Who Are U.S. Prison Gangs?
U.S. prison gangs are bloodthirsty, hard to spot, willing to subcontract with rivals, and all about making money. There are 33,000 gangs in the United States and more than 1.4 million total gang members.
According to the FBI’s Gang Threat Assessment Report, 88 percent of gang members live on the streets. Ten percent of gang members are in prison, and two percent belong to outlaw motorcycle organizations.
Gangs get most of their income from drugs, prostitution, and robberies. Gangs use legitimate-looking businesses as “fronts” to launder money from their illegal activities.
Gangs now use social media and other technologies to make deals and monitor law enforcement.
Some professional athletes and even celebrities are gang members.
Gangs recruit poor, urban kids from dysfunctional families who want wealth and status; they also recruit college kids through other student gang members. Young kids shower older gang members with gifts and favors such as working for them as lookouts or delivery boys to gain respect and earn an invitation to join the gang.
Gangs also recruit lonely suburban kids through older gang members farming out tasks to young kids who are willing to do anything for a few dollars. Gangs recruit kids as young as 12 because they will face less severe consequences if they are caught. As the drug trade grows, gangs are recruiting more from suburban and rural areas than ever before.
Another way gangs recruit members are through multiplayer video games as well as in neighborhood hangouts. Kids with siblings already in a gang are much more likely to be recruited successfully.
Pop singer Cardi B was once a member of a Dominican gang in New York City and emulated “thug life” to fit in.
Signs that a young kid is involved with gangs are having expensive items, being secretive about text messages, changes in appearance, clothing or speech and withdrawing from family and friends and spending unexplained time outside the home.
Gang leaders still control their outside associates from behind bars. Using encrypted messages and smuggled cell phones and paying off guards, gang members do an enormous amount of business while incarcerated in state or federal prison. Prison hardens many gang members, and when they re-enter society, they are tougher and meaner than ever.
Gangs make money off drugs, and white-collar crimes such as larceny, identity theft, check and gift card fraud and credit card crimes to make money. These white-collar crimes are harder to trace and face less severe criminal charges than drug-related crimes. New York City police have beefed up their law enforcement division to handle this increase of gang-related, crimes.
The concern about youths in gangs in the United States is that police tend to target Hispanic and Black kids over white kids, whether or not they are affiliated with gangs. Demographically, there are more Hispanic members in gangs than any other race. When arrested, blacks and Hispanics are charged with the maximum penalties and most go to jail while a white gang member may only get a slap on the wrist.