White Supremacist Prison Gangs: 2022 Assessment

Prison Gangs

State Inventory of White Supremacist Prison Gangs

While there are almost certainly more, the following is an inventory of white supremacist prison gangs that the ADL Center on Extremism has created by 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.

Key Points

  • For nearly four decades, white supremacist prison gangs have constituted one of the primary segments of the white supremacist movement, though they are different in many ways from “traditional” white supremacist groups.
  • Though they typically originate and are active in jails and prisons, most of these gangs are just as active on the streets as behind bars—including involvement in violence and other criminal acts.
  • Though they are white supremacist in nature, these prison gangs are usually a form of organized crime and frequently prioritize profit over ideology.
  • Most white supremacist prison gangs allow only men as full members, but women play important roles in most such gangs, including in criminal activity.
  • There are currently more than 75 different white supremacist prison gangs in at least 38 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as in major county jails. They range from relatively small local gangs all the way to multi-state gangs with a thousand or more members.
  • The crimes committed by white supremacist gang members include traditional criminal activities such as running major drug dealing operations as well as ideologically motivated crimes such as hate crimes.  Most white supremacist gangs also have a high association with violence—which includes violence directed even at their own members and associates.

Origins of White Supremacist Prison Gangs

The first white supremacist prison gang emerged in the 1960s at California’s San Quentin State Prison as a reaction to the desegregation of California’s prisons and the rise of race-based prison gangs like the Black Guerilla Family. The first such white supremacist gang was the Aryan Brotherhood, formed by members of other white gangs such as the Diamond Tooth Gang and the Blue Birds. Still around today, the Aryan Brotherhood eventually spread throughout the California prison system and into the Federal Bureau of Prisons. By the 1980s, similar gangs emerged in other state prison systems, often after desegregation (segregation was instituted in some states as part of Jim Crow and in some other states as a policy to reduce prison violence). 

Early white supremacist prison gangs included the Aryan Warriors, Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, Ohio Aryan Brotherhood and the Arizona Aryan Brotherhood. As these examples show, a number of these gangs appropriated the name of the original California-based Aryan Brotherhood gang, but they and other similarly named groups are separate from and independent of the original Aryan Brotherhood.

Today, white supremacist prison gangs are one of the most active and violent segments of the white supremacist movement in the United States. Most states have at least one organized white supremacist prison gang; many have more. Such prison gangs are typically larger than other types of white supremacist groups, with memberships that often are in the hundreds, with a few, like the Aryan Circle and Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, reaching 1,500 or more members. Moreover, most prison gangs have substantial numbers of associates (including women) and hangers-on in addition to formally admitted members.

White supremacist prison gangs are usually well organized and hierarchical with a ranking system that is often strictly enforced. At the bottom are “hang-arounds,” who associate with a prison gang but are not actual members. Some seek protection offered by the gang, or hope to become members, while many are partners in criminal operations run by the gang. The lowest position that has a formal status with a gang is the “prospect” or “probate”—someone undergoing the steps to become a full member. Successful prospects join the gang after a period of months to a year. Full gang members are often known as “patched” members, a reference to the gang tattoos many get. Higher ranks include “enforcers,” who are responsible for meting out punishments or orders from the “shot-callers” who have the authority to issue orders and assignments to members. Some gangs employ military-style ranks, such as soldier, lieutenant, captain and so forth. The top-ranks of leadership often have their own collective title, such the Commission, the Ring, the Council or the Elders. Depending on the effective leadership in the gang and the control they have over members, white supremacist prison gangs may enforce strict adherence to the group’s hierarchy as well as laws and rules (it is common for white supremacist gangs to have written by-laws or constitutions). Flouting mandates from the gang can result in beatdowns, expulsions (which can include the violent removal of a gang tattoo from the body of an ousted member) or even death. Many members and associates of white supremacist prison gangs are murdered by their own gang.

As white supremacist prison gangs have increasingly expanded onto the streets, the long-term trend has been for gangs to exert more control and direction over this part of their membership. This has allowed several such gangs to engage in large-scale organized crime such as drug distribution.

White Supremacist Prison Gang Ideology and Subculture

As their names suggest, white supremacist prison gangs are not simply race-based, as many gangs are, but have adopted a form of white supremacist ideology. The earliest gangs had a crude, homegrown version of white supremacy but over time they have adopted most of the ideas and symbols of other, more traditional white supremacist groups.

