The Problem of Gangs and Security Threat Groups (STG’s)
in American Prisons Today:
Recent Research Findings
From the 2004 Prison Gang Survey
George W. Knox, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2005, National Gang Crime Research Center.
This is a study of gangs and security threat groups (STG’s) in American prisons today. The purpose here is to add to the growing body of literature about gangs behind bars. The National Gang Crime Research Center (NGCRC) has made a number of contributions in this area dating back over a decade. While the last decade has witnessed a steady increase in certain of these problems, the present research reports only modest increases overall in the scope of the gang problem, but that new and potentially more explosive problems are emerging inside this arena. The current findings, representing data collected during the first half of 2004, certainly suggest that the problem has not been abated. Indeed there are some new dangerous trends documented here for the first time.
Although correctional officials feel there are some effective strategies to win this war, these measures are not being widely implemented. Meanwhile, gangs are exploiting weaknesses in the correctional system, including abusing legislative provisions intended to protect religious rights.
Correctional staff polled indicated problems in their awareness of legal developments, and identified education as an ongoing need; and, three years after 911, the recruitment of gang members into terror networks remains a issue.
What can be done? What must be done? This article will present an overview of gang demographics, including gender and religious affiliation - a survey of violence - procedures, programs, etc. Finally, it will conclude with recommendations drawn from the survey data..
WHAT IS IMPORTANT ABOUT GANGS AND STG’s IN AMERICA TODAY
The significance of prison gangs/STG’s is not limited to the effect upon the safety and security of correctional institutions. It will be argued here that the importance of studying prison gangs/STG’s also encompasses some other very important knowledge development needs. Among these other areas of importance are emerging problems related to gangs and how prison gangs/STG’s have tended to abuse religious freedoms behind bars and are also spreading hate in the name of religion.
Among these other justifications for studying prison gangs/STG’s is tackling the related problem of “racial enmity” and “racial extremism”, indeed doing something to address the ongoing problem of racial conflict behind bars. Among the other justifications for a detailed empirical study such as that reported here, is that it helps to clarify the basis for establishing policies and procedures which address the social reality of prison life. And, of course, a study such as that reported here which gives detailed accounts of new and emerging problems related to prison gangs/STG’s may spur policy makers into providing new and sorely needed resources to the field of American corrections.
Previous reports by the NGCRC have tended to emphasize the importance of the findings to correctional staff and officers and those who work in and around the correctional institution, and obviously to the types of risks in terms of violence and victimization inmates and prisoners face today from prison gangs/STG’s. Today, the problem affects all of society. It is not a problem just impacting only upon inmates and correctional officers. It is a problem, rather, that extends far beyond the prison walls and impacts upon larger American society.
Given the persisting and evolving nature of this problem and its strong evidence of escalation, that unless some bold new initiatives are undertaken to reduce or reverse this problem, it could have devastating effects upon our future society. If some naive reader new to the gang literature wants an example of how a problem like prison gangs can get “out of control” and impact on the entire society, then study the “Red Command” in Brazil. In Brazil, prison gangs like the Red Command, can engineer a “parallel government”: they exert power over society just like a government, but by means of the type of terroristic threat provided by an armed violent criminal gang such as the Red Command (basically drug dealers and death merchants). At appropriate points, reference will be made to some prison gang problems in other parts of the world as it may relate by means of comparison to the American experience.
Some academic authors who read and write about prison gangs without doing empirical research on the issue are prone to use the prison gang problem as a platform to criticize the status quo. A common theme in this “gang apologist” approach is to begin with a 1960's concept of prison rehabilitation and how wonderful the world would be if there were more services and a higher quality of life for inmates and better jobs upon release from prison, and then use the prison gang issue as just another topic to criticize the prison system. These are approaches that ignore the fact that correctional staff are good citizens working for a living and often are the ones brutally assaulted by prison gangs or STGs — this kind of information is not on the minds of the academic critic. Another theme in some university textbooks about correctional institutions that are widely in use at colleges and universities is to completely ignore the gang problem entirely, relying on dated sociological imaginations about prison life; these are particularly prone to doing a tremendous disservice to the profession of corrections by being so far removed from the social reality of modern prison life where gangs and STG’s play a dominant role when it comes to issues of violence, rackets, etc.
