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The Bloods are an association of structured and unstructured gangs that have adopted a single-gang culture. The original Bloods were formed in the early 1970s to provide protection from the Crips street gang in Los Angeles, California. Large, national-level Bloods gangs include Bounty Hunter Bloods and Crenshaw Mafia Gangsters. Bloods membership

is estimated to be 7,000 to 30,000 nationwide; most members are African American males. Bloods gangs are active in 123 cities in 33 states, and they can be found in several state prison systems. The main source of income for Bloods gangs is street-level distribution of cocaine and marijuana. The gangs also are involved in other criminal activity including assault, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, drive-by shootings, extortion, homicide, identity fraud, and robbery.

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Ñeta is a prison gang that was established in Puerto Rico in the early 1970s and spread to the United States. Ñeta is one of the largest and most violent prison gangs, with about 7,000 members in Puerto Rico and 5,000 in the United States. Ñeta chapters in Puerto Rico exist exclusively inside prisons; once members are released from prison, they are no longer considered part of the gang. In the United States, Ñeta chapters exist inside and outside prisons in 36 cities in nine states, primarily in the Northeast. The gang’s main source of income is retail distribution of powder and crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and, to a lesser extent, LSD, MDMA, methamphetamine, and PCP. Ñeta members commit assault, auto theft, burglary, drive-by shootings, extortion, home invasion, money laundering, robbery, weapons and explosives trafficking, and witness intimidation.

The Texas Syndicate originated in Folsom Prison during the early 1970s. The Texas Syndicate was formed in response to other prison gangs in the California Department of Corrections, such as the Mexican Mafia and Aryan Brotherhood, which were attempting to prey on native Texas inmates. This gang is composed of predominantly Mexican American inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Though this gang has a rule to only accept members who are Latino, it does accept Caucasians into its ranks. The Texas Syndicate has a formal organizational structure and a set of written rules for its members. Since the time of its formation—largely as a means of protection for Texas inmates in the California Department of Corrections—the Texas Syndicate has

grown considerably, particularly in Texas.

The Mexikanemi prison gang (also known as Texas Mexican Mafia or Emi) was formed in the early 1980s within the TDCJ. The gang is highly structured and is estimated to have 2,000 members, most of whom are Mexican nationals or Mexican American males living in Texas at the time of incarceration. Mexikanemi poses a significant drug trafficking threat to communities in the southwestern United States, particularly in Texas. Gang members reportedly traffic multikilogram quantities of powder cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine; multiton quantities of marijuana; and thousand-tablet quantities of MDMA from Mexico into the United States for distribution inside and outside prison.

The Nazi Low Riders (NLR) evolved in the California Youth Authority, the state agency responsible for the incarceration and parole supervision of juvenile and young adult offenders, in the late 1970s or early 1980s as a gang for White inmates. As prison officials successfully suppressed Aryan Brotherhood activities, the Brotherhood appealed to young incarcerated skinheads, the NLR in particular, to act as middlemen for their criminal operations, allowing the Aryan Brotherhood to keep control of criminal undertakings while adult members were serving time in administrative segregation. Through their connections to the Aryan Brotherhood, the NLR was able to become the principal gang

FIGURE 10.2 Symbol of the Aryan Brotherhood

FIGURE 10.3 Symbol of the Texas Syndicate



Chapter 10: Prison Subculture and Prison Gang Influence 259

within the Youth Authority and eventually to move into penitentiaries throughout California and across the West Coast. The NLR maintains strong ties to the Aryan Brotherhood and, like the older gang, has become a source of violence and criminal activity in prison. The Aryan Brotherhood still maintains a strong presence in the nation’s prison systems, albeit less active, while NLR has also become a major force, viewing itself as superior to all other White gangs and deferring only to the Aryan Brotherhood. Both gangs engage in drug trafficking, extortion, and attacks on inmates and corrections staff.

Barrio Azteca emerged in 1986 in the Coffield Unit of TDCJ by five street gang members from El Paso, Texas. This gang tends to recruit from prior street gang members and is most active in the southwestern region, primarily in correctional facilities in Texas and on the streets of southwestern Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The gang is highly structured and has an estimated membership of 2,000. Most members are Mexican national or Mexican American males. The gang’s main source of income is smuggling heroin, powder cocaine, and marijuana from Mexico into the United States for distribution both inside and outside prisons. Barrio Azteca members also are involved in alien smuggling, arson, assault, auto theft, burglary, extortion, intimidation, kidnapping, robbery, and weapons violations.

Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) is a Hispanic prison gang formed in the TDCJ in the late 1980s. It operates in most prisons and on the streets in many communities in Texas, particularly Laredo. HPL is also active in several cities in Mexico, and its largest contingent in that country is in Nuevo Laredo. The gang is structured and is estimated to have 1,000 members. Members maintain close ties to several Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are involved in trafficking quantities of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the United States for distribution.

Tango Blast is one of largest prison/street criminal gangs operating in Texas. Tango Blast’s criminal activities include drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. In the late 1990s, Hispanic men incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons founded Tango Blast for personal protection against violence from traditional prison gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood, Texas Syndicate, and Texas Mexican Mafia. Tango Blast originally had four city- based chapters in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. These founding four chapters are collectively known as Puro Tango Blast or the Four Horsemen. From the original four chapters, former Texas inmates established new chapters in El Paso, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley. In June 2008 the Houston Police Department estimated that more than 14,000 Tango Blast members were incarcerated in Texas. Tango Blast is difficult to monitor. The gang does not conform to either traditional prison/street gang hierarchical organization or gang rules. Tango Blast is laterally organized, and leaders are elected sporadically to represent the gang in prisons and to lead street gang cells. The significance of Tango Blast is exemplified by corrections officials reporting that rival traditional prison gangs are now forming alliances to defend themselves against Tango Blast’s growing power.

United Blood Nation is a universal term that is used to identify both West Coast Bloods and United Blood Nation (UBN). The UBN started in 1993 in Rikers Island GMDC (George Mochen Detention Center) to form protection from the threat posed by Latin Kings and Ñetas, who dominated the prison. While these groups are traditionally distinct entities, both identify themselves by “Blood,” often making it hard for law enforcement to distinguish between them. The UBN is a loose

1. Membership is for life (“blood in, blood out”).

2. Every member must be prepared to sacrifice his life or take a life at any time.

3. To achieve discipline within the Mexikanemi brotherhood, every member shall strive to over- come his weakness.

4. Members must never let the Mexikanemi down.

5. The sponsoring member is totally responsible for the behavior of a new recruit. If the new recruit turns out to be a traitor, it is the sponsoring mem- ber’s responsibility to eliminate the recruit.

6. When insulted by a stranger or group, all members of the Mexikanemi will unite to destroy the person or other group completely.

7. Members must always maintain a high level of integrity.

8. Members must never relate Mexikanemi business to others.

9. Every member has the right to express opinions, ideas, contradictions, and constructive criticism.

10. Every member has the right to organize, educate, arm, and defend the Mexikanemi.

11. Every member has the right to wear tattoo of the Mexikanemi symbol.

12. The Mexikanemi is a criminal organization and therefore will participate in all activities of crimi- nal interest for monetary benefits.

FIGURE 10.4 Constitution of the Mexikanemi

SOURCE: Orlando-Morningstar, D. (1997). Prison gangs. Special Needs

Offenders Bulletin. Washington, DC: Federal Judicial Center.



260 Introduction to Corrections

confederation of street gangs, or sets, that once were predominantly African American. Membership is estimated to be between 7,000 and 15,000 along the U.S. eastern corridor. The UBN derives its income from street-level distribution of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana; robbery; auto theft; and smuggling drugs to prison inmates.

Gang Management in Corrections

Gang management requires a comprehensive policy that specifies legal precedents, procedures, and guidelines, including the verification of gang members. Over the years, most state systems have developed gang intelligence units and have trained correctional staff on gangs and gang activity. In modern times, state and federal corrections refer to gangs as security threat groups, or STGs, as noted above. Students may notice that, in the prior subsection, most of the 13 gangs listed have links to outside society and seek one another’s protection while engaged in criminal activities that have an economic objective. This means that these gangs are all STGs because they operate inside and outside the prison and possess all the other characteristics discussed in previous subsections of this chapter.

When combating STGs in prison, the technical aspects, such as the paper classification and pro- cedures needed to investigate gang members, are fairly straightforward. However, the human element is what makes the fight against STGs much more difficult. In correctional facilities that do not emphasize professionalism or encourage open communication among security staff, and do have a strong under- lying prison subculture (both inmate and correctional officer), STGs are likely to proliferate. A lack of professionalism, stunted communication, and powerful subcultural norms that are counter to the prison

TABLE 10.1 Timeline History of Prison Gang Development in the United States

Year formed Jurisdiction Name of gang

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