White supremacy is a term used to characterize various belief systems central to which are one or more of the following key tenets: 1) whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; 2) whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white people have their own "culture" that is superior to other cultures; 4) white people are genetically superior to other people. As a full-fledged ideology, white supremacy is far more encompassing than simple racism or bigotry. Most white supremacists today further believe that the white race is in danger of extinctionhc due to a rising “flood” of non-whites, who are controlled and manipulated by Jews, and that imminent action is needed to “save” the white race.

The degree to which white supremacist prison gang members internalize white supremacist ideology can vary widely, particularly if the main motivations a member may have for joining such a group are not related to racism. Often a gang may have a contingent of members who are fully enmeshed in white supremacist beliefs, as well as a larger section of membership that may simply exhibit racism or bigotry. Different gangs may be more or less hateful to different races, though all tend to be hostile to Blacks and Black gangs in prison. Some white supremacist prison gangs have had small numbers of Hispanic members.

Some gangs, such as the Ghost Face Gangsters in Georgia, have a relatively weak attachment to white supremacy and exist somewhere on the border between white supremacist prison gangs and white race-based gangs.

Most white supremacist prison gangs are organized crime groups first and hate groups second. Criminal organizations, of whatever type, from mafia families to outlaw biker gangs, depend on creating a sense of group loyalty that can overcome individual self-interest. White supremacist prison gangs use white supremacy to enhance gang loyalty and make it less likely that a member may inform on the group. It’s this practical emphasis on white supremacy, to support criminal motives and operations, that helps explain how white supremacist gangs can form arrangements and alliances with non-white prison or street gangs (typically Hispanic). The gangs see opportunities to maximize their earnings even if, on the surface, collaborating with non-white gangs would seem to contradict white supremacist beliefs.

Over the years, white supremacist prison gangs have also evolved their own distinct subculture, borrowing some elements from the older biker gang subculture and originating others, often derived from shared prison experiences. The subculture is shared by the members and associates of white supremacist prison gangs. It includes shared language and slang between members; shared ideology; participating in similar customs; and using common symbols, acronyms and numeric codes. Men who participate in this subculture refer to themselves as “peckerwoods,” or simply “woods.”  This term originated as a derogatory slur aimed at white people but was embraced by members and associates of white supremacist prison gangs, who wear it as a badge of honor.  One longstanding white supremacist prison gang poem, adapted to fit different groups, proclaims “We’re peckerwood soldiers, down for our cause.”  Women who are part of the subculture refer to themselves as “featherwoods,” or simply “feathers.”  The people within a particular prison who partake in this subculture may refer to themselves collectively as the “Woodpile.”


Numeric codes & acronyms used by white supremacist prison gang members on social media. 

White supremacist prison gangs and the subculture they created both place a strong emphasis on the idea of the gang as a family. Members and associates may refer to the group as a family and to each other as brother and sister. This family emphasis also reinforces the all-important notion of loyalty to the group. Also strongly emphasized are concepts such as trust, honor, loyalty, brotherhood, respect and love. Many gangs may use some of these or similar terms as slogans.  The Aryan Circle, for example, uses the words (in various orders) “brotherhood, solidarity, loyalty and dedication,” and members may even tattoo the words on their body. Members and associates of many gangs may sign letters or online posts with “LLHR,” for “love, loyalty, honor and respect.”  It’s no coincidence that so many of these terms are related to group loyalty.

Some of these concepts and slogans were first used by outlaw biker gangs, like the slogan “God Forgives, Brothers Don’t,” appropriated by the Aryan Brotherhood. One Aryan Circle slogan, “My Honor is Called Loyalty,” originated with the Waffen SS in Nazi Germany. Other slogans were created by gang members themselves, like “Forever True” and “Always Strong,” both slogans for the Ghost Face Gangsters.  Once more, the idea of loyalty to the group dominates these slogans.

Groups have turned many of these slogans and concepts into acronyms, numeric codes or other similar expressions. These coded expressions have also become part of the subculture underlying white supremacist prison gangs, as members use them for identifying themselves and each other and to strengthen group bonds. Even learning all the different codes, acronyms and hand signs creates a bond with other group members. 

