Gangs Active in 42 States; Increasingly Bringing Crime and Racism to Communities Outside Jails
New York, NY, April 18, 2016 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a new report showing that white supremacist prison gangs are on the rise, with growing membership and increased activism both behind bars and on the street.
The ADL report provides a first-of-its-kind inventory of white supremacist groups by state and prison system – and recommends a number of steps the Justice Department can take to track violent prison gangs and the number of crimes carried out by racist inmates at both the federal and state level.
Among the key findings: white supremacist prison gangs are operating in at least 42 state prison systems and federal prisons in the United States, and they’re increasingly spreading from the prisons to the streets, according to the ADL report, “White Supremacist Prison Gangs in the United States: A Preliminary Inventory.”
ADL’s Center on Extremism created the report by working with correctional institutions and law enforcement agencies, reviewing case files and news stories, and tapping its own extensive body of information on white supremacist prison gang activities.
“White supremacist prison gangs are the fastest-growing segment of the white supremacist movement in the United States,” said Mark Pitcavage, ADL Senior Research Fellow. “Though they are called ‘prison gangs,’ it is really a misnomer, as many of these groups are just as active on the streets of America as they are behind bars. They are growing in numbers and reach, accompanied by a related rise in crime and violence.”
Large county jails also often have to contend with such gangs in the regions where they are active.
The ADL report also found that some states seem to have a particular problem with white supremacist prison gangs. Texas has two of the largest racist prison gangs in the country – Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and Aryan Circle. And California has an endemic white supremacist gang problem that extends beyond the prison walls. Other states with significant white supremacist prison gang issues include Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Tennessee.
Why are Prison Gangs a Threat?
White supremacist prison gangs and their membership engage in a wide variety of criminal activities behind bars. Some are involved in illegal drug smuggling, and others are involved in scams and frauds. Gangs are responsible for acts of violence against rival gang members and other targeted inmates, according to ADL.
Gang members may also engage in hate-related violence stemming directly from their white supremacist ideology. Timothy Lee York, a member of the United Aryan Brotherhood and an inmate in a federal prison in Texas, was sentenced to five years in 2012 after being convicted of attempting to kill his cellmate. He later admitted that he carried out the attack because his victim was Jewish.
On the streets, white supremacist prison gang members engage in a wide array of criminal activities, including the manufacture, import, or sale of illegal drugs as well as burglary rings, identify theft and other schemes.
“There’s no doubt that white supremacist prison gangs commit more murders than any other type of white supremacist in the U.S.,” Pitcavage said. “The gangs combine the criminal intent and know-how of organized crime with the racism and hate of white supremacy, making them twice as dangerous.”
In a letter to the Justice Department, ADL recommended several policy recommendations that could help to keep better track of violent and racist gang activity. The League urged the federal government and state prison systems to:
- Track violent prison gangs and publish a periodic report on the nature and magnitude of the dangers they pose both inside and outside correctional facilities;
- Collect statistics on violent crimes committed by inmates associated with prison gangs – especially murders and bias-motivated crimes;
- Publish periodic reports on bias-motivated criminal activity behind bars – and describe what authorities are doing to combat this activity;
- Fund the creation of law enforcement task forces to address specific Board of Prisons and state and local gang problems;
- Make increased funding available to create and promote “exit” programs to encourage prison gang members to leave their gangs.
Through research, analysis and programming, ADL’s Center on Extremism fights extremism, terrorism and hate of all kinds. The Center’s extensive resources on hate groups, extremists and terrorists arm law enforcement agencies, community leaders and public officials with the information they need to address extremist threats.