Prison Gangs Essay

This essay has a total of 3058 words and 14 pages.

Prison Gangs



"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 for my life" (Hassine, 7). Most inmates in
correctional facilities felt the way that Victor Hassine felt on his first day in a
correctional facility in Pennsylvania called Graterford State Prison. New inmates
are seen as "fresh meat". They fear their life. Most of these inmates find
sanctuary in gangs.
Inmates join gangs for protection. Gangs in correctional facilities are more
of a necessity, unlike street gangs. People don't need a gang to survive in the
street because there are other ways one can find help, a family, protection,
belongingness, etc. But in correctional facilities one's outlets are limited. One's
preoccupation in jail is survival which leads inmates to change their habits,
personality, and even their values. Living in an environment where "an
unexpected smile could mean trouble, a man in uniform is not a friend, being
kind is a weakness, and eye contact is a threat" doesn't leave one much of a
choice, does it?
There are numerous gangs in correctional facilities but among the most
common are the Latin Kings, Five Percent Nation, and the Netas. Some gangs in
these facilities are extensions of neighborhood street gangs. Their names are
based on their urban location, like the 21st and Norris Gang, the 60th and
Market Gang, and the 10th Street Gang in Philadelphia. There are also less
common prison gangs like Los Solidos, Latin Locos, G27, Nation, Brotherhood,
Elm City Boys, 20 Luv, and Esses. White gangs almost always originate in prison
and are a minority. They are not well-structured or well established. They are
usually made up of members who are often strangers to each other, most of
them brought together by the color of their skin. However, note that "when
researching the origin of gangs it is sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from
fiction or legend"(Walker, 1).
The Latin Kings are "primarily in correctional facilities and large
metropolitan areas throughout Connecticut, Chicago, and New York" (SE-GAG).
They are primarily Hispanic but some Italians, Portuguese, Jamaicans, and
Haitians have joined the Latin Kings. They have an "established hierarchy and
chain of command and have strict rules of adherence" (SE-GAG). They are the
oldest and largest Hispanic street gang which dates back to the 1940's in
Chicago, Illinois. The gang was formed to "protect and preserve the identity of
their culture and aspired to the personal, social, and economic needs of it's
people fearing verbal, mental, and physical attacks by their American
counterparts" (SE-GAG).
Netas originated in the jails of Puerto Rico during the 1970's. Their
primary philosophy is to advocate peace and harmony among the inmates in jail.
They feel that they are part of an oppressed group of people "unwillfully"
governed in the United States. The Latin Kings were their rivals at one point but
now they are alliances. They are predominantly Hispanic with some White and
Black members. They have an established hierarchy including a president, vice
president, recruiter, secretary, sergeant of arms, and enforcer. They have 29
rules that all apply to the member's behavior in correctional facilities. Some of
their rules include : do not steal, respect all inmates, if you want something pay
and if you think you can't pay then don't borrow , do not lustfully desire an
inmate's visit, street beefs are dead in jail , respect the officers so that you can
be respected, don't fight with your family, watch your personal hygiene, and If
you want to talk to the police take somebody with you to watch your back and be
a witness.
The G27's are not common in the United States correctional facilities but
members of this gang have found their way into the United States jail system and
numbers are growing rapidly. They are a Hispanic gang that formed in the Puerto
Rico prison system in 1979. They are "bitter" enemies of the Netas. Members of
the G27's cover their body with large tattoos of the Virgin Mary. But not much
else is known about this rapidly growing prison gang.
I interviewed Jake Alonso from Monmouth County Jail in Freehold,
New Jersey. He states that inmates in Monmouth County Jail do not call these
groups gangs. Members call their groups "organizations". When I asked him why
he joined he said because "I don't want a *censored* up my ass...when you claim one of
these organizations you don't get *censored*ed with as much because you got your
peeps behind you". In other words, they serve as protection. Furthermore he
states that it is the system and those people who are ignorant to gangs that call
them gangs. He said that each "organization" has their own history and that the
organizations are movements and went on to compare them to democrats and
republicans. They are rebels. He told me that when a child molester or rapist
comes in they beat him to a bloody pulp and make his life a living hell.
In order to belong to one of these "organizations" one must have a clean
record, which means no "rats" - no deals with the police. Jake is a member
