Prison Gangs Essay Research Paper

Prison Gangs Essay, Research Paper “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

Prison Gangs Essay, Research Paper

“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

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 Fernando Garaicoa 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. Fernando 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 Fernando. During my interview with Fernando, 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?

Alonso,Jake. Telephone Interview. 2 November 1999.

Hassine, Victor. Life Without Parole. California: Roxbury Publishing Company.

1996.

www.drw.net/loc1041/netas.html

www.gangsorus.com/g27gang.html

www.ctol.net/~segag

www.csun.edu/~hcchs006/8.html

www.dc.state.fl.us/security/reports/gangs/prison.html

www.hitech.com/cgia/gangs2000/menu.html

www.convictsandcops.com/gang.htm

www.chitown.com/bigshoulders/gngmltnk.html