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Indentifying Prison Gangs: Their Bonds And Their Ink

2306 words - 9 pages

While in prison criminals become part of the gang or a member of the gang's victim pool. Race and culture seem to be the major factors in the victimization of inmates. The inmate may not be racist when he enters the system, however the need for survival against other inmates may force these characteristics to become more prominent. In the summer of 1998, a young man named William King was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of James Byrd Jr. Byrd was a black man from Jasper County, Texas, whom was bound at the ankles and dragged to death behind a truck. Why would this young man commit such a terrible and seemingly racist crime? Most would agree that it was his time spent in prison that led William King to take the life of James Byrd Jr. Friends and family of William stated that he was a pleasant before he went to prison for burglary. When he was released, he was a different person who spoke about white supremacy and was anxious to initiate his own supremacist gang. King’s defense attorney explained that it was the high rate of violence in the Texas correctional institute that caused him to become a gang member for a sense of security. William's defense attorney argued that he was merely a victim of the deteriorating prison system in this country (Racism, tolerance, and perfected redemption: A rhetorical critique of the dragging trial, Larry A. Williamson, 2009). The reality of prison gangs is nearly impossible to ignore. King's story, although not a defense for his crime, sheds light on today's prisons and the gangs within them. Newly admitted convicts are often victimized to no end until they join a group or gang that displays power and their intentions to survive prison life. Violence, rape, and murder are just a few of the everyday crimes that happen behind prison bars. Crimes committed inside prisons, especially drug use and sell, often start and/or continue outside the gate. These are made possible is through an inmate’s friends and/or girlfriends ( Justice Quarterly, Vol. 20, Iss. 3, 2006). Gangs need strong leaders to maintain their power and connections to the outside world; a single inmate who best embodies the gang’s beliefs usually assumes the role. When the leader is relocated either the gang’s elite decides on a new leader or the strongest remaining gang member assumes the role. Becoming an elite member requires acts of violence that focus on weakening other gangs. Each member takes vows to be loyal and obedient, if the vow is broken they risk losing everything including their life. By deportation of inmates to facilities where they are the minority, the department can ensure that the inmate will be hard-pressed to find new racial alliances. The institution may send an Aryan Brotherhood leader in a facility heavily populated with black inmates. This does not always deter the gang violence as there is always someone to replace the leader; the prison may only increase the gang’s anger toward the system be deporting a...

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