United States of America

Author: hai H. Do

Aryan Brotherhood (aka the Brotherhood, the Brand, the Rock, AB)


The Aryan Brotherhood was founded in California’s San Quentin maximum-security prison. Most prisons were racially segregated until the 1960s. When they were desegregated, racial violence flared and inmates formed gangs along color lines.[1] Irish bikers formed the Brotherhood to fight against the Black Guerrilla Family and Mexican prisoners. It is rumored that the Brotherhood sprung from a 1950s gang known as the Bluebirds.[2]

In the 1970s, as the Brotherhood expanded, it engaged in a race war with black and Hispanic gangs, fueled by hatred and the need for territory and profit from drug trafficking and prostitution within prisons.[3] Dozens of members were killed.[4] At this point, the Brotherhood began taking on the characteristics of a criminal organization.[5]

In the 1980s, the Brotherhood became more organized when it established a chain of command, splitting into two separate but cooperative branches: a federal prison faction and a state prison faction. The federal faction created a three-man council to direct all Brotherhood activities within federal prison, with Barry “The Barron” Mills and T.D. “The Hulk” Bingham elected as high commissioners.[6] Soon after, the state faction followed suit with a council that would supervise gang activity in the state prison system. By this time, the Aryan Brotherhood had proliferated from California, with chapters appearing in state and federal prisons across the country.[7]

In the 1990s, prison authorities began taking action against the Aryan Brotherhood. Members of the gang were moved throughout the corrections system, and the leaders were sent to the “Supermax” prisons. However, this only served to spread the Brotherhood’s influence, with members founding new chapters in more states.[8] And the criminal activities of the gang were largely unaffected, for the leaders were able to continue communication within their members through various means, including secret codes and hidden messages using urine-soaked paper.[9] Not only that, but the Brotherhood’s crimes started to escalate beyond gang grudges and prison walls. On March24, 1995, Robert Scully was released on probation from Pelican Bay State Prison, a Supermax facility. Accompanied by a female follower of the gang, Scully shot and killed a police officer six days later with little provocation, marking the beginning of the Brotherhood’s new campaign to push their murder and drug operations into the streets.[10]

In late 2002, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner indicted nearly all members suspected of being leaders in the Brotherhood under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. He charged them with carrying out stabbings, strangulations, poisonings, contract hits, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, robbery and narcotics trafficking.[11] The intention was to produce death sentences for at least twenty-one of them, cutting off the leadership of the gang.[12] On March 14, 2006, the first in a series of gang-member trials began in Orange County, Calif., for Barry “The Barron” Mills, T.D. “The Hulk” Bingham, Edgar “The Snail” Hevle and Christopher Overton Gibson, the most powerful leaders of the Brotherhood in the federal prison system. The four were accused of ordering or participating in 15 murders or attempted murders in the last 25 years. All four were convicted, but they did not receive the death penalty.[13] Instead, they were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Even with these convictions, the criminal activities of the Brotherhood continued unabated as new, less prominent leaders took over leadership of the federal faction.

Current Operating Situation

There are approximately 15,000[14] to 30,000 members[15] within the Aryan Brotherhood, and there are chapters in almost every state and federal prison across the United States.[16] The reason for the wide disparity in numbers is due to the way the gang inducts new members. Full members, or “kindred,” recruit initiates called “progeny.” The progeny are selected from the most violent and capable inmates within the prison.[17] In order to be considered for baptism into the Brotherhood, the progeny must “make their bones” by killing someone who is targeted for death by the gang’s council.[18] Afterwards, the progeny must receive a unanimous vote from existing kindred in the “family” to be fully baptized into the Brotherhood.[19] Those who do not get a unanimous vote do not become kindred, but they remain closely associated with the gang as unofficial members.[20] Hence, the actual number of true members can only be estimated in the above range.