Some of the best research on prison gangs has been published in the Journal of Gang Research over the last decade. Still other valuable research arises from the prison system itself, particularly the federal Bureau of Prisons. Gaes, et al (2001) reported empirical research based on federal inmates which was able to confirm some of the findings earlier reported by Stone (2000), particularly chapter 9 about a gang classification system in the Stone reader. In the Stone (2000) reader, the authors from the National Gang Crime Research Center had collected data on over 4,000 incarcerated gang members nationwide. Among other things, it demonstrated that gang members were a more significant disciplinary problem and threat generally than non-gang members behind bars. This covered fights, disciplinary reports, etc, at the individual unit of analysis and technically represented probably the single largest sample size of gang members ever developed in the previously reported literature.
Perhaps what is important about gangs and STG’s in America today is nothing more than the promise implied or explicit that our correctional institutions will afford safe environments in which to work for the correctional officers and staff employed there, and the two million plus inmates who reside in these facilities. Few in American society know the true meaning and significance of being a “correctional officer”, indeed most commonly a somewhat derogatory term is used instead to refer to this occupational sector: “prison guards”. But many continue to marginalize these correctional officers by the label of “prison guard”, a term or phrase or identifier that does not reflect the rise of a professionalism within the field of corrections.
A security threat group (STG) is any group of three (3) or more persons with recurring threatening or disruptive behavior (i.e., violations of the disciplinary rules where said violations were openly known or conferred benefit upon the group would suffice for a prison environment), including but not limited to gang crime or gang violence (i.e., crime of any sort would automatically make the group a gang, and as a gang in custody it would logically be an STG). In some jurisdictions the Security Threat Group is also called a “Disruptive Group”. STG’s or disruptive groups would include any group of three or more inmates who were members of the same street gang, or prison gang, or the same extremist political or ideological group where such extremist ideology is potentially a security problem in the correctional setting (i.e., could inflame attitudes, exacerbate racial tensions, spread hatred, etc).
Definitions of STG’s do exist which are more liberal and allow for any group of “two or more persons” to define an STG and this apparently became the ACA (American Correctional Association) definition over a decade ago (“two or more inmates, acting together, who pose a threat to the security or safety of staff/inmates, and/or are disruptive to programs and/or to the orderly management of the facility/system”, see ACA quote in Allen, Simonsen, Latessa, 2004: p. 196). The problem with two is that this is only a social dyad at best. The social dyad is not capable of the primordial act of any organization: delegation, as can occur in a true social group (which must have 3 or more persons in it). The definition advanced here is more consistent with the larger literature, and American law, on the definition of “gang”.
The definition of an STG in the Arizona Department of Corrections is typical of those definitions which emphasize certain issues and ignore others, let us examine it here:
“What is a Security Threat Group? Any organization, club, association or group of individuals, formal or informal (including traditional prison gangs), that may have a common name, identifying sign or symbol, and whose members engage in activities that would include, but are not limited to planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting, committing, or attempting to commit unlawful acts or an act that would violate the departments written instructions, which would detract from the safe orderly operations of prisons” (Arizona Dept. Of Corrections, 2004).
Note that size of the group is not important, but that the STG “may have” a common name or symbol; the list of “may have’s” could be very extensive. Just as the list of behavior’s could be prohibitively long: it may be sufficient to say “any crime, deviance, or rule breaking”.