These examples, selected from many, illustrate the different types of formulations that may appear as tattoos, on correspondences, accompanying social media posts or in other circumstances:



Used by





God Forgives, Brothers Don’t

Aryan Brotherhood


AB (1st and 2nd letters)

Aryan Brotherhood


100% Aryan Brotherhood (100% + 1st and 2nd letters)

Aryan Brotherhood


ABT (1st, 2nd, 20th letters)

Aryan Brotherhood of Texas


My Honor Is Called Loyalty

Aryan Circle


Circle Forever, Forever Circle

Aryan Circle


AC (1st and 3rd letters)

Aryan Circle


100% Aryan Circle” (100% + 1st, 3rd letters)

Aryan Circle


RevOlutionarY Aryan LionS

Aryan Royals/Aryan Kings


King James Bible

Aryan Royals/Aryan Kings


BF (2nd and 6th letters)

Brotherhood Forever


FV (6th and 22nd letters)

Family Values


Death Before Dishonor

Family Values


Loyalty, Love, Honor, Respect, Honesty, Faithfulness, Understanding

Ghost Face Gangsters


Ghost Face Love (7th, 6th, 12th letters)

Ghost Face Gangsters


FT (6th, 20th letters) = Forever True

Ghost Face Gangsters


AS (1st, 19th letters) = Always Strong

Ghost Face Gangsters


Brothers Forever, Forever Brothers (2nd and 6th letters)

Brothers of White Warriors


BFG (2nd, 6th, 7th letters)

Bound for Glory


14th letter (N) + 12th letter (L) + 18th letter (R) = 44

Nazi Low Riders


To The Dirt (2 letters, 3 letters, 4 letters)

New Aryan Empire


Love and Respect



Till The mother fucking Toe Tag



PW (23rd, 16th letters)



Our Pride Is Our Strength

Sacred Separatist Group


SAW (19th, 1st, 23rd letters)

Silent Aryan Warriors


SAC (19th, 1st, 2nd letters)

Soldiers of Aryan Culture


Honor, Courage, Respect, Loyalty

Solid Wood Soldiers


Unforgiven Forever, Forever Unforgiven



U (21st letter)



Unity, Brotherhood, Loyalty (21st, 2nd, 12th letters)


21 12

UAB (21st, 1st, 2nd letters)

Universal Aryan Brotherhood


Universal To The Bitter Bloody End

Universal Aryan Brotherhood


Wood, Mother Fucking Wood

Universal Aryan Brotherhood

Social media sites, and the selfies and group photos posted on them, have increased the use of hand signs by white supremacist prison gangs. Like street gang members “throwing up” or “flashing” a hand sign, white supremacist prison gang members use hand signs to show gang affiliation.

White supremacist prison gangs

White supremacist prison gang band signs.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas uses a hand sign consisting of a raised index finger and raised ring and little fingers (or the reverse), signifying the numbers 1 and 2 (which stand for A and B, the initials for Aryan Brotherhood). Aryan Brotherhood of Texas members may also use a two-handed variation in which one hand "throws up" one digit and the other hand (belonging to the same or a different person) "throws up" two digits, again signifying 1 and 2.

The hand sign representing Aryan Circle consists of holding up the thumb and the middle, ring and little fingers of one hand, signifying the numbers 1 and 3. Substituting letters for numbers, 1 and 3 stand for A and C, i.e., Aryan Circle. The symbol can also be shown in "reverse," by holding up the little finger and the middle and index fingers, plus the thumb. Aryan Circle members can also show the sign using two hands, raising up one finger on one hand and three fingers on the other. Because Aryan Circle members often refer to their group as "the Diamond" (a reference to their most common tattoo, a diamond-shaped swastika), gang members may also use two hands to make the shape of a diamond.

Members of Tennessee’s largest white supremacist prison gang, Aryan Nations (not to be confused with the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations) uses a hand sign they sometimes refer to as "bolts up" or "bolts to the sky," consisting of forming the hand into a pistol shape and pointing it upwards or outwards.

Peckerwoods make the thumb, index finger and middle finger of one hand to form the letter "P," and the four fingers of the other hand to form the letter "W." This is especially common in California, where such street gangs are frequently found.”

White supremacist prison gangs

Arrested female associates of white supremacist prison gangs


Women & White Supremacist Prison Gangs

Most white supremacist prison gangs do not allow women as “patched” members and those few that do allow women as formal members do not typically allow them to assume leadership positions. Despite these restrictions, there are women associated with every white supremacist prison gang and they often play key roles, from helping create and maintain group bonds to participating in criminal activities.

Women support members behind bars, help inmates communicate with each other, publish and distribute newsletters and other materials, and engage in criminal activities such as smuggling contraband into prisons. Without the roles played by women, white supremacist prison gangs would find it much more difficult to operate.   

Just in the last few years, dozens of women with connections to white supremacist prison gangs have been arrested on a variety of charges. Often these women are wives, girlfriends or even the mothers of white supremacist prison gang members. Though not all participate directly in criminal activity, they are particularly useful in assisting members behind bars. Smuggling contraband and communications are two of the most common such roles, but women have also assisted in prison escapes and even murders.

For example, in 2019 Renee Johnson-Fritz forwarded a message from her incarcerated husband, Frederick Fritz, a leader in the Kansas Aryan Brotherhood, to an inmate at another corrections facility. The message was an order to murder another prisoner. The order was carried out by a gang member who stabbed the victim more than 20 times (the victim survived the attack). In December 2021, Renee Johnson-Fritz pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit capital murder and was sentenced to 59 months in prison. In March 2022, a judge dismissed the solicitation of murder case against Frederick Fritz because the case had not gone to trial within a 180-day deadline as required by law.

That same year, Kennan Gililland, a female associate of the Arkansas-based prison gang New Aryan Empire, assisted in the prison escape of its leader, Wesley Gullet, and an associate.  Gililland picked up the two gang members following their escape, driving them 130 miles away from the prison and providing food and supplies for them. Gililland pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting escape in July 2020.

In February 2020, Aubrie Brown and three male members or associates of the Ghost Face Gangsters prison gang allegedly stormed into the home of a mother and her 14-year-old daughter, demanding to speak to a male who owned the home. After returning to their car, one of the men allegedly fired several shots at the home, hitting and killing the daughter, who was at the front door. All four suspects and an additional man allegedly involved in the planning of the invasion face murder, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and weapons charges.

In September 2019, Yvonne Paul, the mother of a high-ranking member of the Georgia Aryan Brotherhood, was one of three women accused of attempting to smuggle tobacco and illegal prescriptions into the Polk County jail in Georgia. Another inmate found the contraband and reported to corrections staff before the intended recipient could retrieve it.

Criminal Activity

White supremacist prison gangs routinely engage in a variety of different criminal activities both behind bars and in the free world. Indeed, all but the smallest such gangs can be considered ongoing criminal enterprises, i.e., organized crime. Organized crime activities include illegal drug distribution, theft rings, identity theft, and other crimes.  White supremacist prison gangs also commit crimes of violence against rival gangs of different types, as well as their own members. Moreover, gang members may use deadly violence against corrections officials, police, or anybody else coming in the way of criminal activities or attempts to escape prison or arrest. Because they are also white supremacist, they can commit hate-motivated crimes as well, behind bars and on the streets.

Hate-Motivated Crime

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. Frequently, such hate-motivated crimes committed by members are spontaneous violent reactions to an unplanned encounter rather than premeditated acts.

In April 2021, Joseph Rossing, a member of the small, Iowa-based white supremacist prison gang known as Frys, and another man, encountered a Black driver who told them to get their children out of the street. The two men took the man out of his car and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head while yelling racial slurs. During the assault, Rossing removed his shirt and pounded a swastika tattoo on his chest. In November 2021, Rossing was sentenced to 17 years in prison, following an Alford plea to harassment, burglary and willful injury.

In August 2016, Russell Courtier, a member of European Kindred, got into an altercation with a Black man outside of a convenience store in Gresham, Oregon. Courtier and his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, who egged him on, got into their vehicle and ran the victim over. He died of his injuries three days later. In 2019, a jury found Courtier guilty of murder and a hate crime; he received a life sentence a minimum of 28 years. Hunt pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 10-year sentence.

Although less common, premeditated hate crimes committed by white supremacist prison gang members do occur. In 2010, Steven S. Cantrell, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas trying to gain status within the gang, committed a series of arsons targeting ethnic and religious minorities. Cantrell vandalized and set fire to a predominantly Black church, started a fire at the home of a Jewish man, and set fire to a gym owned by mixed-race couple. He also set fire to a church van and a utility trailer. For his one-day crime spree, Cantrell pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges and received a sentence of more than 37 years in prison. 

