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Disruptive Groups



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  • 2. Unit Goal 23.1: The student will be able to summarize some issues involving disruptive groups.
  • 3. 23.1.1 The student will be able to define disruptive groups
  • 4. A. Disruptive group –
    • any group of inmates that pose a threat to the physical safety of other inmates or staff by virtue of the group’s nature and activities
  • 5. 1. Unorganized disruptive group:
    • e.g., two cellmates and a third inmate in the cellblock get together to create a disturbance to steal another inmate’s property
  • 6. 2. Prison gangs:
    • e.g., the Aryan Brotherhood (one of the more organized disruptive groups that originated in the Texas prison and jail system). As you will see later, these groups are very structured in leadership, and have been brought together for reasons of security within the prison and to help prison members and their families in issues the inmates’ face.
  • 7. 3. Street gangs:
    • a gang composed of three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities. In general, street gangs are not as well organized as the prison gangs, and may provide a greater threat to the jail system than to the state correctional system.
  • 8. 23.1.2 The student will be able to define criminal street gang.
  • 9. A. Criminal street gang –
    • three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities (PC 71.01)
  • 10. B. PC 71.02 – Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity:
  • 11. A person commits an offense if, with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination or as a member of a criminal street gang, he commits or conspires to commit one or more of the following:
  • 12.
    • murder,
    • capital murder,
    • arson,
    • aggravated robbery,
    • robbery,
    • burglary,
    • theft,
    • aggravated kidnapping,
  • 13.
    • kidnapping,
    • aggravated assault,
    • aggravated sexual assault,
    • sexual assault,
    • forgery, deadly conduct,
    • assault punishable as a Class A misdemeanor,
    • burglary of a motor vehicle, or
    • unauthorized use of a motor vehicle;
  • 14. 2) any gambling offense punishable as a Class A misdemeanor;
  • 15. 3) promotion of prostitution, aggravated promotion of prostitution, or compelling prostitution;
  • 16. 4) unlawful manufacture, transportation, repair, or sale of firearms or prohibited weapons;
  • 17. 5) unlawful manufacture, delivery, dispensation, or distribution of a controlled substance or dangerous drug, or unlawful possession of a controlled substance or dangerous drug through forgery, fraud, misrepresentation, or deception;
  • 18. 6) any unlawful wholesale promotion or possession of any obscene material or obscene device with the intent to wholesale promote the same;
  • 19. 7) any offense under Subchapter B, Chapter 43, depicting or involving conduct by or directed toward a child younger than 18 years of age;
  • 20. 8) any felony offense under PC 32;
  • 21. 9) any offense under PC 36;
  • 22. 10) any offense under PC 34, or
  • 23. 11) any offense under PC 37.11(a).
  • 24. 23.1.3 The student will be able to identify similarities and differences between disruptive groups (prison gangs) and street gangs.
  • 25. A. Similarities:
    • 1. Both are engaged in illegal activities, with emphasis on narcotics. Both demonstrate a high preference for violence (e.g., drive-by shootings by "Crips" and "Bloods," Texas Syndicate homicides).
    • 2. Both are becoming more mobile and sophisticated
  • 26. B. Differences:
    • 1. Street gangs tend to keep a high profile (i.e., wear colors, have graffiti).
    • 2. Street gangs are more loosely knit as a whole, but have been noted to develop written rules or constitutions and more formalized structures. Prison gangs are highly structured with by-laws and/or a constitution that is strictly enforced.
  • 27. B. Differences:
    • 3. The average age is approximately eighteen, but active gang members are being seen into their early thirties. Gang members generally have not served time in prison.
    • 4. Prison gangs are structured with a steering commission or committee, are paramilitary, and have one person in high authority.
  • 28. 23.1.4 The student will be able to identify gang affiliations.
  • 29. A. Body tattoos
  • 30. B. Gang-related apparel
  • 31. C. Inmate groupings at meals, recreation, and housing
  • 32. D. Information from informants
  • 33. E. Information from other law enforcement agencies
  • 34. F. Deterioration of inmate morale
  • 35. 23.1.5 The student will be able to list some early warning signs of prison/jail gang activity.