A prison gang, correctly defined, is any gang (where a gang is a group of three or more persons who recurrently commit crime, and where the crime is openly known to the group) that operates in prison. However, a tradition has developed “in practice” within the context of applied ideas about prison gangs, where the correctional practitioner defines a prison gang exclusively as “a gang that originated in the prison”. Thus, gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Black Guerilla Family and the Melanics would be “pure prison gangs” in this respect, because these were not street gangs imported into the prison system, these are gangs that originated within the prison system itself. The Lyman (1989) definition of prison gang centers around the commission of crime, without the crime a prison group could violate rules and regulations and still be a security threat group.
Can there be a disruptive group that is not necessarily a gang? Yes, of course, if the collective identity of the group is such that it seeks to challenge the legitimacy of the correctional system itself. In Texas, for example, the pre-service and in-service “gang/STG training” includes information about a group called the “Self Defense Family (SDF)”. The SDF is mostly Black with one white inmate, but objectively it is a group that just likes to file law suits against the prison system, the members of the SDF are “prison lawyers”: not real lawyers, self-taught inmates who have become very adept at frivolous law suits. The SDF may not qualify as a “gang”, because after all what they are doing is “lawful”, but they are a “threat” to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“Stigged” to “STG’d” means to the process by which any group of inmates is determined to be and becomes officially labeled as a Security Threat Group. This often goes according to official policy and procedure for declaring an inmate group a STG, there are written guidelines and there usually exists a burden of proof requirement — such a the need to show a pattern of abuses or documenting offenses (disciplinary rules, assaults, violence, etc) over time in a time series approach. Typically this process begins at the institutional level where the group is a problem, and the central administration reviews the recommendation, and then if the evidence is sufficient, the inmate group becomes classified as a Security Threat Group statewide, i.e., throughout the entire prison system.
“Validated” refers to the “validation process”, a process by which an inmate is determined, usually after continuing to be a gang banger in prison, to be a “security threat group member” by the prison officials. In California, most gang members behind bars are not “validated”, the stigma of “validated” means the inmate would have had a continued career of conspicuous gang banging violence behind bars. Thus, officially for decades, California’s prison system has reported to researchers that it has a “low gang density”, because these estimates of gang density (the percentage of inmates who are gang/STG members) are based upon “validated gang/STG members”. So the way “validated” has worked in some jurisdictions like California is that it refers to a process where after posting many warnings and cautioning inmates against engaging in crime or violence on behalf of their gang, after of course being put in prison for the same thing, the inmate continues to be caught for gang violence behind bars, and the correctional system has no other recourse than to say “we’ve had enough, now you are a validated gang member”. Validated gang members can be given special security levels and more restricted housing environments.
Gang denial is a social policy whereby the entity involved — the city, the facility, the company, the school, or the entire state corrections agency — denies there is a gang problem or reports a significantly lower gang problem than actually exists. Sometimes called the “Ostrich phenomenon”, it means ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away on its own. In some jurisdictions, it is politically imposed because awareness could have implications for the local tourism trade. Or more typically, there is an assumption that if the entity reports a gang problem, it attracts further “bad news”. It is hard to attract new employees to low paying high turnover jobs in corrections when the newspapers are reporting gang fights behind bars. It usually takes a serious crisis or a local news media investigation to reverse a “gang denial policy”.
The term “validation process” as used in California was their innovative way of dealing with a high gang density rate: it is reasonable to believe that California’s prison system, as a producer of gangs, that is as a major national epicenter of gangs, is probably comparable to Illinois with regard to gang density. In Illinois, approximately 80 to 90 percent of the inmates coming into the prison system were gang members on the streets. Gang inmates are told to behave, and if they do not, they face the risk of being a “validated gang member”.
Thus, when California reports to a prison researcher that “six percent of our inmates are STG/prison gang members” they are couching this unbelievably low statistic in the magical language of “validated gang members”: those who within the inmate population continued to be gang bangers and we caught them doing it in very serious offenses after being incarcerated. One might ask, of course, is this policy of obscuring the gang problem the way it is reported to the public — a variation on the “gang denial” theme ---a policy that could also encourage a greater personal safety threat to the correctional officers who work there?
