Press Release

ADL Research Finds More Than 75 White Supremacist Prison Gangs Operating in 38 States

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The Center on Extremism releases its 2022 assessment on the state of white supremacist prison gangs

New York, NY, October 24, 2022 … Today, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism released an updated, interactive inventory of white supremacist prison gangs found across the United States in 2022. This updated assessment sheds light on one of the most active and violent segments of the white supremacist movement.

According to the Center on Extremism, there are currently more than 75 different white supremacist prison gangs in at least 38 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They range from relatively small local groups to multi-state gangs with a thousand or more members.

The updated inventory is interactive and gives users a state-by-state breakdown of gang presence, tattoos and symbols. Basic information about each gang, as well as photos, are included in the visualization.  The assessment was put together by ADL researchers working with correctional institutions and law enforcement, reviewing case files and news stories, and tapping its own extensive body of information of white supremacist prison gang activities.

Additionally, ADL released a companion report detailing on how white supremacist gang members have used Facebook as a tool to recruit and organize.

“White supremacist prison gangs comprise arguably the most violent, deadly and often underreported components of the larger white supremacist movement,” said Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL Center on Extremism. “Members inside and outside of prison have committed numerous criminal and extremist acts of violence, including a substantial number of extremist-related murders. The goal of this assessment was to not only provide a resource for law enforcement and correctional institutions to use as they seek to combat the problem, but also inform the public of this complex criminal network that is increasingly operating beyond the confines of jail.”

White supremacist gang members take part in a wide swath of criminal activity, from more traditional crimes (such as drug operations) to ideologically motivated crimes (such as hate crimes). Most white supremacist gangs are also incredibly violent and will even direct such violence toward their own members and associates. 

Key Findings

  • Though not their most common form of violence, white supremacist prison gang members do engage in hate-motivated crime, targeting people of other races, ethnicities or religions. Such hate-motivated crimes are frequently spontaneous violent reactions to an unplanned encounter rather than premeditated acts.
  • White supremacist prison gang members engage in gang activity as well as crimes of their own volition. Such crimes can include identity theft, illegal weapons charges, drug charges and violent crimes like assault or murder. Recidivism is also often high, illustrated by the lengthy criminal histories many members possess.
  • White supremacist prison gangs have evolved their own distinct subculture. Some elements are borrowed from the pre-existing biker gang subculture, while others are derived from shared prison experiences.  This subculture, which is shared by gang members and associates, includes shared language and slang; shared ideology; participation in similar customs; and common symbols, acronyms and numeric codes.
  • Despite Facebook’s efforts to moderate and remove extremist content, it remains the platform of choice for members of white supremacist prison gangs. An examination of their presence on the platform found that gang members use Facebook to network with fellow gang members, as well as members of other gangs.
    • To explore how white supremacist prison gangs use Facebook to network, ADL data scientists conducted a social network analysis using public Facebook “friendship” data of 99 known members of ten different white supremacist prison gangs. The analysis identified 55,690 Facebook users surrounding the 99 gang members with 69,718 Facebook connections.
  • In the last decade alone, as noted in the ADL report Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2021, white supremacist prison gang members were responsible for nearly a third (76) of white supremacist-related killings. Moreover, because murders behind prison walls are not always well reported, the true number is likely higher still.
  • State and federal law enforcement officials will often use racketeering investigations and prosecutions to combat white supremacist prison gang activity, both on the street and behind bars. Because white supremacist prison gangs engage in organized crime, they are vulnerable to such prosecutions in a way many other white supremacist groups aren’t.

ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all.