Tag Archive: gangs

Why prisons need prison gangs

liberalprisonFrom Quartz

It may seem counterintuitive that gangs can exist in what is perhaps the ultimate tightly-regulated environment. Gangs, however, have been thriving in American prisons since the 1950s, and are now ubiquitous. Why is it that the corrections system has been unable to eradicate gang activity from the facilities they run?

A recent article in Behavioral Economics by M. Garrett Roth and David Skarbek makes the case that gangs have actually become necessary elements within the prison system, allowing inmates to create and sustain an internal economy centered on contraband, eliminating much of the violence and disorder that would be present without them.

Through their examination of the California state prison system—the birthplace of the country’s most notorious prison gangs, including the Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia, and the Aryan Brotherhood—Skarbek and Roth discovered that correctional officers and prison authorities actually benefit from the existence of prison gangs, and have come to rely on gang hierarchies to maintain order, saving money in the process.


Government rebuked for excluding witness in Latin Kings trial

Jay-NPRFrom Triad City Beat

A federal appellate judge finds fault with the government’s decision to exclude testimony from a defense witness in the trial of former Latin King leader Jorge Cornell, but a panel of judges is less sympathetic to arguments about the role of interstate commerce and instructions for the jury to continue deliberating.

A federal appellate judge for the Fourth Circuit sharply criticized the federal government’s decision to exclude testimony from a defense witness from the 2012 trial of former North Carolina Latin Kings leader Jorge Cornell.

Judge Robert B. King, who was appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton, bristled when US Attorney Sonja Ralston argued that the court’s opinion in the 1999 case United States v. Rhynes on the matter of witness exclusion was “fractured.”

Ralston’s characterization slighted a ruling on witness exclusion handed down by the very court hearing the appeal of Cornell’s criminal racketeering conviction.

“It was eight to two,” riposted King, who wrote the opinion in the 1999 case. “That’s not very fractured.” (more…)

A kid in King Jay’s court: My life with the Latin Kings

kingjayFrom Triad City Beat/ by Eric Ginsburg

My friends tell me that I take too long to tell stories. They ask when I start a story whether this will be like “Pebbles,” the infamously long report I provided during our first semester of college about a hangout with a crush that involved tossing pebbles, but didn’t include even a kiss. “Don’t give us the Pebbles version,” they say. “Just tell us what happened.”

I still find myself in the middle of unnecessarily long stories with some frequency. I’m particularly self conscious about it when trying to explain the most complicated and unusual part of my life. It’s often easier just to avoid telling it altogether.

That’s why most people don’t really know the whole story of my relationship to the Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation and its leader, except for maybe those who were there.

How could a white kid from Massachusetts at a small, private college in the South end up being so close to a Latino “gang leader” with teardrop tattoos on his face, a man now serving almost three decades in federal prison? It was a lot easier than I expected, actually, and if you’ll give me the time to explain, it’s actually a pretty good story. (more…)

How Can The Atlantic Give Us 5,000 Words on Prison Life Without Interviewing Prisoners?

solitary_630_2From Mother Jones/ by Shane Bauer

As someone who writes about prisons, and who two spent years behind bars, I devour nearly everything written about it, especially the long-form stuff. So I was excited when I saw that The Atlantic’s latest issue had a major story called “How Gangs Took Over Prison.”

Then I read it. Anyone who has ever survived anything traumatic—domestic abuse, rape, torture, war—knows the particular jolt that happens in the body when someone makes light of that thing that you once thought could destroy you. I am a former prisoner—I was held captive in Iran from 2009-2011—and a survivor of solitary confinement. In my experience as a reporter who writes about prisons, it is surprisingly rare that I come across people outside of the prison system who justify long-term solitary confinement. Even within the world of prison administrators many are against it. The last two times I’ve attended the American Correctional Association conferences, there have been large, well attended symposiums on the need to curb the use of isolation.

Graeme Wood, the writer of the Atlantic story, gives a different impression of the practice. He visits Pelican Bay State prison, which probably has more people in solitary confinement for longer periods than any other prison in the world. He goes to the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, where people are kept in solitary confinement or, as he gently puts it, are “living without cellmates.” When he enters, he says it’s “like walking into a sacred space” where the silence is “sepulchral.” The hallways “radiate” and the prisoners are celled in the “branches of (a) snowflake.” Beautiful.

It’s difficult to understand why Wood does not find it worth mentioning that the cells in those snowflakes are each 7×11 feet and windowless. Men literally spend decades in those cells, alone. I’ve been to Pelican Bay, and wrote a story about it in 2012. I met a man there who hadn’t seen a tree in 12 years. Wood tells us categorically that everyone there is a hard-core gang member. This is what the California Department of Corrections consistently claims, but if Wood did a little digging, he would find that number of the prisoners locked away in the SHU are jailhouse lawyers. (more…)

It’s Very Easy to Get Onto the Terrorist Database, and Impossible to Get Off It

Image removed at demand of License Compliance Services, Inc (09/2016)


From Vice News

The Department of Justice released an audit of the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist protocol on Tuesday. This claimed that while the agency has improved its speed when it comes to adding — and removing — names to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), it still isn’t adding them fast enough.

The heavily redacted report makes clear that individuals who are not being officially investigated by the FBI can be, and often are, added to terrorist lists. What the audit doesn’t make clear is why. And that’s causing a growing unease among civil liberties groups, lawyers, and activists.

A week earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a paper claiming that the TSDB grew from about 158,000 listings in 2004 to over 1.1 million in 2009. That was before the “underwear bomber,” a 2009 incident that greatly increased monitoring.

The “no-fly list” more than doubled in one year after that failed bombing attempt. But that is just one of eleven lists that include the Consular Lookout and Support System, the Interpol list, and the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF). (more…)