Gang density means the percentage of inmates who are now or who have ever been members of a street or prison gang. Gang members rarely give up their gang upon being incarcerated, they continue their gang involvement in most cases. Gangs are the dominant subculture in the entire American correctional system today (jails, juvenile and adult correctional facilities, public and private).
Some practitioners in their writing like to make a distinction between traditional prison gangs and untraditional prison gangs, where what they really mean is that the traditional prison gangs were those first on the scene (Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerilla Family, etc) and that untraditional or non-traditional would therefore be “anything else”. This is not a particularly useful distinction when it is known that some gangs considered “traditional prison gangs” have long ago made the transition to the street. A better, more analytically sound, distinction would be to classify these prison gangs in terms of the level of their organizational threat: are they in a national gang alliance system, do they have a national impact, and a large number of empirical measurements that can be taken on gang groups and gang organizations in terms of the features of their social organization (Knox, 2000).
THE TIME FRAME FOR DATA COLLECTION
The time frame for data collection represented the first six months of the year 2004. Several questions on the survey refer to a time context and ask the respondent to provide information about their prison during the most recent year. It is necessary to clarify here that when these questions are referring to data from the most recent “one year period”, that the questions are actually referring to the one year time frame of 2003.
The survey research methodology was straight forward, it attempted to saturate each of the 50 states by contacting any and all adult correctional facilities known to exist. The first point of contact would be with the warden or superintendent. If no response came back from the warden or superintendent, then an effort would be made to locate a person such as an STG coordinator or STG investigator perhaps someone previously known to the NGCRC in the same facility. The goal was to get as broad of a national sample as possible. In as much as the sample did finally end up with 49 states represented, it is apparent that the methodology was an effective one. The survey did allow participants to be anonymous respondents. So allowing respondents to be anonymous may have helped overcome some resistance.
It is easy to understand why some states are hostile to surveys such as this one, they do not want their state to be compared unfairly with other states. For example, in a state-by-state comparison of certain issues surrounding the gang problem, it could be very embarrassing for some states to have their actual gang/STG density factors published. The reason for this embarrassment goes back to previous surveys where the same states may have supplied such low estimates of the gang member density statistic that it would look like the state has rapidly deteriorated if the true or current statistic was reported. Knowing this feature of the geo-politics of corrections research, the methodology used in this study gave the respondents another option: the option to not have any of their data analyzed with reference to their zip code (which provides state and jurisdictional location). The NGCRC will respect such preferences, and providing this option did help gain the useful sample size developed from the research.
The vast majority of the survey items used in this research are questions previously used in NGCRC correctional surveys of jails, juvenile correctional institutions, and adult correctional institutions. However, this year there are some new survey items that have been added to the item pool. It is important here to gratefully recognize the work and contributions from a number of different researchers who designed or helped design some of the new questions, particularly dealing with white racist extremists and their “religious practices” behind bars.
THE SAMPLE SIZE
A total of N = 193 validated survey respondents are included in the analysis reported here. Several additional survey respondents did participate by sending in their information, but these were not used in the analysis because they were non-responsive in some basic or elementary way to the requirement of completing the survey instrument (excessive missing data, etc). One case was also eliminated because it represented the entire state, when the unit of analysis sought was the institution level unit of analysis.
MOST STATES REPRESENTED: RHODE ISLAND IS THE EXCEPTION
A total of 49 states are represented in the survey data. The only state that did not cooperate with the survey was the State of Rhode Island. This is considered a very effective national sample when 49 out of 50 states are represented in the N = 193 survey respondents.
HOW THIS REPORT IS ORGANIZED: THE ORDER OF PRESENTATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
The order of presentation will be that the basic and descriptive statistical findings from the survey are presented first. This order, in terms of topical areas, will follow the same order as the items had inside the survey instrument itself. This is the fairest method in an order of presentation because it does not assign any special significance to the placement of results within this order. The presentation order basically lets the chips fall where they may in the same order as the question appears in the survey instrument.
After examining the basic and descriptive statistical findings from the research, this report will then present the findings from a content analysis of the open-ended items in the survey. The open-ended items in the survey sought to collect narrative information that could be codified and analyzed in terms of a content analysis and this content analysis provides findings on general trends. After presenting the findings from an analysis of the narrative items in the survey, and again this will follow the same sequence as the items had in the survey instrument, some more detailed analysis will be reported on special problem areas that have emerged in the findings of this research.
WHAT IS RLUIPA?
The survey asked the question “Do you know what R.L.U.I.P.A. is?”, and this of course referred to a federal law impacting on how prison inmates practice their religious beliefs behind bars. The results suggest that about half of the respondents knew what it was. Some 46.8% indicated “Yes” that they knew what this was, while some 53.2% indicated “No” that they did not know what this was.
RLUIPA stands for “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act”. Persons wanting to know more about how this impacts on corrections can go to the website sponsored by the Becket Fund — www . RLUIPA . Com — and see that many correctional agencies have been sued over this federal law that went into effect in the year 2000. What this new law did was extend certain new statutory rights to prison inmates, said inmates quickly learned they had a new weapon to use against correctional administrators, and a massive onslaught of frivolous lawsuits were soon unleashed against correctional agencies nationwide. Additionally, gangs got into the “prisoner religious rights” business and began to operate as a religious front, using RLUIPA as the basis for holding their meetings.
It is helpful to summarize the recent case from Ohio regarding this statute (Trout, 2004). Basically, what RLUIPA did for adult correctional institutions was to increase the review requirements for placing any restrictions on inmates that might pertain to religion. Prior to the passage of RLUIPA the rational review doctrine applied: this meant that disciplinary measures and restrictions could be placed on inmates regarding religion simply if the prison administration rationally decides it is in the best interests of safety and security to do so. After 2000, though, RLUIPA established the strict scrutiny doctrine under which the burden of proof shifts from the inmate needing to prove his rights were violated to the prison needing to prove it is not violating the rights of inmates. In otherwords, under the strict scrutiny doctrine American prisons are under strict scrutiny and assumed to want to systematically violate the rights of inmates, such that any restriction on an inmate’s religious practices is assumed to required extra special scrutiny.
In establishing the strict scrutiny doctrine, RLUIPA also created two classes of inmates: those whose rights are protected when they operate under the cloak of a religion, and those whose rights are not protected when they do not. Thus, those inmates who might want to advance a hatred of anything but Caucasian people could easily do so by organizing their religious service under a wide variety of banners (Christian Identity, WCOTC, etc), and when they possess inflammatory materials along these lines, they are a religion and the inmates can claim it is constitutionally protected. At the same time, an ordinary neo-nazi who does the same thing, but who does not claim it is a religious practice, will face summary disciplinary procedures under the rational review doctrine. Over the years it appears that inmates have learned that it “pays off” to take on the special status of a religion.
In the last year, though, the Ohio adult prison system won a major victory against RLUIPA: the portion of the law applying to prisoners was found to be unconstitutional in the Sixth Circuit.
ABUSES OF RLUIPA
The survey asked “Has your facility experienced any abuses of religious freedoms as a result of the RLUIPA?”, and only 17.3 percent indicated yes. Thus, overall this basic descriptive finding indicates only a modest level of abuse of the RLUIPA legislation that went into effect in 2000. Recall, however, that only half of the respondents actually knew what this legislative acronym meant. So, it may very well be that a significant percentage of those reporting abuses were also those who knew what it really was. If this is true, then it may be a situation of limited understanding of the overall importance of the legislation, and this would suggest that additional research would be necessary to establish a more realistic estimate of the true level of abuse.
NEARLY THREE-FOURTHS BELIEVE: GROUP WORSHIP IS NOT NECESSARY
When inmates worship, the issue is: should they be allowed to congregate together in a large mass? Or can they achieve the same substantive quality experience by other means such as videotaped transmission or televised services or some other mechanism of the delivery of religious services behind bars?
