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The Aryan Circle

Crime in the Name of Hate

Read the full comprehensive report, The Aryan Circle: Crime in the Name of Hate (PDF).

The Aryan Circle is a large, growing and dangerous white supremacist prison gang based primarily in Texas, though it has a presence in a number of other states. It is active both in prisons and on the streets. It is an extreme and violent group, with a long track record of murder, including the deaths of two police officers in Bastrop, Louisiana, in 2007.

Key Points

  • The Aryan Circle combines extremism with organized crime. The Aryan Circle is an organized crime group; its white supremacy often takes a backseat to traditional criminal motives. However, it uses its white supremacy as a bond to cement the loyalty of individual members to the group, creating an extended Aryan crime "family." It originated in the Texas prison system in the mid-1980s. For many years it was a small group, but by 2009 it has become the second largest white supremacist gang in the Texas prison system.
  • Active in the prisons, but also on the streets. The Aryan Circle has four distinct segments: its Texas prison population, its federal prison population, its out-of-state prison population, and its "street" or "free world" population. The total number of Circle members is probably over 1,400, making it one of the largest white supremacist groups in the United States. Perhaps the most disturbing trend is the rapid growth in its "free world" membership, which has resulted in an epidemic of criminal activity across Texas and beyond.
  • Hierarchical, but beset by power struggles. The Aryan Circle is headed by an elected president and run by senior members comprising an Upper Board who control the four segments mentioned above. Each segment has hierarchies that comprise a Middle Board as well as officers such as majors, captains/district captains, and lesser ranks. After several years of divided leadership, Billy "Thumper" Haynes was elected the Circle's new president in 2008. However, dissatisfaction with this choice led to in-fighting and dissent. After Haynes was arrested for alleged murder in late 2008, Greg "Droopy" Freeman replaced him, but internal dissent continues.
  • Recruiting "prospects." The Aryan Circle recruits in the prisons and on the streets. Recruits or "prospects" must undergo a lengthy apprentice period in which their background is checked and they are indoctrinated into the rules and beliefs of the Circle. Only after many months are they allowed full Circle membership. Aryan Circle members tend to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and their criminal activity often supplements a blue collar or service industry paycheck. Many Aryan Circle members work in the oil industry in Texas.
  • The role of women. The Aryan Circle is somewhat unusual among racist prison gangs in that women can and do become full-fledged members. The Circle has a significant female component that takes part in all Circle activities—administrative, social, and criminal. Some women have achieved positions of considerable importance and responsibility within the Circle, but sexism prevents them from rising to the highest ranks.
  • The Circle beyond Texas. By the late 1990s, the Aryan Circle developed a significant presence in the free world across Texas and beyond. This has increased the group's criminal opportunities and ability to recruit. The Circle expects released prisoners to report to their "free world" district captain and continue their association with the group.
  • The role of ideology. The original "homegrown" white supremacy of the Aryan Circle has become more sophisticated, closer to that of "traditional" white supremacists such as neo-Nazi and Klan groups. However, many Circle members still have only a crude understanding of white supremacist ideology. The Circle uses its white supremacy to increase solidarity within its ranks, consciously trying to create the atmosphere of an extended Aryan family or clan to which all are unbendingly loyal.
  • Relations with other gangs. The Aryan Circle has few relationships with "traditional" white supremacist groups. Its relations with other prison gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas or the White Knights, are more often violent than not; the Aryan Circle has been involved in a number of violent prison gang wars.
  • Problems with drug use. The Aryan Circle not only deals drugs; many of its members abuse drugs, especially methamphetamine, which has caused serious problems for the group and its members. Efforts by Circle leaders in the past to combat drug use by members have failed. A new effort started in 2008 that creating a "Chemical Free" program, complete with distinctive tattoo, faces serious hurdles.
  • Criminal activities: crimes for profit. Much of the Aryan Circle's criminal activities are profit-driven. Inside prisons, Circle members engage in protection rackets and other schemes, but the smuggling of contraband (particularly illegal drugs and tobacco) is the most important endeavor. Outside prison walls, Circle members engage in a wide variety of activities, of which illegal drugs (especially methamphetamine) are the most important, followed by a variety of theft and robbery rings.
  • Criminal activities: violent crimes. Organized violence is also a feature of Aryan Circle activity. Behind prison walls, Aryan Circle members engage in violence against rival gangs, while inside and outside of prisons, the Circle has killed or attempted to kill a number of suspected informants or other people perceived to be "weak links," in order to protect the group.
  • Criminal activities: hate crimes. In and out of prisons, Aryan Circle members have committed a variety of violent acts against African-Americans, Hispanics, homosexuals and transgender people, and others. Though their main motivations are those of an organized crime group, they live up to the hatred implicit in their white supremacist beliefs as well.
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