Traditional Crimes – Drugs, Weapons & More

White supremacist prison gang members engage in criminal acts at the behest of the gangs as well as crimes of their own volition and initiative. Such crimes range from drugs (manufacturing, distribution, smuggling and use) to illegal weapons, identity theft to violent assaults and murder. Criminal recidivism is also often high among such members, illustrated by the lengthy criminal histories many members possess.

For example, William Glenn Chunn and Jesse Paul Blankenship, both high-ranking members of the Aryan Circle prison gang, engaged in an array of violent criminal activity from 2010 to 2021. Chunn, a Texas member and one of the Circle’s top leaders, ordered attacks against rivals and against Aryan Circle members suspected of being disloyal. He also ordered attacks against people suspected of cooperating with law enforcement against the gang. Blankenship, from Missouri, committed several violent crimes on behalf of the Aryan Circle that moved him up the ranks of the gang. He shot two people, participated in a kidnapping, and burned off the “patch” of an Aryan Circle member in bad standing with the gang. In November 2021, a federal jury convicted Chunn on a racketeering charge with an enhanced penalty for attempted murder; Blankenship was convicted on charges related to racketeering and kidnapping.

Throughout 2020, five members of Oregon’s largest white supremacist prison gang, the European Kindred, were arrested in connection with a criminal enterprise that included trafficking narcotics, robberies, and obtaining illegal weapons. According to authorities, one member of the prison gang, Eric Kelly, also planned to “murder multiple individuals.” The men were trafficking drugs through multiple states in the Pacific Northwest. Three of the five Kindred members have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case; the remaining two have yet to stand trial.

Individual gang members can also engage in their own criminal activities. When police arrested Jesse R. Lohman, a member of the Brothers of White Warriors, a New Hampshire-based white supremacist prison gang, he was traveling with a large amount of pure methamphetamine in a stolen vehicle with a bogus license plate. He was also in possession of illegal brass knuckles as well as a wooden club and a book on Adolf Hitler. The arrest came just a week after his release from prison for a prior conviction. Lohman pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute and was subsequently sentenced to 12½ years in federal prison.

White supremacist prison gang members’ activity is not limited to crimes that are ideologically or racially motivated. As noted earlier, members frequently engage in a wide range of traditional criminal behavior, including murder, burglary/theft, etc. Some of these individuals also engage in political violence: of the more than 900 people who have been arrested for their participation in the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, at least two have connections to white supremacist prison gangs.

Michael Curzio is a member of the Florida-based prison gang Unforgiven. Authorities took him into custody a little over a week after the riot, marking one of the first arrests related to the riot. In July 2021, Curzio pleaded guilty for his role in the insurrection and was sentenced to six months in prison. Curzio’s involvement with the Unforgiven gang was likely linked to prison time he served after pleading guilty to attempted murder for shooting his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend in 2012.

White Supremacist Prison Gangs

Mugshot of Curzio; Curzio in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

Brian Jackson, from Texas, is a member of White Knights of America prison gang. In June 2022, authorities arrested Jackson along with his brother for their alleged violent rioting at the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Jackson is accused of violently assaulting law enforcement officers while on Capitol grounds and of deleting online evidence of his participation in the insurrection. His trial is still pending.

White Supremacist Prison Gangs

Jackson on U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021; some of Jackson’s white supremacist tattoos

Extreme Violence

The violent nature of white supremacist gangs, combined with their active criminal enterprises that regularly put them in contact with law enforcement, can all too often result in situations involving extreme violence, including murders committed for a variety of motives as well as violent encounters with law enforcement.

White supremacists are responsible for the majority of extremist-related murders in the United States almost every year—and members of white supremacist prison gangs commit a substantial number of them.  In the last decade alone, as noted in the COE 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.

Some of these prison gang murders involve violence with rival or enemy groups, or internal violence due to power struggles or individual feuds. In May 2021, for example, two members of the Family Values gang in Missouri, John Hilt and Justin Murphy, allegedly shot to death a member of a rival gang, the Southwest Honkys. The two men reportedly went to the victim’s home intending to assault him over alleged threats and stolen drugs, but the incident escalated into a fatal shooting. When police sought to arrest the men, Hilt engaged in a shootout with police before being arrested, while Murphy led police on a high-speed chase before crashing his vehicle and subsequently being taken into custody.