The Aryan Brotherhood’s ideology has evolved from its original purpose of offering protection for new white inmates from black and Hispanic prisoners in the corrections system. In the beginning, the gang was steeped in racial hatred and neo-Nazism, adopting swastikas and double lightning bolts as their symbol. New members of the Brotherhood were encouraged to read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and “make their bones” by attacking, and often killing, a black inmate.[21] As the years passed, the Brotherhood began moving away from neo-Nazism and more towards its Irish roots along with Viking/Norse symbolism and history.[22] The selection of recommended reading material expanded to include Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, The Will to Power.[23]

Rather than just protect white inmates from minorities, Brotherhood leaders have adopted a new “mission statement” that envisions that gang as “the very best criminal organization.”[24] To that end, the gang is primarily concerned with controlling the sale of drugs, gambling, and “punks” (male prostitutes) within prison walls.[25] While white supremacy is still an important part of the gang’s philosophy, some members will associate blacks and other minorities to facilitate drug transactions.[26] The gang continued to commit racially-motivated violence, but such activities became second to more profitable endeavors.[27]

Click to view a documentary on the Aryan Brotherhood

Overview of Activities and External Relationships

Since the 1970s, the Brotherhood has been engaged in drug smuggling, extortion rackets, and male prostitution within the prison system.[28] In 1999, Barry Mills wrote letters to the entire gang, urging them to expand operations outside of prison in an act of “polishing the (sham)rock.”[29] To this end, the Brotherhood began enlisting paroled gang members and associates (or “Peckerwoods”)[30] to become drug dealers and stickup men[31] to set up drug rings in the streets,[32] along with committing hate crimes to maintain the Brotherhood’s reputation as a violent white supremacist group.[33] Kindred on the outside must obey the council, for they are expected to provide support to the “family” through any means.[34] Failure to do so results in death, keeping true to the oath of “Blood In, Blood Out.”[35] Profits garnered through these individuals fund the gang’s illicit activities, with money being sent into prison for the leaders’ use or sent outside to safe houses belonging to paroled members.[36]

The Brotherhood is also known to participate in gunrunning,[37] human smuggling,[38] and contract killings.[39] Some of these are committed for the gang’s own purposes, but some members of the Brotherhood deal with outside groups for profit, such as the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) who need personnel and contacts over the U.S. border and the Gambino crime family.[40]

The Brotherhood has developed a working relationship with the Mexican Mafia, originally doing so in 1971 to prevent new prison gangs from forming.[41] As a result of this cooperation, the gang actively opposes the Mafia’s long-time enemy La Nuestra Familia.[42]

Maintaining its traditional hatred for black individuals and black inmates, the Brotherhood is enemies with the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang. Additionally, they are hostile to black street gangs such as the Crips, Bloods, and El Rukins. However, as mentioned previously, the Brotherhood will set aside its racial hatred to deal drugs with black prisoners to make a profit or to incite a prison riot.[43]

The allies of the gang include the Nazi Low Riders, Public Enemy Number 1 (PENI),[44] inmates hailing from motorcycle gangs, and the Dirty White Boys.[45] The Brotherhood cooperates with the Nazi Low Riders and the Dirty White Boys to augment their strength and to help facilitate drug trafficking in prison should Brotherhood members be incarcerated.[46]

In its relations with “copycat” gangs that use its brand, members of the Brotherhood usually tolerate them. However, federal and California state members do not consider them to be legitimate and may threaten violence if gang tattoos are not burned or cut off.[47]

Black Guerrilla Family (BFG)



The Black Guerrilla Family was founded in California’s San Quentin state prison in 1966 by George Lester Jackson, W.L. Nolen, James Carr, and other racist black inmates.[48] Originally called the Black Family and the Black Vanguard, Jackson’s gang was first the Revolutionary Armed Movement that aligned with the Black Panther Party. Jackson then merged with James “Bone” Johnson’s group called the Black United Movement and these groups formed the early BGF.[49]

The gang’s founding fathers were innate writ writers[50] who adopted a Marxist/Maoist/Leninist revolutionary organization with stated goals of eradicating racism, struggling to maintain dignity black prisoners, and overthrowing a U.S. government[51] perceived as a racist white institution.[52] Some were former members of Black Liberation Army, Symbionese Liberation Army, and Weatherman Underground organization.[53] Jackson became a revolutionary in prison and wrote several books including “Soledad Brother – The Prison Letters of George Jackson” and “Blood in my Eye.” The following was typical of what Jackson preached:

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us, give up your life for the people.”[54]

