The problem of prison gangs has been a major issue for the correctional departments in the United States. A prison gang can be described as an inmate organization, which operates within the confines of a prison. They have a corporate entity, with restrictive membership. Whereas discussions on the distributions and demographics of prison gangs are on-going, all that is known about their history is that they have existed for a long time. The first ever prison gang to be established in the United States was the Gypsy Jokers during the 1950s. However, in the year 1957, another group called Mexican Mafia, which had a nationwide network was formed. By 2000, more than 90 percent of the inmate population belonged to the gangs because most of them came from the street gangs and incorporating them into the prison gangs was very easy. This paper discusses the problem of prison gangs in the United States and how it undermines the operations of the criminal justice system.
In as much as the challenge is global, American prisons are the worst hit by the gang problem because of numerous background factors that are deep rooted in the society. For instance, the issue of drugs, possession of guns and dens for crime groups are all factors for the breeding of prison gangs. The fact that the American criminal justice system is keen on sending the criminals behind bars does not eliminate the problem of gangs but rather moves it to the prisons. The prison gangs normally have a message to portray, and they have made it difficult for the personnel of the correctional facilities to understand their motive through their body tattoos.
The problem of prison gangs in America is a widespread aspect throughout the country. The affiliation to the gangs can be equated to a religion with different sects, whose descendants and followers subscribe to certain beliefs. The members of the gangs are bound with a set of rules and terms that keep them together. The gangs are normally anti-administrative bodies that maintain law and order (Secrest 169). The deviance from the societal norms is usually aggravated by certain concerns that they seek to address using their forces. The gangs stand for ideologies that are expressed in their dressings, tattoos and group agenda. The lack of consistency across the gang mentality splits them into various groups, with each one of them having a particular motive behind their movement. However, the consensus is that the prison gangs are out to cause disturbance to the inmates and defy the regulations defined by the law enforcement agencies.
One of the most notorious prison gang groups in the United States is the United Blood Nation. The gang is made up of majorly the black community that is common on the east coast. The United Blood Nation has conflicting ideologies with the Black Guerilla Family and the Texas, making them rivals. Another group that is popular in the US is the D.C Blacks that are found in Washington. The group is allied to the Black Guerilla Family and is rivals with the Mexican Mafia (Howell 215). The Texas Syndicate is another notorious prison gang group made up of the Hispanics. The group is based in Texas and is associated with inmates of the Mexican origin. The Nazi Lowriders is a new group made up of the whites that is based in the Pelican Bay. However, the group admits light-skinned members that are not entirely white.
The representation of the agenda of the prison gangs is communicated through signs that are in the format of tattoos. One of the most common tattoos is 1488 which is commonly used by the Nazi inmates who are the white supremacists. The number 14 represents the fourteen words of the Nazi leader who advocates for protecting the future of the white children. On the other hand, the number 88 is a short format of the eighth digit tHt of the alphabet. The cobweb sign is also a commonly used tattoo, which signifies a long prison sentence. The teardrop tattoo is also used by the gangs to indicate a lengthy prison sentence or an intended revenge for the murder of a fellow inmate.
The literature and statistics on the problem show that prison gang members are composed of people with a criminal record, poorly educated and users of drugs and prohibited substances. Using these statistics, the problem can be abated by introducing educational services to most society members to reduce chances of most youth to join the bad forces that end up being part of the prison gangs (Falk, 99). Having a strong stance on drugs will also ensure that there are limited chances of people joining the gangs because the need to peddle the substances is the prime objective of the gangs. Offering social education on the need to maintain peace will also act as a mechanism for limiting potential candidates of the gangs from joining the force. The issue of prison gangs poses a challenge to the criminal justice system because it shows the inefficiency of the system. The adamancy of the law enforcement agencies also to combat the groups shows less dedication from the agencies in ending crimes attributed to the gangs. The residents, who are protected by the constitution, begin engaging the criminal justice system when they report their complaints to the law enforcement agencies. The reports are followed by investigations, which lead to arrests or citations (Fagin, 128).
The United States is one of the few countries that still experience the effect of prison regardless of the efforts that are placed by the system to control their activities. The inability of the US criminal justice system to manage the situation is ironical considering that American countries are in the forefront to enhance the level of security (Hodgkinson 274). In fact, the US has one of the most mature legal systems that should set a standard for other nations to follow. For the system to be successful in doing away with the gangs there should be efforts to address the foundation of the groups. For instance, drug-smuggling in the streets breeds the increase in the number of the gangs in prisons. The lack of jobs for the youth also facilitates the emergence of the gangs as the jobless individuals revert to illegitimate methods of making a living.