  • 36. A. Some early warning signs of prison/jail gang activity are:
  • 37. 1. Inmate on inmate assaults
  • 38. 2. Inmates assaulting staff members
  • 39. 3. Request for housing assignment changes
  • 40. 4. Self-mutilations
  • 41. 5. Body tattoos
  • 42. 6. Gang-related apparel
  • 43. 7. Inmate graffiti
  • 44. 8. Inmate groupings at feeding, at recreation, and in housing
  • 45. 9. Information from informants
  • 46. 10. Information from law enforcement agencies
  • 47. B. Prison/jail gangs were first formed for protection. Weaker inmates were being preyed upon by stronger inmates or other groups because of the prison’s/jail’s inability to protect the inmate population.
  • 48. 23.1.6 The student will be able to identify three court cases that greatly influenced gang growth in TDCJ-ID.
  • 49. A. Lamar v. Coffifield, C.A. No. 72-H-1393 (1977) - increased racial tension among inmates and forced inmates to group together along racial lines
  • 50. B. Guajuardo v. Estelle, 580 F. 2d. 748 (5th Cir. 1978) - allowed inmates to correspond with one another
  • 51. 1. Due to increased communication among inmates from various units, TDCJ-ID was no longer able to “hide” cooperative inmates
  • 52. 2. It also gave gangs an established line of communication, which significantly affected recruiting, and violence. Gangs were also able to increase their power over other inmates with threats through correspondence.
  • 53. C. Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F. Supp. 1265, 1276, 1391 (S.D. Tex. 1980) -
    • eliminated the building tender system, creating a vacuum of power. Gangs were able to step in and take control over other inmates.
  • 54. 23.1.7 The student will be able to explain the history of gangs in TDCJ-ID and jails.
  • 55. A. Gangs emerged within TDCJ-ID in the mid 1970s. The first two recognized gangs were the Aryan Brotherhood and the Texas Syndicate.
  • 56. 1. Texas Syndicate - Formed in 1974 by Texans incarcerated in the California prison system. Some members filtered back to Texas, were arrested and confined to TDCJ-ID.
  • 57. a. Predominantly Mexican male; some white
  • 58. b. Para-military in structure
  • 59. c. Primary goal of controlling narcotics trade, extort other inmates, control prostitution, undermine prison/jail authorities, conduct contract killings as needed.
  • 60. 2. Aryan Brotherhood - Formed in Texas in the early 1980s. A group of several white inmates in TDCJ-ID decided to start their own chapter.
  • 61. a. Exclusively for white inmates
  • 62. b. White supremacist philosophy
  • 63. c. Has an executive committee composed of five steering committee members
  • 64. d. Primary goal of controlling narcotics trade among white inmates, extortion and the killing of black inmates.
  • 65. 3. Mexikanemi - Texas Mexican Mafia
  • 66. Note: c.f. Mexicanemi = California Mexican Mafia
  • 67. a. Exclusively for Hispanic inmates
  • 68. b. Members are primarily from the Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso areas
  • 69. c. Para-military in structure
  • 70. d. Goals include: a share of the narcotics trade in TDCJ-ID, selling of weapons and other illegal activities as mandated in the gang constitution
  • 71. 4. Barrio Azteca – the largest, most active gang in the El Paso area
  • 72. a. Started in the Coffield Unit of TDCJ by five gang members of the “X14” group from El Paso
  • 73. b. Paramilitary in structure
  • 74. c. Have a signed armistice with Mexikanemi (1997)
  • 75. d. Activities include drugs, prostitution, extortion, staff intimidation and inmate assaults (including murder)
  • 76. 5. Border Brothers
  • 77. a. Primarily made up of Mexican nationals
  • 78. b. Paramilitary structure
  • 79. c. Chief rival: Barrio Azteca
  • 80. d. Activities: Concentrate primarily on drug trafficking and manufacture of prison-made weapons. Also showing a propensity for committing or threatening to commit acts of violence
  • 81. 23.1.8 The student will be able to identify various street, prison and/or jail gangs.
  • 82. A. Crips - Formed in California on high school campuses when the “Crips” began to prey upon nonmembers by extorting money and committing robberies.
  • 83. 1. Identify with the color blue
  • 84. 2. Refer to one another as “cuz”
  • 85. 3. Uses the letter “C” to replace the letter “B” in conversations and writings.
  • 86. 4. Gang members will write blue graffiti on walls in the neighborhood to mark their particular territorial boundaries.
  • 87. B. Bloods - This gang is also referred to as the “Pirus” because they originated on Piru Street. The "Bloods" developed in an effort to protect themselves from the “Crips” and have become the principal rival of the “Crips.”