of the Netas. According to him, in order to become a Neta you need to have a
clean record and be humble. It is a Hispanic gang, however, Whites, Asians, and
Blacks are also welcome to join. In order to become a Latin King you need to
have a clean record and you have to be Hispanic. Five Percent Nation is a Black
gang but they don't care about your nationality or whether you have a clean
record or not. Members of the Five Percent Nation call each other Gods. It is a
religious "organization" .
However, Victor Hassine did not join a gang throughout his sentence in
Graterford State Prison, Pennsylvania. Hassine wrote a book in prison called Life
Without Parole in which he shares all the experiences he had been through as
an inmate in Pennsylvania's largest and most violent penal institution. The
experiences he shares with us is quite different from what I have shared with you
thus far. However, most of the information in this book refers to over a decade
ago. It is a taste of all the changes that have occurred in correctional facilities.
Graterford State Prison was made up of over 80 percent White staff with
over 80 percent Black inmates. Inmates had to classify themselves as either a
White or a Black. It didn't matter if you were Hispanic, Asian, or of any other
race. The person got to choose. Most gang members were already street gang
members which bore street names like the 60th street gang. So it was
geography that brought most gang members together. Philly gangs greatly
outnumbered any other gangs and most often excluded outsiders. Black inmates
that were not from Philly formed their own gangs which did not have as much
power. Black gangs competed with each other over turf and the control for
"contraband" sales. There were violent battles between them. Black gangs
primarily operated as money making enterprises.
"White gangs at Graterford were a completely different story" (Hassine,
63). They usually formed while seeking protection from other gang members.
"White gangs at Graterford were more likely to be small, improvised groups
rather than organized teams with specific agendas, and were generally much
less diverse than their Black counterparts" (Hassine, 63). Black gangs preferred
to have as many members as possible to protect their turf and generate more
interest but White gangs preferred to have a select few people to stretch their
resources. "White drug addicts tended to join together in order to pool their funds
to buy drugs at a volume discount" (Hassine, 63).
"The exceptions in Graterford were the outlaw motorcycle gangs that
successfully managed to entrench themselves within the prison system"
(Hassine, 64). The Hell's Angels are one of the motorcycle gangs that were well
recognized and had the ability to compete with the Black gangs. They were
business oriented as well.
However, Victor Hassine did not join a gang. He had a few friends with
whom he played chess with everday; a Jew and a Muslim. He got into brawls like
everyone else but gang involvement was not a necessity for Hassine as it was
for Jake. During my interview with Jake, he made me feel the need
that most inmates have for gang involvement. It makes me think that the
environment in correctional facilities are tougher than they used to be. Perhaps if
Victor Hassine was sentenced to a prison now it would be much harder for him to
resist gang involvement. One thing is obvious though. It was much harder to
belong about a decade ago because the only races identifiable in correctional
faciities were White and Black. Now we have numerous Hispanic and Asian
gangs.
The research I have done has influenced me to clearly state that if I were
ever to be in such a situation, I would most definitely join one of these gangs or
organizations. I wouldn't take the chance of standing alone in such an
atmosphere where you are seen as fresh new meat in every context of the word.
Would you?


"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 for my life" (Hassine, 7). Most inmates in
correctional facilities felt the way that Victor Hassine felt on his first day in a
correctional facility in Pennsylvania called Graterford State Prison. New inmates
are seen as "fresh meat". They fear their life. Most of these inmates find
sanctuary in gangs.
Inmates join gangs for protection. Gangs in correctional facilities are more
of a necessity, unlike street gangs. People don't need a gang to survive in the
street because there are other ways one can find help, a family, protection,
belongingness, etc. But in correctional facilities one's outlets are limited. One's
preoccupation in jail is survival which leads inmates to change their habits,
personality, and even their values. Living in an environment where "an
unexpected smile could mean trouble, a man in uniform is not a friend, being
kind is a weakness, and eye contact is a threat" doesn't leave one much of a
choice, does it?
There are numerous gangs in correctional facilities but among the most
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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