Security Threat Groups





Security Threat Groups
One of the major problems of corrections today is the security threat group or more commonly known as the “prison gang”. A security threat group (S.T.G.) can be defined as any group of offenders who pose a treat to the security and physical safety of the institution. “ Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, prison gangs focused primarily on uniting inmates for self protection and the monopolization of illegal prison activities for monetary gain” (F.B.P., 1994, p. 2). S.T.G.’s are mostly divided along racial lines and practice some sort of defiance towards authority. S.T.G.’s use a variety of hand signs, alphabet codes, tattoos, and different types of gang terminology. Gangs characteristically have rivals and make an alliance with other gangs. The criminal activity of S.T.G.’s does not only exists inside the confines of the prison walls, but has flowed to the outside world. “Prostitution, extortion, drug selling, gambling, loan sharking – such activities are invariably operated by prison gangs” (Gaines, Kaune, Miller, 2000, p.652). The Texas Prison System consists of eleven classified security threat groups; Texas chooses to classify a gang as a S.T.G. when they become involved in violent activity. “Prison gangs exist in the institutions of forty states and also in the federal system” (Clear and Cole, 2000, p. 260). Three main stages that the offender will experience with the S.T.G. are recruitment, the gang experience, and affiliation upon release.
Recruiting efforts begin with the intake of the offender into the prison system. The best recruitment takes place in transfer facilities where offenders are held before they are classified as to what security level prison they will be sent to. There are steps that must be followed when becoming a prospective applicant for the gang. The steps of recruitment vary from gang to gang and consist of sponsorship, probationary periods, and a vote of acceptance from fellow members. “Sponsorship is mandatory, and only after acceptance may an inmate identify himself with a tattoo or patch” (Ralph, 1997, p.185). Most gangs utilize a “blood in, blood out basis for gang membership: A would-be member must stab a gang’s enemy in order to be admitted, and once in cannot drop out without endangering his own life” (Clear and Cole, 2000, p.260). Besides killing a rival there are other ways to enter the gang and receive acceptance. Those ways include, but are not limited to, assaulting an officer, doing drug deals, or “catching a cell” which means to go into a cell with members of the gang for which the recruit is trying to enter and fighting against them to determine if the prospective member can “hold his own”. These methods of entrance are what contribute to a large majority of the prison violence. The past prison experience relied on “the order and stability provided by the old inmate subculture (which) has been replaced by an atmosphere of conflict and tension, in which inmates align themselves into competing gangs and other inmate organizations” (Bohm and Haley, 1999, p. 351). The gang culture is also based on loyalty and trust of fellow members, such as a “united as one” attitude. This attitude has brought up confidence in offenders, but helped to diminish the effectiveness of the authority of the correctional officers. With the problem of gangs in hand, many states have decided to lock-up gang members in administrative segregation in order to reduce violence and new recruiting efforts. In turn, gang members are concealing their affiliations from the prison officials, which makes it harder to control gang activity.
Of the twenty-three gangs in The Texas Department of Criminal Justice only eleven are classified as security threat group’s. Those eleven gangs are the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, Aryan Circle, Barrio Aztecas, Bloods, Crips, La Hermanos De Pistoleros Latinos, Mexican Mafia, Raza Unida, Texas Chicano Brotherhood, Texas Mafia, and Texas Syndicate. The above listed security threat group’s are divided mainly among racial lines. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas originated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the early 1980’s. The geographic location is confined strictly to Texas and does not recruit members outside of Texas. It is based on the same ideas of the Aryan Brotherhood, but is not a faction