On January 13, 1970, Nolen was killed by guards during a bloody prison riot where the BGF fought the Aryan Brotherhood in Soledad State Prison.[55] Later that year, on August 7, 1970, George Jackson’s younger brother, Jonathan, led BGF militia members into storming the Marin County Courthouse in San Rafael, California in an attempt to free Jackson who was on trial for capital murder.[56] They tried to take Judge Harold Haley hostage, causing law enforcement officials to open fire. The judge, a bailiff and 1 BGF member were killed in the shootout. George Jackson survived but was swiftly apprehended and sent to the maximum security San Quentin State Prison.[57] The BGF had expected assistance from the Black Panther Party that never materialized, leading to a rift between the two groups.[58]

Jackson was killed while attempting to escape from San Quentin’s Adjustment Center-High Security Unit in August 1971.[59] With the main founders dead, BGF members lost morale and began moving away from the previous Communist-Mao ideology of the gang. The new leader, Ruben Williams, did not possess any political vision; he was more interested in robbery, extortion, and drug trafficking.[60]

In August 17, 1980, leaders of the BGF ordered the murder of two black inmates at the Vacaville, California State Prison, violating their principal rule of prohibiting the shedding the blood of fellow black people.[61]

On August 22, 1989, Huey P. Newton, co-founder and leader of the Black Panther Party, was killed by a BGF drug dealer named Tyrone Robinson. Relations between the two groups had been at a low point ever since the Black Panther Party failed to assist the BGF in freeing George Jackson. In addition, Black Panther members who had joined the BGF in prison were disenchanted with Newton over his perceived abandonment of Black Panther inmates and allegations of fratricide within the party.[62] Newton gained the BGF’s animosity from extorting local BGF drug dealers to obtain free drugs in order to feed his cocaine addiction.[63] The leaders of the gang then ordered Newton’s death after he began demanding that the BGF stop selling heroin to black addicts.[64]

The BGF began to decline during the 1990s, but it recovered its membership through recruiting from black street gangs such as the Crips and the Bloods.[65]

Current Operating Situation

The Black Guerrilla Family is the most “politically” oriented of the major prison gangs in that it was formed as a Marxist/Maoist/Leninist revolutionary organization.[66] Its ideological doctrine considers all blacks political prisoners, and it has attempted to organize black advocacy by the imposition of their commands upon other inmates. Members hold cultural unity, group protection and the promotion of armed revolution above all else. Their reading material includes George Jackson’s Prison Letters and The Anarchist Cook Book, as well as various works from Mao Zedong, Eldridge, Ho Chi Minh, and Malcom X.[67]

The BGF communicates its message of revolution through various means, such as selling motivation t-shirts with the slogan “Revolution is the Only Solution.”[68] One tool of propaganda is The Black Book: Empowering Black Families and Communities. This 122-softbound publication was written by Eric Marcell Brown, the leader of the Maryland BGF, and is published through Dee Dat Publishing.[69] There is an online order form that offers discounts to inmates.[70] The book seeks to make people aware of the vision of “Comrade George Jackson” and calls for political and economic liberation for blacks. It is used as a recruiting tool in prisons, and the proceeds from book sales fund the BGF’s activities.[71] Within the book, Brown writes that the BGF organization is a movement (not a gang) that seeks to relieve the plight of blacks in the community.[72]

While it has spread across the U.S. in both the federal and state prison systems, the BGF is predominately focused on the East and West coasts. They are especially strong in the state of Maryland where the gang has spread to the streets of Baltimore to threaten the community and law enforcement.[73]

The BGF gang is organized along a paramilitary line, adhering to the Marxist political ideologies of Mao Zedong.[74] Each prison has a central committee, with a “supreme leader,” which issues orders to members in the area.[75] The size of the gang consists of 100 to 300 true members[76] with about 50,000 associated members.[77] The reason for such high membership is that the BGF traditionally recruits black prisoners from street gangs.[78] While most gangs, like the Crips, do not believe in the BGF’s calls for revolution against the state, they join with the prison gang out of need for protection and profit.[79] These recruits keep their association with their original gangs, so they are not true members of the BGF.[80] Initiation requires nomination from an existing BGF member and a strict oath of lifelong allegiance, with death as the only exit option.[81]