The major purpose of the correctional facilities is to change the behavior of the offenders. The criminal justice system should not rely on executions as mechanisms to find justice because it does not make the offenders to become better people. Progressive developments in global; constitutions advocate for a more amicable mechanism to solve cases, the conversion of the gangs into law abiding citizens is a challenge (Howell 66). In fact, the convicts can be made useful people in the society if they are trained and given tasks within the prison systems. In developed countries, prisoners are equipped with basic skills that they use ton generate money while behind bars. The money raised through such activities is used to support their families and other development projects. In fact, using the prisoners as a source of labor is good for the economy, but having defiant individuals that are opposed to the correctional departments is a challenge to the state.
In as much as the criminal justice system in the United States is committed to maintaining justice among its residents, the institutions face various challenges that undermine its operations. The institutions that constitute the criminal justice system such as the judiciary and law enforcement organizations lack effective approaches to ensure that they deliver their mandate. The system in the United States is surrounded by ethical and technical controversies regarding the application of laws and procedures (Fagin 210). The issue of prison gangs remains on top of the overall controversy that point to the weaknesses of the judicial system in the US. Whereas the practice is lauded for its role in mitigating the crime rates in the world, there are criticisms that are intended to campaign against its application. For this reason, it is essential for human rights organizations, law enforcement agencies, and legal scholars to find an amicable solution to the conflict of ideas on prison gangs. It is evident that whereas the proponents of the capital punishment have substantial claims to support the idea, it is still difficult to ignore the controversial bit of the practice (Secrest 211). Criminals are a dangerous population in the society and governments should launch initiatives to eliminate them. However, it is not justifiable that executions are the most appropriate approach that can be used to stop crimes. For this reason, the government of the United States should apply alternative approaches to punish serious offenders. Life should be protected as addressed in the Constitution and, therefore, the government and the correctional facilities should introduce methods that seek to protect the welfare of the inmates. The issue of prison gangs continues to be a threat the quality of life of inmates, making it necessary for the concerned agencies to be versatile in addressing the matter. However, this approach is considered expensive because a lot of resources are required to establish the networks of the gangs and break them.
The United States suffers from the problem of prison gangs, which consist of groups who are out to discredit the effectiveness of the country's criminal justice system. The prison gangs are made up of inmate organizations which operate within the systems of correctional facilities. The prison gangs operate as cooperation because they have an aspect of perpetuity. It has been difficult for the criminal justice systems in the United States to eliminate the prison gangs because of their wide networks.
One of the challenges that have made it difficult for the authorities to fight the prison gangs is their control of resources. The gangs operate as a network that is involved in crimes such as kidnapping members of the public, fraud and smuggling drugs (Maguire and Dan 96). Although they are not physically able to perform these activities while they are behind the bar, their associates that exist out of prison aid their performance. The sale of drugs is the major source of funds for these groups.
The prison gangs are bothersome to the state because they disrupt the performance of the criminal justice system. The gangs threaten the staff of the correctional facilities as well as other inmates (Rosen and Marten 140). Some reports from the correctional facilities in the United States indicate that the quality of life in prisons is compromised by the existence of the gangs. It is also essential to note that the efforts by the management to clamp down on these groups have not been successful because of the deep-rooted networks of the group which makes it difficult to end them. Their presence in prisons introduces a new task to the government to monitor their operations and control their activities, a situation that makes the management of prison facilities expensive to the state.
It has been difficult to manage and exclude prison gangs because their presence is deep-rooted. Most of the members of the gangs take their group as a culture. The subscription into the gangs is a lifetime commitment which can only be terminated by death. Besides, they know how to exist with other society members without being noticed. One of the methods they employ is to drop the word gang from their tag. The group members refer to themselves as Security Threat Group. From the name, their main objective is to give the state a hard time maintaining law and order.
It is difficult for the law enforcement officers to confront the prison gangs head on because of their might and the possibility of retaliatory attacks. Most of the gang members are trained personnel who are also armed. They have commanders at various levels, and their activities are controlled systematically. The coordination among the gang members ensures that their operations are well-planned and carried out in missions. The coordination makes it difficult for the law enforcement officers to botch their plans since they use a lot of logistical input. In fact, some groups have intelligence information they receive from their members who have knowledge of informatics. It is due to this reason that some prison gang members are connected to cyber-security attacks that occur against financial institutions and other organizations which lose money in the process.