The survey asked “Do you believe prisoners can meet their religious needs individually without group worship?”, and 72.5 percent indicate “yes”. This may be the issue of the actual size of the group. If they are able to control or take over a prison facility, then obviously it would be a security issue to allow everyone to show up for worship all together all at once in one place: that could not be done in any prison or correctional facility. What happens is some gangs and security threat groups use religious meetings as the basis for their gang meetings. When this happens the inmates abuse the right of religious worship, which does obviously occur in American corrections. Later in this report, an additional follow-up question about group vs. individual worship asks the respondent additional — but different — information along these lines (e.g., could they do this in their cell by means of televised broadcast, etc).
VAST MAJORITY AGREE: TOUGHER LAWS ARE NEEDED
The survey asked “Do you feel we need tougher laws to control the gang problem in prison?”, and the results indicate that 84.9 percent responded “yes” to this question. Thus, a vast majority of those in adult corrections are expressing some level of frustration in dealing with the gang problem behind bars. Another way of looking at this is that perhaps the gang problem inside correctional facilities is escalating at a faster rate than society’s ability to respond to it through effective legislative initiatives.
THE GANG DENSITY AMONG NEW ARRIVING INMATES
The survey asked the respondents “Please estimate what percentage of inmates were gang members before they came to your institution?”, and separate estimates were elicited for both males and females. The results indicate that a mean or arithmetic average of 25.9 percent for males, and 6.28 percent for females, were the respective gang density estimates for newly arriving inmates in American prisons today.
This is the first variable about “gang math” that is presented, and several others will also be used, the issue of larger concern is perhaps how these gang math variable interact with each other. These two variables are the most important parameters for a correctional institution: what percentage of the incoming inmates are gang members, the incoming gang member density rate. Which means, basically, that slightly over a fourth of the males headed into the prison system today are gang members.
LOW TATTOO RATES AMONG INCOMING GANG MEMBERS
The survey asked “Please estimate what percentage of inmates who came into your facility as gang members have permanent “gang tattoos”, and separate estimates were elicited for both the male and female inmates. The results indicated that only 38.2 percent of the males who came in as gang members had permanent gang tattoos, and only 7.4 percent of the females who came in as gang members had permanent gang tattoos. This would seem to signal somewhat low levels of commitment to gang life for persons recently convicted of felonies and headed to long term custody. This is a somewhat curious statistical finding, as it would have been expected to be somewhat higher. Perhaps we are just now discovering that for these gang members they get their biggest and best gang tattoos later while serving the duration of their prison sentences.
THREE-FOURTHS OF AMERICAN PRISONS HAVE RULES PROHIBITING GANG RECRUITMENT AMONG OTHER INMATES
The survey explicitly asked “Does your facility have specific disciplinary rules that prohibit gang recruitment?”. The results indicate that 74.9 percent reported such rules already in place which would prohibit gang recruitment behind bars. Still, about a fourth of the respondents in this survey indicated that no such rules were in place that would prohibit gang recruitment in American prisons — and this is something that needs to change immediately.
ALMOST ALL REPORT: PRISON IS A PLACE WHERE GANGS RECRUIT AND GET NEW MEMBERS
The survey asked “Do you believe that some inmates may have voluntarily joined (sought out) or may have been recruited into a gang while incarcerated?”. The results show that an over-whelming majority (94.2 percent) indicated “yes”, that they are aware of inmates joining or being recruited into a gang while incarcerated. This is a major breakthrough in terms of having full and open disclosure about a major gang problem such as this. If there was previously any doubt about whether the “contamination effect” takes place, then this data should basically set the record straight in that regard. Yes, gang members do contaminate other inmates and thus, sending a gang leader to prison just means the gang leader has a new arena in which to undertake recruiting efforts, and from what nearly 95 percent of the prisons are reporting — it pays off for the gang to be able to recruit or groom new members from inside correctional facilities.