Overview of Activities and External Relationships

The BGF engages in drug trafficking and smuggling in and out of prison. Gang members on the outside, as well as family members of inmates, use a variety of means of getting drugs and other contraband—including cell phones—into the prison. These couriers hide items in body cavities or in hidden compartments in their shoes. They then switch shoes with inmates during visits.[82] Other smuggled goods may include liquor and food for BGF leaders. Eric Brown was known to eat lobster and drink Grey Goose vodka while behind bars.[83]

Being an extreme anti-government and anti-official group, the BGF use smuggled cell phones to direct attacks against fellow inmates and corrections officers. Members communicate on whether one of their own is arrested or is suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. They place “hits” on traitors and organize attacks to further the gang’s activities, including robberies of drug dealers and assaults on rival gangs.[84]

The BGF runs extortion rackets that rely on corrupt corrections employees to function. Not only do these recruited employees add to the volume of smuggled contraband into prisons, but they also facilitate the gang’s financing operations. Inside the Maryland prison system, BGF members use violence and threats of violence to coerce other prisoners to pay protection money to the gang. The BGF would then give the extorted inmate a credit card number of a prepaid credit card, sometimes called a “Green Dot” card, and would direct the inmate to have family and friends place money on the card when order to do so. A gang member on the street or a BGF-affiliated corrections officer usually holds the credit card, using it to buy goods and drugs for the gang. If the threatened inmate does not agree to be extorted, he is targeted for violence. “Green dot” cards are often used in prison as a form of currency, in lieu of paper money.[85] Corrections officers do business with the BGF for several reasons, sympathy and bribery being chief among them. Such officers are marked with tattoos of stars, butterflies, and beetles on a part of their body to identify themselves to gang members.[86]

The BGF has a very active working relationship with La Nuestra Familia, whom it allied with in 1970 to battle the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood.[87] These two prison gangs are still its enemies in the present day, warring over territory and racial issues. KUMI 415 Nation are known to be employed as enforces for the gang.[88] Allies that the BGF can call upon are usually black gangs or groups, such as the Black Liberation Army and Weather Underground.[89] Black street gangs (Crips, Bloods, etc.) are an important resource for the BGF, for they supply new recruits when they are sent to prison, and they provide a wider network of contacts outside of prison, making the conduct of illegal activity easier. Additionally, street gang members who have had military training can add their expertise in weapons and killing to skills available to the BGF.[90]

The BGF has been known to established ties with Mexican DTOs (specifically the Sinaloa DTO),[91] performing arms, drug, and human smuggling across the border. Gang members may even do contract killings or intimidate rivals for the drug cartels.[92] All of this is done to benefit the gang financially.

Nazi Low Riders (aka NLR, “The Ride”)


The Nazi Low Riders trace their origins to the Aryan Brotherhood (AB). In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the California Department of Corrections was actively cracking down on the Brotherhood, incarcerating members in isolation in Security Housing Units (SHUs) in an attempt to break up the gang’s activities.[93] With the official designation of prison gang place upon them, AB members found it difficult to conduct their business, especially drug trafficking, their main source of income.[94] Needing middlemen to help facilitate their criminal operations, AB leader John Stinson recruited young skinheads incarcerated by the California Youth Authority at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility, in Ione, and at the Youth Training School, in Chino.[95] The gang had just begun to establish itself with the mission of providing protection for white inmates and ridding the streets of blacks,[96] and it took its name from “low riders,” a phrase associated with Hispanic gangs.[97] The main benefit for the Brotherhood was that the Nazi Low Riders had not yet been classified as a prison gang, and thus were not under the scrutiny of the corrections system. This made the new gang suitable to act as junior partners to the Aryan Brotherhood, taking orders from the more senior and frightening gang and serving as errand-boys and enforcers.[98]

The NLR led a relatively uneventful existence for several years, operating under the radar of law enforcement until the early 1990s. By then, the California Department of Corrections had successfully disrupted and virtually suppressed AB’s activities. NLR’s role as middleman for its predecessors’ criminal operations put it in position to take the older organization’s place in the prison gang hierarchy, and it became the principal white gang in California’s penitentiary system.[99]

