them (Campbell, 2014).

A number of hidden as well as manifest approaches have been attempted by prison managers, including employing inmate informants, isolating gang leaders from their gang, using prison gang segregation units, locking down entire institutions, blocking external and internal communication lines of gangs, severely prosecuting offensive actions perpetrated by members of prison gangs, and investigating the offenses of these gangs case for case. Segregation is one widely used control tactic. Prison inmates are placed in isolated cell all day long with the exception of one hour, which is assigned to activities like recreation, where they can mingle with other inmates. Gang leader isolation is another commonly employed control policy. The lockdown of a gang leader ensures weakening of vertical gang communication, and ultimately, there will be a drop in the group's solidarity. One way to isolate leaders of prison gangs is transferring them to another correctional institution, or circulating them between institutions (United States Department of Justice, 1992). A final approach to curb their activities is transfers to different states, that is, sending key members of prison gangs far enough away so that the activities of the gang may stop completely or at least slow down. The hope is that an interstate transfer will result in the disruption and ultimate demise of an established prison gang (Fleisher & Decker, 2001).

With the development of novel gang-related information, there must be a fresh appraisal of training requirements. Staff members must be offered training during any additions and changes. Aside from training, prison managers must also evaluate any further security and technology, which can be employed. Whenever some critical incident occurs, it needs to be analyzed thoroughly, by exploring various areas with a particular focus on determining whether training is effective and training needs are being satisfied. There are also some additional required elements for effective management and curbing of prison gangs, namely, a coordinator for groups that threaten prison security and the step down or renunciation procedure. The position of coordinator must be instituted and implemented by the wardens of individual prisons. The person holding this post will be in charge of collecting and monitoring information and records pertaining to prison gangs, and will be included in the process of gang identification and certification/validation. The coordinator's role differs for every state (Campbell, 2014).

Two Major Gangs in Prisons Organizational structure

Mexikanemi

The Mexikanemi's structure consists of three elements: prospects, members, and associates. The organization also comprises of sergeant, soldier, and lieutenant posts. They form the mainstay and the key members of the lethal organization that instituted the boards or the Mesa that control main prison lines. The members of these boards are charged with organizing a majority of activities of the Mexican Mafia. The Mexikanemi demands lifelong loyalty from gang members. The gang forbids drug abuse and homosexuality.

Texas Syndicate

An elected president as well as vice president lead this gang much like in a legal business organization. Individual units of the Syndicate are under the control of chairmen, to whom vice chairmen, captains, lieutenants, soldiers and sergeants-at-arms are answerable. Except for the topmost ranks (i.e., vice chairman, chairman, president, and vice president), every other lesser rank is filled by people with a history of successful performance of gang activities. This gang has adopted a democratic leadership approach. Every member can cast one vote; a proposal is decided upon only through unanimous vote for it (Orlando-Morningstar, 1997).

Gang symbols

Symbolism for the Mexikanemi is different in its application of Aztec imageries and the spelling of the word "Mexikanemi." Following are the symbols adopted by the Mexikanemi: EME, the double-headed Aztec Serpent, 13, and Merecido, whereas Texas Syndicate members wear tattoos in which the initials "TS" are situated somewhere within the design. At times, the initial cannot be deciphered without close scrutiny. Typically, these tattoos are at the hind side of members' right forearm. However, the tattoo has, at times, also been located on other areas like the neck, chest, and outer portion of the calf.

History and history of violence

Mexikanemi

This prison gang is occasionally confused for the Mexican Mafia that originated in California. Mexicanemi was instituted in the year 1984 by two natives of San Antonio, Jose Lopez and Heriberto Huerta. The latter is said to have developed the plan for this mafia style prison gang, which he organized along the lines of the Italian Mafia in New York, namely, La Cosa Nostra. Mexikanemi is a dangerous gang that operates on streets and within national prisons. Its members are involved in numerous major crimes like drug trafficking, burglary, extortion, loan sharking, and even homicide. The Mexikanemi, with an approximate membership of 17000 criminals, is well-organized, and runs across Mexico and the United States under a rigorous paramilitary structure (Prison Offenders, 2016).

Texas syndicate

This highly-organized gang is one among the most well-established gangs in Texas prisons. It was started by Francisco "Panchito" Gonzales and Juan "Pajaro" Solis-Vela in the year 1970 in the Folsom prison of California. The latter was, at one time, part of "T-Birds," the downtown street gang in El Paso while the former whose roots lie in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, established the gang to protect itself from the violent Nuestra Familia and Mexican Mafia of California. While Texas Syndicate was a small-scale organization within California, it grew in scale in Texas State, after its members returned to Texas having served prison sentences in California. The lethal prison gang profits from intense trafficking of drugs, gangland executions, burglaries/thefts, and extortion. It started extortion as well as raping weaker fellow inmates. A number of prison offenders started hating the TS for these heinous offenses. In the year 1983, this resentment led to the formation of the novel prison gang known as the Mexikanemi (Prison Offenders, 2016).

References

Campbell, T. (2014, July 4). Managing Prison Gangs/Security Threat Groups. Retrieved from The Corrections Connection: http://www.corrections.com/news/article/35652-managing-prison-gangs-security-threat-groups

Fleisher, M. S., & Decker, S. H. (2001). An Overview of the Challenge of Prison Gangs.

Corrections Management Quarterly, 5(1), 1-9.

Jones, C.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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