THE FIRST ESTIMATES OF THE SEVERITY OF THE PROBLEM OF INMATES FIRST JOINING A GANG WHILE INCARCERATED
The survey asked “Please estimate what percentage of inmates were not gang members on the streets, but who did in fact join a gang or an STG after entering your institution,” and separate estimates were solicited for males and females. The results indicate that 11.6 percent of the males first joined a gang or STG while incarcerated, compared to 3.7 percent for the female inmates. This is, after all, quite a remarkable finding in one regard: it means one out of ten male prison inmates in America first joined a gang while they were in prison. And, therefore, the rate of new intake into gang life within correctional facilities is a major problem today. This also gives a major new safety goal: to reduce or eliminate such high levels of gang recruitment behind bars might do much if there was ever going to be, for the first time ever, an organized war against criminal gangs in America. It also shows that far from becoming rehabilitated, many inmates become more hardened in the current system.
GANG TATTOO REMOVAL SERVICES DO NOT EXIST BEHIND BARS FOR AMERICAN INMATES
One of the most effective “anti-gang” program services ever conceived of is known as the gang tattoo removal service. When a gang member is disaffected with gang life and wants to leave the gang, perhaps testify against the gang, or just wants to “go straight”, he or she often seeks to remove gang tattoos (see Thompson, 2004b). A large number of communities in America today provide such tattoo removal services. The gang members are screened and an assessment is made as to the sincerity of their claim to want to leave gang life, and upon a determination of their commitment to wanting to leave gang life alone, the program provides free or inexpensive tattoo removal services. Physicians often volunteer for this kind of work, pro bono.
The survey asked “Does your facility have a “gang tattoo removal program” for inmates who want to quit gang life?”. Sadly 99.5 percent indicated “no”, and only one half of one percent indicated “yes”. Therefore, gang tattoo removal services are basically non-existent in American adult corrections today is the finding of this research. And correctional officials are missing an important opportunity to dissuade some inmates from the negative influences of gang life by not seeking to take advantage of basically free services.
A SMALL LEVEL OF ANTI-GANG PROGRAMMING EXISTS IN AMERICAN ADULT CORRECTIONS TODAY
The survey asked “Does your facility have a special program that is able to get gang inmates to quit their gang?”. The results indicated that only 15.7 percent indicated “yes”, thus the vast majority did not have any special program to help their inmates quit gang life. The basic message here is that some of these programs could easily be replicated in other jurisdictions at little or no cost, and it would pay off for American society in a large way would be the prediction here.
One example of a special program that is aimed at encouraging inmates to quit their gang is the GRAD program in the Texas state prison system. GRAD is the acronym for the federally funded “Gang Renouncement and Disassociation Process” (Riggs, 2004). To get into this program gang members in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institution Division must first go into “protective custody” in the Ramsey One prison unit located near Houston, Texas, then in three stages during nine months of program services they are taught “how to start new lives outside the gangs” (Riggs, 2004). Apparently, more than 600 inmates are on the waiting list for the program, which is very consistent with much earlier national research by the NGCRC that many gang members would quit gang life if given the chance.
INMATES DO QUIT GANG LIFE BEHIND BARS: A FIRST ESTIMATE OF THE RATE OF “QUITTING GANG LIFE BEHIND BARS”
As a follow-up on whether any special program existed to help inmates quit gang life, the survey asked “what percentage of the inmates who come in as gang members actually quit their gang?”. The results indicate that a mean of 9.46 percent of the inmates who come in as gang members quit their gang inside correctional institutions. That, too, is quite remarkable when one out of ten gang members coming into the facility quits their gang after they enter the correctional facility. Another way of looking at this might be that they quit one gang to join another, which unfortunately is a likely possibility. It would be useful, in future research along these lines, to investigate the extent to which inmates switch gangs. It is interesting to note that this group of inmates is roughly equal in size to the proportion of inmates who join a gang for the first time during prison. These two factors tend to cancel each other out is what is demonstrated here for the first time.