Current Operating Situation

Today, the NLR is officially classified as a prison gang, with corrections officials using that distinction to lock members away in isolation in the same manner as their AB predecessors.[100] While the gang still derives much of its power from inside prison facilities, it is also a significant street gang. After first coming to the attention of authorities in Costa Mesa, California, other units appeared throughout California. Recently, paroled NLR members have moved east to spread the gang’s influence, with “affiliates” growing quickly in several states throughout the U.S.[101] During the past several years, NLR’s well-run and often extremely violent criminal operations have established it as a major player in the West Coast criminal world and among white supremacist skinhead gangs.[102]

There are about 1000 members in the gang, organized in a three-tier hierarchy consisting of “seniors,” “juniors,” and “kids.”[103] Seniors lead each NLR prison unit, some of whom have been connected to the gang since its early days in the California Youth Authority. To attain senior status, NLR members must have been active for at least five years and must be elected by three other senior members. In the hierarchy, juniors, who are just below seniors, cannot induct new members (only a senior can confer membership), but they recruit potential members, who are required to have proven criminality and loyalty to the white race.[104] The senior who inducts a kid becomes his mentor and disciplinarian. Kids usually come from smaller white power gangs such as the PEN1.[105]

In contrast to its strict prison hierarchy, NLR’s street leadership structure is unclear. Members organize locally only with the approval of established leaders—those who try to set up independently risk retribution. Recruits from the outside are usually culled from smaller white gangs like Insane White Boys, La Mirada Punks, Independent Skins and Orange County Skins, all of whom acknowledge and submit to NLR’s authority on the street. Some law enforcement officials believe that NLR hopes to unite all white gangs under its umbrella and, much like ethnic organized crime rings, tax the proceeds from their criminal operations — with the collections sent to incarcerated NLR members.[106]

The NLR’s current ideology is more driven by profit than by white power beliefs, although members continue to commit violent acts against minorities to keep up their reputation.[107] The profit mentality is clearly expressed in the gang’s unusual characteristic of allowing small numbers of Latinos to join despite the NLR’s avowed racism, although there is a stipulation that the Latino inductees must be half-Caucasian, and they must show loyalty to the white race and hatred for blacks and “race traitors”— those in interracial relationships or who demonstrate an affinity for what members consider to be black culture.[108] Latino last names and girlfriends are permitted. The advantages that the Latino members confer upon the gang are increased manpower and participation in much of the dirty work of trafficking drugs such as highly addictive methamphetamines inside and outside of prison.[109] Other nonwhites are forbidden from joining.[110]

A rift is being created with the NLR due to the inclusion of Latinos. Prison officials have noticed two factions in the Nazi Low Riders: one that supports its older, partially Latino membership, and another that only wants pure white members, like their patrons in the Aryan Brotherhood.[111] Michael “Snake” Bridge leads the faction that wants to abandon ties with the AB, while Joseph “Blue” Lowry wants a more rigid ideology,[112] calling for ending members’ drug use and expelling “race traitors” from the gang.[113]

Overview of Activities and External Relationships

The NLR engages in criminal activity such as robbery, murder, and extortion, but it primarily finances itself through the manufacture and trade of methamphetamines (also called “meth” or “speed”), and they.[114] Speed is relatively easy to produce and is both in high demand and very profitable. Members jury-rig “meth labs” wherever they can, from million-dollar homes to motel rooms. The gang has created several labs in San Bernardino; in Orange County, the Antelope Valley and Riverside, NLR has become a major distributor of the drug. It is also likely that NLR works with motorcycle gangs in methamphetamine production and distribution.[115] A side effect of their involvement in drug trafficking is that NLR members are often addicted to speed they sell, making them known as “tweekers.”[116] While this increases their proclivity toward violence in prison and the streets, it also may keep them from organizing more effectively.[117]

Women have an important place in the NLR. They oversee the gang’s business operations while their men are incarcerated.[118] Often family members or girlfriends of NLR members, they have sometimes become directly involved in the violent activities of the gang, including being accomplices in murder.[119] More commonly, however, the female members act as liaisons to speed users unaffiliated with the NLR, supplying addicts with drugs and sexual favors. Eventually, NLR members coerce these users, through force and intimidation, to commit crimes for the gang. Sometimes, NLR members rob the addicts themselves, knowing that the victims will not report the incidents to the police due to their own criminal activity.[120]

Outside of prison, NLR members tend to congregate in pool halls, bars, fast-food joints, video arcades and high schools, where they try to recruit new members.[121] In some communities, NLR members live together in the same apartment buildings. These NLR clusters often serve as family-like units for alienated and uprooted young men. Although the NLR does not fight other gangs over turf, it does tend to dominate the areas where members live. When NLR members move into a residential complex, they often establish themselves by harassing or threatening other residents.[122]

As mentioned in the above paragraphs, the NLR recruits from small white power gangs in prison and on the street. The gang has a particularly close relationship with Public Enemy Number One (PEN1) because of prison crackdowns.[123] By 1999, the NLR was responsible for a large part of the violence in California prisons, causing prison officials to classify the group as a “disruptive gang,” authorizing more restrictive treatment and isolation of suspected gang members.[124] Furthermore, in 2003, after four years of investigation, indictments were finally handed down against several NLR leaders for alleged violations of RICO.[125] While the leadership could still communicate using “kites”—prison slang for letters—in nearly indecipherable runic alphabets, they found that their ability to conduct narcotics sales, extortion and other criminal activities in prison were severely impeded.[126]

Following the example of the AB, the gang turned to a smaller gang, PEN1, to help maintain its criminal operations.[127] Founded by inmate Donald “Popeye” Mazz with about 350-400 members,[128] PEN1 shares NLR and AB’s racism, and specializes in drug dealing and identity theft. It has since taken over gang jobs for both the NLR and the AB. It is not uncommon for all three gangs to cooperate in prison riots and the drug trade.[129]

The NLR is suspected of colluding with Mexican DTOs in drug and human smuggling due to its association with the AB.[130]

Dead Man Incorporated (aka DMI)


Perry Roark formed The Dead Man Inc. in the Maryland Department of Corrections about the late 1990’s. Roark, a white man who was close friends with black inmates, had wanted to join the Black Guerilla Family, but he was rejected as he did not fit the racial requirement.[131] Because he was respected among several BGF members, he was allowed to form Dead Man Inc., along with co-founders James Sweeney and Brian Jordan, with the BGF’s blessing.[132] Intended as a white off-shoot of the BGF, the gang adopted the BGF’s basic philosophy which is anti-government and anti-authority.[133] The DMI offered white inmates another path other than white supremacy movements, and its membership grew to include prisoners from those organizations.[134] Members began to conduct gang business for the BGF, committing acts of violence and murders for payment.[135]

Current Operating Situation

DMI has a reputation for violence and a willingness to carry out attacks for drugs and money.[136] In recent years, corrections officials tried to break up the gang’s operations by sending co-founders Sweeney and Jordan to other prison facilities. Roark currently resides in the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, while Sweeney and Jordan are in Texas and Louisiana, respectively.[137] However, this only served to expand the gang’s influence to those states and several others.[138] The Supreme Commanders, the original founders, lead the DMI in a paramilitary structure with commanders placed in each prison.[139]

There are approximately 10,000 DMI members nationwide,[140] with 500 members in Maryland alone.[141] But this large membership has brought a crisis in the gang. In the beginning, there was a careful screening process for new recruits,[142] but as the years passed, the gang grew rapidly as it absorbed smaller gangs until it became the third largest gang in the Maryland prison system.[143] As result, there was an influx of new members who did not support DMI’s core values and would not defend each other in fights. They even attacked each other in prison, causing trust problems to develop in the gang. To address the issue, Roark declared that all rule-breakers and illegitimate members must leave DMI by 4/13/09, the numbers representing the gang’s initials in the alphabet.[144] The effects of any purge on the membership are currently unknown.[145]

There is another conflict brewing within the gang concerning the direction DMI should take in the future. Roark wants to maintain ties the BGF, the group’s original patron. While in Texas, co-founder Sweeney associated with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and formed his own splinter faction, the Power Over All gang. Sweeney desires that all of DMI swear allegiance to the white extremism doctrine of his gang.[146]