  • 88. 1. Identify with the color red
  • 89. 2. Use the term “Blood” to identify one another
  • 90. 3. Graffiti writings are done in red
  • 91. 4. Although the “Bloods” are outnumbered by the “Crips,” what they lack in numbers they make up for in violence. They are regarded as the more ruthless of the two gangs.
  • 92. C. Skinheads
  • 93. 1. Skinhead groups have formed with varying levels of cohesion in every region of the country
  • 94. 2. Gangs are now operating in 21 states, including Texas
  • 95. 3. Consider themselves as white warriors
  • 96. D. Asian Groups - Cambodians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are the most secretive of the gangs
  • 97. 1. Not concerned about territorial boundaries
  • 98. 2. Interested only in money and will participate in drugs, extortion, and prostitution to earn it
  • 99. E. Jamaican Gangs - Members have a distinct island accent, hair may be braided in “dreadlock” fashion
  • 100. 1. Clothing is usually red, yellow, and green
  • 101. 2. Very violent where gang activity is involved
  • 102. 3. Strong preference for large caliber semiautomatic weapons
  • 103. 4. Subscribe to rituals and sacrificial ceremonies
  • 104. F. Other prison/jail gangs identified: (Optional)
  • 105. 1. La Hermanidad De Pistoleros Latinos
  • 106. 2. Norteños
  • 107. 3. Sureños
  • 108. 4. Latin Kings (both street and jails)
  • 109. 5. Texas Mafia
  • 110. 6. Dirty White Boys
  • 111. 7. La Nuestra Familia
  • 112. 8. Raza Unida
  • 113. 9. Aryan Circle
  • 114. 10. Peckerwoods
  • 115. 11. Brothers of the Struggle
  • 116. Additional Resources
    • American Justice.
    • Austin Police Department. Gang Suppression Unit.
    • Jackson, R. K. & McBride, W. D. (2000). Understanding Street Gangs. Nevada: Copperhouse Publishing Company.
    • Leet, D. A., et. al. (2d. Ed). (2000). Gangs, Graffiti, and Violence: A Realistic Guide to the Scope and Nature of Gangs in America. Nevada: Copperhouse Publishing Company.
    • National Major Gang Task Force,
    • Prison Gang Update,
    • Publications from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (November/December 2002). No. 67. Organization website:
    • 1. “Correctional Strategies in Gang Management,” available at:
  • 117. Additional Resources
    • 2. “The Influence of Prison Gang Affiliation on Violence and other Prison Misconduct,” available at:
    • 3. “Institutional Treatment of Gang Members” (NCJ 187687)
    • 4. “A National Assessment of Gangs and Security Threat Groups (STGs) in Adult Correctional Institutions: Results of 1999 Adult Corrections Survey,” available at:
    • 5. “Prison Interventions: Evolving Strategies to Control Security Threat Groups” (NCJ 187685)
    • 6. “The Facts About Gang Life in American Today: A National Study of Over 4,000 Gang Members,” available at:
    • 7. “From the Street to the Prison: Understanding & Responding to Gangs” (NCJ 190755)
  • 118. Additional Resources
    • 8. “Gangs in Middle America: Are They a Threat?” (NCJ 192470)
    • 9. “The Growth of Youth Gang Problems in the United States: 1970-1998” (NCJ 1811868)
    • Roberson, C. (2000). Exploring Juvenile Justice. Nevada: Copperhouse Publishing Company.
    • San Antonio Police Department. Gang Task Force.
    • Starbuck, D., et. al. (December 2001). Hybrid and Other Modern Gangs. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs.
    • Texas Department of Criminal Justice:
    • Texas Department of Public Safety:
    • Texas Gang Investigation Association:
  • 119. Additional Resources
    • Texas Office of the Attorney General - Gang Division:
    • Texas Prison Gang Page:
  • 120. Related Case Law
  • 121. Aguilar v. TDCJ-Institutional Division, (5th Cir. 1998)
    • Inmates and several other prisoners filed a § 1983 action complaining that prison officials denied them access to the courts, placed them in punitive segregation, confiscated their personal and legal property, and falsely accused them of being prison gang leaders as an excuse for violating their civil rights. The prisoners maintained that these actions resulted from the prison officials' discrimination against Hispanics. The district court dismissed with prejudice all of inmates’ complaints, reasoning that the claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment.