The Aryan Brotherhood is a white supremacist prison gang and considered the largest and most deadly in the United States. It consists of more than 20,000 members inside and outside of prison.
The Aryan Brotherhood was formed by Irish bikers in 1964 when California prisons were desegregated, and prisoners of every color and ethnicity began to mingle. Black and Mexican prisoners formed their own gangs, dividing the populations along clear lines.
The Aryan Brotherhood’s motto is “Blood In, Blood Out,” meaning that a person must commit murder or a vicious attack on a rival gang member or prison guard to become a member and that the only way out of the gang is to die. An “SS” tattoo on his neck, designates a full member and denotes allegiance with the Nazi’s most gruesome killers.
The Aryan Brotherhood is not affiliated with other gangs using the name “Aryan.” For example, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas began as an offshoot of the California-based Aryan Brotherhood but was never a sanctioned subgroup and operated independently from prisons in Texas. The Aryan Nation is a terrorist group based in Idaho unrelated to the Aryan Brotherhood. The Aryan Circle was an offshoot of the Texas group and also operated in Texas prisons.
The Aryan Brotherhood makes most of its money through drug sales and despite their commitment to “white supremacy” they frequently partner with other gangs and rival groups to work money-making deals.
The Aryan Brotherhood’s gang symbol is a tattoo of clover with the number “666” on it or a Nazi symbol overlay. The gang strongly supports members doing time and prioritizes supplying them with drugs or carrying out requests such as hits on rival gang members.
The Aryan Brotherhood is also known as the Brand or AB, and they are famous for selling drugs, extortion, murder for hire, and prostitution of inmates. They are credited with an 11-day prison riot in Lucasville, Ohio in 1993, which was executed in partnership with another gang. Ten people including one guard were killed during the incident.
Between 2002 and 2006, 29 imprisoned Aryan Brotherhood leaders were charged with racketeering, or conducting an organized crime, from their prison cells. Several received additional sentences of life without parole for murder, conspiracy, and racketeering. Soon after these convictions, many associates were arrested in southern Ohio, members of the subgroup “Order of the Blood” were charged with similar crimes. Another offshoot of the AB is called the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia of California.
The gang’s crimes are carried out with marked brutality, including studying anatomy to learn how to inflict the most damage on a body. Victims are often paraded through cell blocks as a warning not to cross members of the gang.
The Aryan Brotherhood members are organized according to their federal or state prison assignments and gang accomplishments. Despite being avowed racists, gang members have selective alliances with other gangs and ethnic groups to sell drugs within prisons.
Prison officials have tried to squelch the activity of gangs by moving key players away from other inmates and into maximum security prisons like those in California. These efforts have been unsuccessful. Guards frequently allow prisoners to break the rules like having contraband in exchange for keeping peace within cell blocks.
Barry Byron Mills, a convicted murderer, was the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood until his death in 2018. He effectively controlled the group – and an enormous amount of crime spread out over many states – from inside the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado. He is credited with developing the gang from a disorganized bunch into a nationwide syndicate. The level of control exercised by Mills and other prisoners in leadership positions over their associates still free in society surprises even academics who have studied prison gangs.