Hence, law enforcement officials believe that DMI has or will reach a turning point in its history in the near future.[147]

Overview of Activities and External Relationships

DMI is active in and out of prison. Being an off-shoot of the BGF, the organization commits many of the same criminal activities. DMI members engage contract killings,[148] violent crimes, armed robbery, drug trafficking, and extortion.[149] They even utilize the same tactics in communication, issuing orders to members in and out of prison with contraband cellphones.[150]

While they take jobs from the BGF, DMI members are known to offer their services to other gangs, targeting rival groups and corrections officers for money.[151]

Regional Analysis

Leadership is an important aspect in the evolution of the security threat groups (STGs) observed in the U.S. In the beginning, the STGs formed as a means of self-defense for whites and African Americans who sought protection against rising racial tensions in the prison system. At first, racial gangs engaged in typical criminal behavior, inciting attacks against rivals and struggling for control of the drug trade within the walls. But, over time, the senior leadership of the STGs made crucial decisions regarding the future of their gangs. AB leader Barry Mills directed the Brotherhood to expand its drug operations outside prison walls for the first time in 1999, extending the gang’s criminal network into the streets of communities, and Ruben Williams of the BGF took his gang in a new direction that emphasized drug trafficking and profit after the previous revolutionary leaders were killed. Through the power of reward and coercion,[152] gang leaders enforce discipline among the ranks inside and outside of prison thanks to the centralized hierarchies of the major gangs.

It would make sense to indict leaders on racketeering charges under the RICO Act and isolate them within maximum security prisons, but this has not worked within the U.S. so far. Gang commanders always find ways to communicate with their members, whether it be through secret messages or corrupt corrections officers. Furthermore, targeting leaders only disrupts a gang’s illicit operations in the short-run. The major gangs are extremely resilient in the face of pressure from state authorities. New leaders will appear to take the place of the incarcerated, and recruitment continues unabated within the walls. This is due to the fact that, in focusing on cracking down on gangs inside and outside of prison, the state authorities do not address the root causes of prison gangs in the U.S. As it did the past, racial tension and conflict drive the formation of security threat groups in the present day.[153] New inmates will naturally seek out those of their own race for protection and money, or else gangs of a different ethnicity will attack or extort them.[154] As long as the issues of racism continues to divide people, prison gangs will not be going away in the foreseeable future unless certain reforms are enacted in the U.S. corrections system.

Security threat groups in the U.S. have shown the ability to replicate themselves or more of their kind to an extent. The Aryan Brotherhood begat the Nazi Low Riders because they needed middlemen in their drug trafficking business after the prison authorities locked down their own members. Over time, the NLR’s power and influence in the system grew, and they suffered the same fate as the Brotherhood when corrections officials began cracking down on their activities. In response, the NLR in turn begat a smaller gang named Public Enemy Number One to handle their criminal business inside the walls. It can only be assumed that when PEN1 reaches a certain point, it too will establish a new gang to carry on its work.

However, not all replication is successful. The Black Guerilla Family spawned an offshoot in the form of Dead Man Inc., which is a white gang that was modeled after a black gang. Unlike the NLR, DMI expanded too quickly and experienced discipline problems within its ranks, with distrust and infighting threatening to destabilize the gang. In addition, DMI is split into factions based on what direction the different leaders want to take the group. While the NLR has the same problem of factions, there is little evidence showing that its members come to blows over the issue, unlike the members of DMI who are known to attack each other due to interpersonal disputes.

The major prison gangs in the U.S. are increasingly conducting business with Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTOs) to generate profit to fund their own operations. White supremacist gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood have the tendency to overlook racial differences when they see the color of green. MDTOs will typically hire prison gang members to do alien smuggling, human and drug trafficking, gun running, kidnappings, and contract killings across the US border.[155] These gang members are valuable due to their U.S. citizenship and their ability to cross the border without much scrutiny.[156] In return for their services, the prison gangs can buy large quantities of drugs at low prices directly from the MDTOs, granting them greater control over the wholesale drug market due to the removal of mid-level buyers.[157] In addition, the developing relationship between prison gangs and Mexican DTOs can lead to the emergence of new gangs in the U.S. The Mexican government extradites DTO members to face charges north of the border. These members are placed in federal prisons where they receive protection from security threat groups with whom they have had previous dealings.[158] While incarcerated, the MDTO personnel are in position to form their own gangs to extend their illicit crime network into the U.S.