The prison system should be managed as a state institution whose agenda is to offer correctional services to the tens of thousands of inmates every year. However, the mandate of these facilities is undermined by the gangs who make their way into the system every other year. It is critical to note that a majority of the prison gang members who are locked up find their way into prison as a result of the crimes they commit when they have freedom (Cawman 111). It is extremely difficult for the state to control the issue of prison gangs because it is believed that the use of correctional facilities is the most appropriate method of containing the risk they pose to the society. However, it should be noted that the society extends to the prison because of the existence of other inmates who are convicts of lesser crimes. Endangering their lives is uncouth and condemned by the Constitution, something that is also undermined by the gangs.
Most prisons have a system, of identifying and profiling gangs. The system enables the staff to control and monitor the members of the gangs to ensure that they do not mix with other inmates as this may endanger their lives (Grodzinsky 133). However, the methods used to identify and isolate them are never accurate because the gangs have a motto and creed as well as a method of hiding from the staff on their stats. It is difficult for an individual to separate a gang from a normal citizen because of the level of secrecy they exercise about their membership.
The primary concern of the law enforcement departments is that prison gangs are responsible for most violent incidents that happen in society. Whereas the street gangs are well-connected with their counterparts in prison, they organize and share information that aids them to perpetrate their risky activities. Research indicates that 3 percent of the prison population is made up the gangs. The same report shows that 50 percent of violence cases is directly attributed to the gangs. This indicates that in as much as the overall percentage of the gangs is low, their impact on the society is large and should, therefore, acts upon by the law enforcement officers.
One of the concerns that have been part of the conflict is the idea of legalizing the gang groups. The intention of legalizing the gangs is for the government to have clear statistics on their population. This will enable the government agencies to develop a plan that will mitigate their operations. Recognizing them will also offer a change of the state to hear their concerns and address them in an amicable way (Howell and Elizabeth, 179). The need to recognize the gangs officially is in line with the peace principles which intend to use talks as a mechanism to end the violent nature of a section of the society members, who in this case are the prison gangs. However, people opposed to this view argue that it is incorrect for the state to negotiate with individuals associated with terror as this will give room for others who are likely to cause anarchy in the society. The groups opposed to having a formal recognition of the gangs also argue that the government has the might and resources that can eliminate the gangs. The fact that the state also controls the intelligence networks gives them an upper hand over the gang groups, thereby making it easy for them to outdo them.
Whereas it is difficult to reach a central point on the steps that should be taken to do away with the prison gangs, the various methods that offer potential solutions have both positive and negative implications. Negotiating with the gang members is a good idea for the government as this will help the security agencies with the necessary information that will enable them to implement strategies that will be used to combat a terror that is caused by the groups. These will also assist them to record their statistics and record their trends, a situation that will help them contain future incidents (Smith and Mark 35). However, this approach is risky as it will put the government in a situation where it will have to compromise on some issues. As a sovereign institution, the law enforcement department is well-equipped to deal with terror and insecurity, which questions the rationale of using peaceful methods to end the prison-gang dilemma.
Another intervention used by the prison departments is the effort to bar the formation of small groups among the inmates. However, human rights organizations are opposed to this move because it undermines the rights of the inmates. In as much as the common feeling about the population is that they are made up of offenders, their punishment should not be extended to involve social seclusion. The constitution provides for the well-being of the prison members. The quality of life is supposed to be standard but restricted. Scholars argue that barring the formation of groups will minimize contact between them, a situation that will also break the coordination system they use to communicate and organize their activities. However, critics argue that this method may not work because of the cost aspects that are involved with building a new facility that will help to sort the inmates restrict their movement. Besides, it is against the bill of rights to completely isolate human beings from one another.
It is evident that the problem of prison gangs is a common issue that should be handled with a lot of urgency by the correctional facilities. However, efforts by the departments to suppress the existence of the gangs are undermined by the fact that they have resources that sustain their activities. Besides, the gangs do not have a particular agenda to address but to disrupt law and order of the other society members. For this reason, the provision gangs are considered to be an opponent of the law enforcement agencies, a situation that creates a barrier to any efforts to use dialogue to end the skirmish. The violent nature of the prison gangs is also intended to protect their resources such as engaging in the sale of drugs and crimes with the sole aim of extorting funds with lawful people. It is because of this argument that there have been debates on whether to introduce initiatives that will give inmates an opportunity to make money while behind bars. However, giving them this avenue creates an additional avenue of giving the power which they can use to continue their activities. The history and causes of the gangs is so deep that is requires serious steps to manage them. The fact that these gangs originate from the street gangs makes it difficult to control them. Therefore, starting with the street gangs would be a major step towards eliminating such criminal organizations.
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