Prison Gangs: The Aryan Brotherhood

The Aryan Brotherhood is a racially based biker gang which began to spread hatred in 1967, originating in San Quentin Prison in California. The Aryan Brotherhood formed out of the need for protection for white prisoners against Hispanic and African American prisoners. (Special Needs Offenders Bulletin, October 1997)”.

The Aryan Brotherhood went through a few name changes before taking on the name which they now carry; they began as the Diamond Tooth Gang. They were called the Diamond tooth gang because they were known for wearing a piece of glass embedded in one of their front teeth. Prior to that they were the Bluebird gang in which the members were tattooed with bluebirds on their necks. It is currently estimated that there are approximately 500 members of the Aryan brotherhood. (Organized Crime, p.284, 2000)

The Aryan Brotherhood stands for white supremacy as well as outright hatred of anyone who is not white. The Aryan Brotherhood is a highly organized group which is at times referred to as a “Security Threat Group” (ADC.State.AZ.us.com). There are certain measures of criteria that must be met to qualify the categorization of a Security Threat Group.

These categories are as follows:

> Blood in-Blood Out policy
> By laws or written laws
> Identifiable Leadership
> Organization Structure, also known as Paramilitary
> Originated in Prison
> Racial
> Criminally more sophisticated
(List from ADC.State.AZ.us.com)

I spoke with Bix Eastwood who agreed to be interviewed for information purposes only. Mr. Eastwood has been incarcerated with the Aryan Brotherhood on several occasions. According to Mr. Eastwood the “Aryan Brotherhood is one the most feared prison gangs.” Mr. Eastwood claims that the reason that “the Aryan Brotherhood are so feared is because of their violent track record and their intimidation methods.” “The Aryan Brotherhood prides themselves on racial pride, and they portray the attitude that anyone who is not white is not worthy of the white race.” “The Aryan Brotherhood feeds off of the fear of new inmates. The gang tends to select vulnerable men who are white and can be of use to them. The Aryan Brotherhood believes that there is strength in numbers. This is why they probably try to recruit as many white candidates as possible. The Aryan Brotherhood uses other inmates for their own personal gain. This could be a good indicator as to why joining a gang in prison is so prevalent. This doesn’t stop at being a personal servant but also prostitution, drugs and any other acts or errands the gang chooses to use the unlucky person for.” Mr. Eastwood was a member of a biker gang while in prison but declined when asked by the Aryan Brotherhood to join their gang. “They are powerful, but their hatred kills and I wanted no part of such a group of closed minded individuals.” In response to my question about his thoughts on joining a gang in prison, he replied that “in some cases it is necessary to survive in prison, especially for those who cannot fend for themselves.” (Personal Interview, Bix Eastwood, December 2004)

Prisoners within the system are either marked as “predator” or “prey. (The Gangs behind Bars, 1998) when a prisoner enters the prison system they are challenged to a fight. (This refers to the Texas Department of Corrections)This is to determine whether or not the inmate can be extorted or used for a “servant to other prisoners. (The Gangs Behind Bars, 1998) This is the prison setting equivalent to the schoolyard bully system. Gangs are sometimes compared to “fraternities”. (The Gangs Behind Bars, 1998). This is because the gangs recruit members for their gang for power. While it is a short lived commitment in some gangs, the Aryan Brotherhood is for life.

The commitment which is expected for those who join the Aryan Brotherhood can be summed up in one word; ludicrous. All members who wish to be a member of this gang must be white, with either German or Irish ancestry. To pledge their desire to become a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, the recruit must murder a person whom is targeted by the Aryan Brotherhood. This ritual is known as “making your bones.” (Gangsorus.com) However, it should be known that this does not guarantee that the recruit will be accepted into the gang. It would seem that the pressures of prison life must be quite substantial to in turn join such a violent and hateful group of persons.

Recruits must be recommended by a member who is currently in good standing with the gang. So in short, while the member may be rejected after being exposed to an excruciatingly difficult testing phase, the gang still benefits if the murder is carried out. The recruit must also receive a “unanimous vote” from the existing members of the gang to be accepted for membership.(Gangsorus.com) This means that even one vote of denial will reject the candidate from the gang.

The expectations of the members of this gang are strict. All members of the gang are expected to follow orders to the letter. There is no room for speculation or back talk within this gang. After a period of time, all members are expected to make a donation to the gang to care for other “brothers” of the group. (Organized Crime, p. 285, 2000) If the recruit is accepted they are expected to support the other “brother’s” as they are referred to. This means that they are to take a stand against anyone who disagrees with their methods or philosophy. This stands even if the “brother” is actually in the wrong. (Gangsorus.com)The only way out of this gang is by death, either natural causes or murder, and possibly suicide. This is known as the blood in blood out policy. (Police studies.edu)

The structure of the Aryan Brotherhood has different levels. This structure however refers to the Texas Aryan Brotherhood. “The Steering Committee” or sometimes called the “Commission”, contains five charter members, who will be in charge of policymaking, and the chains of command. Anyone who is a member of the steering committee has earned their position as they are one of the highest ranking members of the group. (Organized Crime, p.284, 2000).The Aryan Brotherhood runs their organization in a paramilitary fashion. To put it in layman’s terms, paramilitary is defined as a “group of civilians who are trained and organized in a military fashion.(Wilkipedia Encyclopedia online) This is basically a militant group who believes in using military techniques to pursue their philosophy of hatred.

