Causes of Prison Gang Essay Sample

Published: 2022-11-07
Causes of Prison Gang Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Criminal law Literature review Criminal justice
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1817 words
16 min read

Indeed, prison gangs are incarcerated organizations that act within prison systems. Moreover, the reasons for the emergence of prison gangs rely on the main idea of its formation and the localities these prisons are stationed (Barker, 2012). Nonetheless, in the U.S. community, California's state prison was the pioneer of the millennial prison gangs. Also, in the 1950s and 1960s, the California prison system had groups such as the Aryan Brotherhood, Black guerilla family, and the Mexican Mafia gangs (Skarbek, 2014). Moreover, it gave prisoners an identity, and if one of the members were imprisoned again, there was a 90 percent chance that their status was understood and known within the entire prison system (Barker, 2012). Additionally, currently, no demographic composition and analysis are illustrating the exact numbers of prison gangs in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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To some extent, prison gangs are believed to have originated from the streets and not in prisons. In simple terms, most of the prison gangs were a member of street gangs even before they were imprisoned (Parenti, 2000). Besides, the issues of prison gangs were first established exposed to the public by Fleisher and Decker in 2001, through their article An overview of the challenge of prisons. (Parenti, 2000) Ideally, the material stretched more on the harmful elements of prison gangs and not identifying the ideal reasons as to why most of the inmates refer to joining groups rather than rehabilitating themselves (Musick & Gunsaulus-Musick, 2017). Next, as their focus in the U.S, their statistical analysis on the prison gangs and members were incorrect since the numbers of these groups keep growing with time (Barker, 2012). It is also a fact that joining these gangs meant that the inmate had to adhere by defined rules and guides, for example becoming loyal to the leader, clothing or getting a specified tattoo, and receiving a new name among others (Barker, 2012). Therefore the paper will analyze and compose reasons as to why prison gangs are established within the U.S. prison system.

Literature Review

Common knowledge defines politics as the governance of an institution or is precisely the ability to attain power to run and issue rules within a system. Like country and state politics, prison institutions to have political norms (Schoenfeld, 2018). A good example is an increase in the diversity of prisoners within the Canadian and U.S. prisons that have made it difficult for the prison systems to maintain (Parenti, 2000). With such difference, prisoners tend to enhance and search for power, and the only way to achieve it is by establishing a gang that protects within the system for a price (Steinberg, 2005). The main reasons as to why these gangs exist are because of their nature to enhance power and violence within the system; specifically, by protecting their members as well as those who pay for their services for protection (Morales, 2014). Political course of prison gangs has led to thousands of beatings, bullies, and intimidation by the groups to enhance their power within the system.

Moreover, these gangs tend to control some of the internal illegal occurrences within the system, for example, the idea of the jail drug trade has existed within the system for years; the business has channeled cash for these prisoners, and in return, they have purchased prestigious accommodations for the leaders as well as members (Morales, 2014). Also, whenever these gangs provide products and services for the incarcerated, and they do not pay, violence is their way of sending the message to the others (Roberts, 2014). To some extent, these gangs go to the size of killing other inmates to show their superiority and ensure other succumb to their laws. Next, the statistical analysis provided that three out of seven prisoners are members of a gang (Morales, 2014). It is because of their fear that established the importance of groups and also the supplies of their drugs have made it next to impossible to stop the emergence of prison gangs.

Moreover, six out of ten gang members are heavily tattooed or bare marks that enhance their identity towards their designated gangs (Valentine, 2000). Next, it is quite shocking as to why politics plays an essential role in the creation of prison gangs, for example, power and authority was not the only reason towards the formation of groups, but loyalty and individual beliefs are some of the contributing factors (Lessing, 2017). Loyalty concurs with the body since these members have a bond that is greater than the offense they committed. For example, loyalty plays a role when friends are forced to join gangs or create gangs to establish a common understanding of their identity; inmate gangs might have been friends within the community or society (Valentine, 2000). Also, due to their bond, they create a group always to protect themselves from others and ensure they have services and rules to provide they are feared.

Next, individual beliefs have played an essential part in the formation of gangs within the prison walls (Lessing, 2017). The beliefs enhance once reasons for establishing such rights. First, individual's beliefs occur as a result of fear and the will to survive various events within the prison walls (Valentine, 2000). Fear and the will to survive and live a longer life is the most common norm known to people, especially when prisoners are exposed o hostile environments, for example, locked up in places that records a high rate of rape cases, deaths, and bullying (Steinberg, 2005). Next, one's ability to access money can enable him/her purchase protection from other inmates; therefore, establishing the rise of gangs who provide security for the right price.