ADJUSTED GANG DENSITY ESTIMATES
The survey asked “overall, considering the percentage who were gang members before they came to your institution and considering the percentage who joined after they came to your institution, what percentage of the inmates in your facility are gang members?”. Again the survey sought separate estimates for both males and females. The adjusted gang density rate for male inmates was shown to be 24.8 percent, still rather high; and 4.09 percent for female inmates.
IN MOST CASES WHITE INMATES HAVE A SEPARATE GANG
The survey asked “Do white inmates have a separate gang?”. The results showed that 72.3 percent of the facilities responding to the survey reported that white inmates have a separate gang. Actually, as will be further described later in this report, a typical facility may have several white gangs. A follow-up question to this survey item asked for the actual name, as narrative data, of the white gang. This narrative information is subjected to content analysis and the results of the content analyses are reported after the descriptive statistical findings.
Since 1991 this problem has steadily increased in a significant way. In 1991 about a fourth of the institutions were reporting white gangs, as can be seen below, in continuous NGCRC monitoring of this factor over the years, now only about a fourth of the institutions do not have a separate white gang..
1991 1992 1993 1995 1999 2004
YES 27.3% 41.1% 56.7% 57.9% 70.3% 72.3%
NO 72.7% 59.6% 43.3% 42.1% 29.7% 27.7%
POPULAR READING AMONG PRISON INMATES
The survey asked a series of questions about whether any of the inmates in their facility requested or have actually ordered and possessed as their property three different types of books that would give us more than some clue as to the kind of ideological influences available to inmates. Some 31.5 percent of the prisons reported that inmates had the book known as The White Man’s Bible by Ben Klassen. Some 47.3 percent reported that inmates had the book known as The Satanic Bible by Anton Le Vey. And 36 percent reported that inmates had the book entitled Temple of Woton: The Holy Book of the Aryan Tribes by the 14 Word Press.
Unfortunately, this report lacks comparison information for what percentage of inmates generally have possession of these kinds of materials as compared with more mainstream publications such as the Bible or the Koran. It obviously would be a valuable future contribution to our knowledge base to examine this issue.
OVER A THIRD REPORT INMATES HAVING A BOOK OF SHADOWS
The survey asked “Have any of the inmates in your facility, past or present, ever possessed or manufactured a Book of Shadows?”. Some 37.5 percent responded “yes”. Thus, over a third of the responding correctional facilities were familiar with this aspect of occult practices behind bars. The Book of Shadows is an occult practice found in the Wiccan groups. Wiccan witchcraft is considered a legitimate religion in the U.S. Military, and cannot be suppressed or investigated.
INMATES REQUESTING TO CONDUCT THE BLOD RITE
The survey asked “Have any inmates in your facility requested to conduct the Blod Rite in your facility?”, and the results indicated that 12.2 percent of the facilities responding to the survey answered “yes”. The Blod Rite is an Odinist ritual, where the priest and priestess gather others who worship the white god of Valhalla (Odin). Odinism could obviously be a front for white racist extremist gangs behind bars, this would be consistent with the analysis by Blazak (2002).
MEASURES OF WHITE RACIST EXTREMIST MINISTRY OUTREACH TO AMERICAN INMATES
To our knowledge this is the first time any systematic effort has been undertaken to measure the scope and extent of white racist extremist ministry outreach to American inmates. The survey asked “Has your facility received any “prison ministry literature” from any of the following groups” and listed were the top three operating in America.
The results indicated that 29 percent of the prisons report inmate outreach from the Kingdom Identity Ministries (Christian Identity). Further, that 36.6 percent report outreach from the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Christian Identity). And finally, that 45.9 percent report outreach from the World Church of the Creator or Creativity (WCOTC).
A separate question asked the respondents “What are the top three largest white racist extremist “religious” front groups that are proselytizing to the inmates in your facility?”, but this this narrative is subjected to content analysis and reported later in this report.
This is an lengthy in-depth report. Read the whole report here: