prison gang is a select group of inmates with an organized chain of command and an established code of conduct. They operate in secrecy with a view to controlling their prison environment through intimidation and violence meted on non-members. Some of the oldest prison gangs in the U.S. were formed as early as 1950s. Some notable example is Gypsy Jokers that operated in Washington State prisons (Fleisher & Decker, 2001). Violence in correctional facilities in the United States is something that has been with us for quite a while. Prisoners and prison officers have both fallen victims to this violence.
Think of the San Antonio, Texas incident where 281 prisoners were stabbed and 13 slain (The Ledger, 1984). There was divided opinion on what motivated such heinous acts with some prison officials opining that prison gangs who were divided along racial lines were responsible. Some attacks were thought to be instigated by inmates who used coffee as the currency. Inmates in penitentiary institutions become members of prison gangs where they participate in gang activities. The rise of prison gangs should be blamed on America's criminal justice system and more specifically on individual State Correction Department.
It may appear far-fetched, but it is probable that gang leaders are most certainly gang members. The prison authorities should take an initiative and isolate gang members from non-gang prison population. This can in a way contain the influence of the gang members within the prison facility. The prison authorities can set aside separate housing units for gang members. It is only unfortunate that the idea of segregation has failed in certain states that have tried to implement it like California where California Department of Correction intentionally segregated new inmates by race to know whether inmates were racial extremists. Criminal justice system enhances the emergence and growth in membership of prison gangs in prison facilities. It is most certain that the criminal justice system has the necessary machinery to enable them know if an offender is a gang member or not long before they are incarcerated because the pre-sentence investigation report usually has this information. Moreover, local and state police state data can be used to ascertain this.
As a matter of fact, most prosecutors are always aware of a suspect's involvement with gang activities. Police officers, by merely looking at the tattoos donned by suspects know the specific gang group a suspect is affiliated to (Knox, 2005). Somebody is most certainly sleeping on the job because these valuable pieces of information can be used to arrest the escalating heinous activities of prison gangs. Prison authorities can also transfer gang leaders to far away correctional facilities to stem their influence and deter many people from visiting them. Opponents of this initiative may want to ague that not so many states may have sufficient geographical dispersion of institutional facilities. Can't these states make use of Interstate Compact law to facilitate sending of prison gang leaders to other states?
Department of Correctional services can impose severe restrictions on gang members or even suspend privileges they enjoy to instill discipline. Prison authorities can use level management system where restriction of privileges is imposed and threats of severe punishments issued. Members of prison gangs who conduct themselves with decorum stand to enjoy higher set of privileges under such system. Many prison facilities have this in place including stopping gang mails. Some have even abolished gang colors behind bars. The question is 'are these really enforced' because it is in these same prisons where incidences of gang related prison deaths are reported. Security concerns are not addressed in these facilities regardless of the fact that there are people trained and paid to do that. Department of Correctional Services has the capacity to put in place an information system which can help them in gathering intelligence. This can help them track and monitor the gangs. The intelligence gathered can be availed to different personnel. This information can be used to curtail gang conflicts (Knox, 2005). Monitoring of inmates affiliated to certain gangs makes the prison authorities know who they are talking to and know the kind of tattoos they wear. The gang members will also feel intimidated when they realize that the prison authorities know about their under dealings. Prison authorities are, however, not making the most out of the information they receive pertaining to the activities of gang members.