One recent prison gang murder involved an inmate who had angered the Nevada-based Aryan Warriors. In October 2021, Aryan Warrior member Anthony “Mugsy” Williams pleaded guilty to the 2016 murder of another prison inmate. Williams and fellow inmate, Tarik “Torque” Goicoechea, lured the victim into a locked cell before stabbing him 52 times. Before the killing, the victim had told his girlfriend he thought he would be attacked by gang members because he would not join their gang. A judge sentenced Williams to life in prison without parole.

Gang members can easily run afoul of their own gang, too. Five members and two female associates of the Oklahoma-based Universal Aryan Brotherhood, allegedly brutally beat to death another patched gang member in December 2019, attacking him with a baseball bat and shooting him. They then drove the victim to another location where they used a heated metal iron to burn off his prison gang tattoo. Authorities have charged them with first-degree murder and a host of related charges.

Violent encounters with police are often common among members of white supremacist prison gangs. They typically occur when police respond to a criminal activity involving gang members. In other cases, wanted gang members may become violent to avoid apprehension.

In one flight attempt in September 2019, Jeffrey Tyler Aycock, a member of the Ghost Face Gangsters, shot at police in Rome, Georgia, after fleeing from them as they tried to arrest him on a parole violation. Officers finally tracked him to an abandoned cabin, where he died in an exchange of gunfire.

In October 2019, Matthew Abrams, a suspected member of the Arkansas-based White Aryan Resistance prison gang, was shot and killed by law enforcement officers after he allegedly pointed a handgun at them while attempting to avoid arrest.

Rex Allen Stewart Jr., who investigators linked to the Georgia Aryan Brotherhood, was arrested in January 2019, on charges of aggravated assault on a Richmond County Georgia sheriff’s deputy and weapon violations in connection with a shootout with police during a traffic stop. Stewart has since been charged with the unrelated murder of Sean Bussard.

Jake Childers, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, encountered police after a prison escape in December 2016. He stole a prison transport vehicle with firearms inside, then used those weapons to shoot at officers who found him four days after his escape. He was killed after the officers returned fire.

Combating white supremacist prison gangs

Prison gangs in general are notoriously difficult to combat because members can easily operate both behind bars and on the streets. Sending a member to prison may simply shift the location of their criminal activities. It is not surprising, then, that white supremacist prison gangs are among the longest-lived white supremacist groups in the United States, with several them surviving—or at times flourishing—over decades.

Over the years, prison officials have tried breaking gang members up across different prisons—or even different prison systems—only to see such tactics result in gang spread. Other officials have tried to segregate gang members in a particular facility or to put documented gang members in administrative segregation—i.e., solitary. These tactics have had some success but are less feasible now due to lawsuits and administrative decisions limiting solitary confinement. More progressively, some prison systems have instituted gang exit programs, but though they may benefit individuals, they do little to hinder the overall operations of such gangs. 

One tactic used by both state and federal officials to combat white supremacist prison gang activity both behind bars and on the streets is the use of racketeering investigations and prosecutions. Because white supremacist prison gangs engage in organized criminal activities such as narcotics distribution, they are vulnerable to such prosecutions in a way many other white supremacist groups would not be.

Over the last 20 years there have been numerous large, multi-agency racketeering investigations in a number of states that have resulted in mass arrests of members and associates of white supremacist prison gangs.

One recent racketeering prosecution in Texas involved multiple white supremacist prison gangs involved in gun-running and drug distribution. Between 2015 and 2018, dozens of individuals with ties to white supremacist prison gangs including Aryan Circle, Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, the Peckerwoods, Soldiers of Aryan Culture and the Dirty White Boys trafficked drugs and firearms throughout Texas. The gang members trafficked more than 1,600 kilos of methamphetamine, as well as cocaine and heroin, and dozens of firearms. A multi-agency investigation resulted in the arrest and eventual conviction of more than 150 gang members. According to authorities, defendants received a total of 1,820 years in federal prison. According to the Department of Justice, this was the largest case prosecuted that focused on white supremacist prison gangs.

