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Prison Gang Research Paper

Prison gangs, also referred to as security threat groups, loosely refers to collections of inmates who engage in what is considered gang activity. Prison gangs engage in various illegal activities involving drugs, gambling, murder-for-hire, extortion, loan sharking, money laundering, and prostitution. A recent study estimated that one fourth of all adult male inmates confined in U.S. correctional units were members of gangs.

Gangs use violence instrumentally and expressively. Violence may be instrumental to attain economic rewards, sex, social power, or control over desired institutional resources or space. Violence may also be expressive, with much gang violence being directed at enemy gangs. Gang members are socialized to use violence to uphold the honor of themselves and their gangs, as well as to vanquish potential rivals. Gangs may use violence expressively against their own members to establish discipline and control. Incarcerated gang members are no longer seen as just “doing time”; they are “doing gang time,” meaning that they are not just passing time until release, but also are fundamentally oriented toward serving the needs and goals of their gangs during their periods of incarceration.

One study has shown that prison gangs were responsible for 20% of the violence toward staff and 40% of the violence directed at other inmates. Another recent study demonstrated gang affiliation as a predictor of inmate violence. Further, this study revealed that core gang members were more likely to engage in violence than more peripheral members.

Gangs may be informal, loosely organized groups with shifting axes of power and alliances. But gangs can also be formal, hierarchical societies with strict codes of conduct and detailed social control practices. In recent years, prison gang affiliation has tended to be based along racial and ethnic lines. The larger gangs in the U.S. prison system in recent times are the Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips, Gangster Disciples, White Supremacists, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings.

Prison administrators have struggled to reduce the influence of and even the existence of prison gangs in a number of ways. Many prisons forbid tattooing since gangs often use their own unique tattoo design to symbolize members’ affiliation, though the bans have not been strongly successful. Prison classification specialists often attempt to separate gang members, using administrative segregation for anyone thought to be affiliated with a gang, assigning gang members to different prison units or work details, and/or sending individual gang members to separate prisons. Prison officials also have refused to permit gangs to meet and distribute informational materials as other groups in prison enjoy. Despite these attempts, gang activity continues to flourish in prison.


  1. American Correctional Association. (2003). A study of gangs and security threat groups in America’s adult prisons and jails. Alexandria, VA: Author.
  2. Gaes, G. G., Wallace, S., Gilman, E., Klein-Saffran, J., & Suppa, S. (2001). The influence of prison gang affiliation on violence and other prison misconduct. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  3. Knox, G. (2005). The problem of gangs and security threat groups (STGs) in American prisons today: Recent research findings from the 2004 Prison Gang Survey. Chicago: National Gang Crime Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=207764

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Gangs in Prison Essay

1447 Words6 Pages

Prison gangs are originally formed by inmates as a way of protecting themselves from the other inmates. These gangs have turned out to be violent and thus posing a threat to security. This paper will have a look at the different gangs in prisons, their history, beliefs and missions, and the differences and similarities in these gangs.
The Aryan Brotherhood
The Aryan Brotherhood started in 1964 was founded by Tyler Bingham and Barry Mills who were white supremacists and Irish American bikers. It started at the San Quentin state prison. The prison group was created to protect white prisoners from the black inmates. The cause changed into revenue when the group gained power. This gang is the most violent white supremacists…show more content…

This group is continuously growing both in the prison and also outside the prison. It has its dominance mostly in state prisons especially the San Quentin prison.
The Black Guerrilla Family
The Black Guerrilla Family was started in the year 1966 by W.L. Nolen, Lester Jackson, James Carr and other racist who were black in the San Quentin state prison in California. The founders adopted the militia structure and ideology of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The gangs were started so as to unite the black prisoners and get rid of a violent uprising. This uprising was believed to be from a racist prison administration that was white. The gang attracted thousands black American offenders, and was listed for a number of staff assaults and the murder of Marin County judge in 1970. Its territory is in California and some selected areas in the United States. It also has a paramilitary kind of structure. It has around 50,000 members. If one wants to join the gang, one has to be black and must be nominated by an existing member. They have a symbol of a dragon that is attacking a gun tower of a prison. This gang is still growing in most of the American prisons with some of its members outside the confinement.
The Folk Nation
The Folk nation was founded in 1978, in Chicago, along with the People Nation. The Folk Nation groups include the Black Disciples, Black Gangster Disciples, the Gangster Disciples, the

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