Besides, individual beliefs can determine one's norms of building organizations with either the prison wardens or other prisoners for mutual benefits (Rafael, 2007). With such coalition power is exercised a means of obtaining personal or corporate products that can benefit others within the system; for example, street gang members composed of law enforcement authorities and prison wardens (Rafael, 2007). Due to the connection between the wardens and prisoners, the policies governing the gangs expect the law enforcers to protect their own from other groups or prisoners; thus, enhances the chances of bands to rise against rivals.

Ideally, societies are composed of different people, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Latinos among others (Valentine, 2000). These ethnic communities have different beliefs as well as practices that ensure that they protect their own regarding need. Like in traditional societies, people of color are the minority, but the case is not that same in prison systems. Prison systems have a majority of people of color due to the massive incarceration that has occurred over the years, for example, over the last decade, the U.S represented the highest number regarding prisoners (Skarbek, 2014). With such an increase, people of color are the majority, specifically the blacks. Due to the injustice, these people go through while in the community, for example, the racial incarceration due to drug wars where crack and cocaine have different prison penalties, they form groups to help them accept and never forget their identity (Steinberg, 2005). Besides, these gangs are established to ensure that they do not forget their cultural backgrounds and protect each other while incarnated.

Next, ethnicity and religion are part of some of the reasons gangs are established. According to a statistical analysis conducted in the U.S. in 2015, nine out of ten prison gangs were formed because of power, while one out of ten is to ensure the peace and accommodation within the system is established (Steinberg, 2005). The lesser percentage of groups that promote peace are believed to be religious and societal gangs that think in a course, for example, some gangs get the opportunity to indulge others into their gangs especially in teaching them societal norms that relate to Christianity, and I slam among others. To some extent, some religious gangs will get involved in violence when provoked or when their members are threatened, but in most cases, they ensure that they solve their issues in peace (Lessing, 2017). The formation of such groups might also result because of the shame and guilt the accompanies the offenses committed by the inmates, and they believe that the only way to receive redemption is by seeking salvation and ensuring that they use the opportunity as a means of rehabilitating himself/herself (Lessing, 2017).

Currently, the numbers of prisoners have increased due to poor policies that govern the nation; especially laws that ensure the rich are well protected and receive minimal penalties as opposed to the minority who receive maximum penalties (Skarbek, 2014). Ideally, the minority has been associated with events such as crime, drug trafficking, and rape among others; thus, 60 percent of the crimes that happen in the U.S. and Canada are conducted by the minority. It is because these people originate from the weak and defenseless background (Steinberg, 2005). Due to their economic disability while free, they form gangs to fend and defend their rights; thus, establishing them with the norms of belonging to a group. It is the same mentality that these individuals abide by in the case they are incarcerated.

When they are locked up its either they link up with other members of the group or they will locate members of their community, culture, or same lifestyle and create a gang that will intern control the normal running of the prison; thus, boosting their economic status (Valentine, 2000). Moreover, some prisons do not meet in satisfying the demands of prisoners, and to fend for themselves and ensure that the entire prison community obtains supplies of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs they create gangs which establish the connection with drug peddlers from the outside for supplies (Steinberg, 2005). Besides, the rates of corruption within the prison system have led to the formation of gangs. The rise of such groups is to ensure that their members are protected at all times and allocated freedom to operate without any disturbances for a fee (Parenti, 2000). The officers collect their dues from the prisoners and in turn, ensure that the drug ring is a success.


Barker, T. (2012). North American criminal gangs: Street, prison, outlaw motorcycle, and drug trafficking organizations. Carolina Academic Press.

Lessing, B. (2017). Making peace in drug wars. Cambridge University Press.

Morales, G. (2014). Don't mess with Texas!: Gangs in the Lone Star State. Createspace Independent Pub.

Musick, D., & Gunsaulus-Musick, K. (2017). American prisons: Their past, present, and future. Taylor & Francis.

Parenti, C. (2000). Lockdown America: Police and prisons in the age of crisis. Verso.

Rafael, T. (2007). The Mexican mafia. Encounter Books.

Roberts, W. (2014). Prison Gangs: Organized crime behind bars. RW Press.

Schoenfeld, H. (2018). Building the prison state: Race and the politics of mass incarceration. University of Chicago Press.

Skarbek, D. (2014). The Social order of the underworld: How prison gangs govern the American penal system. Oxford University Press.

Steinberg, J. (2005). The number: One man's search for identity in the cape underworld and prison gangs. Jonathan Ball.

Valentine, B. (2000). Gangs and their tattoos: Identifying gangbangers on the Street and in prison. Paladin Press.

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