Georgia recently conducted a major state investigation. From 2018 to 2021, in what state authorities claim was the state’s single largest gang investigation, “Operation Kibosh” resulted in the indictments of 77 members and associates of the Ghost Face Gangsters prison gang. The multi-agency investigation was prompted primarily by the gang’s propensity for drug trafficking and violent crimes. According to authorities, the gang’s criminal activity over those four years extended beyond Georgia and into Tennessee and South Carolina, as part of an effort by the Ghost Face Gangsters to expand their reach outside of Georgia. Authorities charged suspects with attempted murder, drug trafficking and distribution, kidnapping, aggravated assault, illegal firearms possession, human trafficking and extorsion.

However, despite these and numerous other successful racketeering prosecutions of white supremacist prison gangs around the country, often accompanied by optimistic claims of damage to the groups prosecuted, no such effort has resulted in the destruction of any major gang. Using this type of prosecution, authorities have only been able to temporarily disrupt or hinder the activities of white supremacist prison gangs.

The original Aryan Brotherhood, based primarily in the California and federal penal systems, has illustrated the extreme resiliency of such groups, surviving despite every tactic used against it, from racketeering indictments to solitary confinements. Members still found ways to communicate and, using proxy gangs, to continue their operations. Authorities have not yet figured out the best ways to combat white supremacist prison gangs.

    Policy Recommendations

    • Prioritize the Threat of Extremist Prison Gangs:  The Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons should release National Strategy to Counter Domestic Terrorism implementation plans that outline activities that would address domestic terrorism threats like white supremacist terrorism in the prison system.
    • Resource According to the Threat:  We must ensure that the authorities and resources the government uses to address violent threats are proportionate to the risk of the lethality of those threats. 
      • Within both state and federal prison systems, corrections sector officials must have standing, defined offices and officials charged with addressing domestic violent extremism. 
      • The Bureau of Prisons should release an annual report providing information on white supremacist prison gang violence perpetrated in that year and how it was addressed.  Congress and other federal stakeholders should use these reports to ensure proportionate funding and resources go toward addressing violent threats.
    • Oppose Extremists in Government Service: It is essential that we recognize the potential for harm when extremists gain positions of power, including in as correctional officials within prisons. The Bureau of Prisons should receive training on identifying white supremacist extremist sympathies among corrections officials and create a policy around affiliation or support for white supremacist movements – notably, no one who openly supports white supremacy should be permitted to be a corrections official. 
    • Take Terrorism Prevention Measures: The Department of Homeland Security used FY2021 grant funding to support Life After Hate in developing programming to provide incarceration and post-release intervention programming to disengage white supremacist gang members. The Bureau of Prisons should create an approach that avails itself of Life After Hate and similar rehabilitation measures to prevent recidivism into white supremacist gang activity.
    • End the Complicity of Social Media in Spreading Gang Culture:  The social media sector must be held accountable for their role in promoting white supremacist conspiracy theories, including those that can lead to gang participation.  We must prevent the social media-to-gang pipeline and work with companies to provide concrete solutions. 
    • Create a Comprehensive Understanding of the Threat of White Supremacist Prison Gangs: Congress should require that the Federal Bureau of Prisons track and create an annual report on the nature and magnitude of the dangers they pose – both inside correctional facilities and outside. This information should be shared in real-time with the appropriate correctional officials to equip them with the necessary information to address this threat.  Further, the Bureau of Prisons should provide an overview of security threat inmate policies and post-release procedures that can help highlight the threat and/or off-ramp individuals.  For example, post-release preparation can help reduce recidivism and also address how white supremacist gang members are identified as potential violent threats even if they have not been incarcerated for a violent crime.
    • Target and Disrupt White Supremacist Prison Gang Networks:  While January 6th offenders and white supremacist gang members are serving their time for crimes they were convicted of, they pose a danger to their communities both from inside and outside the corrections system following their release.  The Department of Justice should engage its Hate Crimes-Domestic Terrorism Task Force to work with the Bureau of Prisons to address the threat of white supremacist prisoner networks within the corrections system.

    Donor Acknowledgement

    The work of the ADL Center on Extremism is made possible by the generous support of:

    Anonymous (4)
    The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combatting Antisemitism
    David Berg Foundation
    Crown Family Philanthropies
    Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations
    Klarman Family Foundation
    Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation/Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation
    Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation
    The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation
    The Tepper Foundation
    The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
    Zegar Family Foundation