There is a chairman designated per each unit with the rank of Captain. The vice chairman carries the rank of lieutenant. The responsibilities for the members are tremendous. The primary role of the chairman is to be responsible for his so called “family”. The lieutenant is responsible for “enforcing the captain’s decisions.”(Organized Crime, P. 284, 2000) All murders are to be first approved by the Commission. The members of the “Commission” communicate through third party means. This can be done through a number of ways.

One method is to disguise the communication through testifying in a court trial. (Gangsorus.com). A person could assume that there are other methods which require less work. This could be done by sending messages through members of the gang to the outside, as in coded meanings being translated in letters or phone conversations. According to the FBI another way the gang was communicating was using invisible ink in their letters. Then the recipient of the letter would press the letter with a hot iron, and the words would appear. (RickRoss.com)

While The Aryan Brotherhood is primarily known for drug trafficking which extends beyond the prison walls, the gang participates in many other illegal activities. (Special Needs Offenders, October 1997) The activities of the Aryan Brotherhood are comparable to the activities of most other gangs. This includes but is not limited to; drug trafficking, extortion, pressure rackets, internal discipline, prostitution of other inmates, murder and hate crimes.

John Gotti the former mob boss of the Gambino Crime family of New York wanted retribution against another inmate whom attacked him; he went to the Aryan Brotherhood for help. Word spread over a period of time to Florence, Colorado the new headquarters for the Aryan Brotherhood. Although the murder contract requested by Gotti failed, there have been 16 murders in 23 years which have been successful. This was all possible even though the high ranking gang members are behind prison walls. It is frightening to know that this gang has such power even behind prison walls like Florence prison. Florence prison is known as one of the most secure prisons, as in a super maximum security facility. (Rickross.com)

The Aryan Brotherhood continues to grow in strength as they spread their hatred throughout the prison system. The main concern is that the hatred does not stop inside the prison walls. Once the members of the Aryan Brotherhood are released from prison they are expected to continue their allegiance to the gang. (Organized Crime, p.284 2000) It would appear to an outsider that these followers in this gang were brainwashed for continually devoting themselves to committing violent acts or continuing to carry out the philosophy of hatred. It should also be taken into consideration that fear may be a driving force which keeps the gang members in line. The fear of retaliation is significant for anyone who belongs in this gang. Death is a certainty for anyone who tries to leave the group. While the answer can be placed into both categories, the only safe thing to assume is that we will not end the actions or hatred of this group by merely incarcerating the members. There is no solid answer as to how to stop this gang, or any other gang for that matter. It is a situation that will take time, careful tactics and an understanding of what makes this gang partake in the activities that they do.

References:

Aryan Brotherhood makes a home in state; Florence Prison now its headquarters
Denver Post/November 24, 2002 Jim Hughes on the World Wide Web: Retrieved on December 20, 2004
http://www.rickross.com/reference/aryan_brotherhood/aryan_brotherhood5.html

Aryan Brotherhood Prison Gangs located on the World Wide Web , retrieved on December 8, 2004 http://www.gangsorus.com/arayanbrotherhood.html

Domestic Organized Crime Groups. Prison Gangs and Rural Organized Crime on The World Wide Web: Retrieved on December 8, 2004
http://www.policestudies.eku.edu/POTTER/crj401_10.htm

Lyman, M.D. & Potter, G.W. (2000). Organized crime, (2nd ed.)Upper Saddle river, NJ: Prentice -Hall p.284, 285

Personal Interview with Bix Eastwood, December 14th, 2004

Security Threat Groups Frequently asked Questions on the World Wide Web;

Retrieved December 20, 2004 http://www.adc.state.az.us/ST/faq.htm

Special Needs Offenders’ Bulletin Publication of the Federal Judicial Center
Volume No.2 October 1997 on the World Wide Web: retrieved on December 19, 2004 from:http://www.fjc.gov/public/pdf.nsf/lookup/SNOBull2.pdf/$file/SNOBull2.pf

The Gangs behind the bars- Prison Gangs on the World Wide Web :retrieved on December 19, 2004
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_n36_v14/ai_21161641/print

Wilkipedia, The free encyclopedia located on the World Wide Web, retrieved on December 20, 2004 http://en.wilkipedia.org/wiki/Paramilitary.

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