Prison gangs could pose a serious threat to the security of the U.S. in the future. According to a survey conducted by the National Gang Intelligence Center, only 15.8% of law enforcement officials viewed prison gangs as a significant threat. Comparatively, 45.3% viewed neighborhood street gangs as a significant threat. This implies that, on their own, prison gangs are not a threat, but if one takes into account that these gangs often control street gangs through intimidation and violence inside prison,[159] then the threat level of prison gangs increases due to their capability to command the operations of the gangs on the streets. These criminal networks of security threat groups and street gangs are mainly decentralized, which differentiates them from the more centralized MDTOs that are vulnerable to law enforcement agencies (IF they are well-funded and deployed effectively).[160] The advantage of decentralization is that if one gang is taken down, the greater network survives.

Yet, it is unlikely that prison gangs will threaten U.S. security. While security threat groups will continue to pose challenges to law enforcement and public safety, they do not have the means to overthrow state and federal government. The nature of decentralized networks, being composed of many disparate groups, makes it difficult for prison gangs to challenge state power in a coherent way, especially when they have no higher political ambitions to unite them other than profiting off of the drug business. Besides, the different gangs in the network have their own motivations, and they may rebel against the security threat group in charge for their self-interest. Thus, unless they evolve into new forms in the future[161] or cooperate to achieve a social good, U.S. prison gangs are currently not a threat to U.S. security for the foreseeable future.


Image Sources

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Tyler Bingham and Barry Mills pic: Gang ID Task Force (GITF). “Aryan Brotherhood” Accessed 30 November 2011. http://whiteprisongangs.blogspot.com/2009/05/aryan-brotherhood.html

AB Tattoo 1: “Aryan Brotherhood.” Violent Extremism Knowledge Database (VKB). Accessed 25 October 2011. http://vkb.isvg.org/Wiki/Groups/Aryan_Brotherhood#cite_note-5

AB Video: “Lockdown – The Aryan Brotherhood (1/5).” YouTube.com. 29 January 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJOK66TBLHQ

AB Tattoo 2: “Aryan Brotherhood.” Violent Extremism Knowledge Database (VKB). Accessed 25 October 2011. http://vkb.isvg.org/Wiki/Groups/Aryan_Brotherhood#cite_note-5

BGF Insignia: ” Murder Ink.” Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine. February 2006. Accessed 30 November 2011. http://www.policemag.com/Channel/Gangs/Articles/Print/Story/2006/02/Murder-Ink.aspx

BGF Tattoo: Walker, Robert. “History of the Black Guerrilla Family Prison Gang.” Gangs OR US. Accessed 12 November 2011. http://www.gangsorus.com/black_guerrilla_family.htm

Nazi Low Riders Insignia: “Nazi Low Riders.” Anti-Defamation League (ADL). 2005. Accessed 15 November 2011. http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/nlr.asp?xpicked=3&item=nlr

NLR Head Tattoo: Walker, Robert. “Nazi Low Riders Prison Gang – NLR.” Gangs OR US. Accessed 1 December 2011. http://www.gangsorus.com/nazi_low_riders_prison_gang.htm

NLR Oath: “Nazi Low-Riders.” StrHate Talk. Accessed 1 December 2011. http://www.strhatetalk.com/Nazi_Low-Riders.html

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Dead Man Incorporated sign: Gang ID Task Force (GITF). “Dead Man Inc.” Accessed 30 November 2011. http://whiteprisongangs.blogspot.com/2009/05/dead-man-inc.html

DMI Tattoos: “Dead Man Inc.” Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Accessed 1 December 2011. http://gangs.umd.edu/Gangs/DeadManInc.aspx

DMI Presence in Maryland: Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Accessed 1 December 2011. http://gangs.umd.edu/Gangs/DeadManInc.aspx

MDTO Table: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment—Emerging Trends. 2011. Accessed 13 November 2011. http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment


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