American Renaissance - 1 - May 2005
Continued on page 3
There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.—
Vol. 16 No. 5May 2005
California Prison Segregation to End
The Supreme Court ig-nores racial reality.
by Stephen Webster
n February 23, the UnitedStates Supreme Court is-sued a ruling that is likelyto stamp out the last vestige of gov-ernment-enforced racial segrega-tion in the United States. In
John-son v. California
, it ordered theNinth Circuit Court of Appeals toreview the housing policies of theCalifornia prison system, and to ap-ply legal standards that will prob-ably lead it to ban the practice of temporarily grouping new arrivalsby race and ethnicity. At issue waswhether the California Department of Correction’s (CDC) decades-old prac-tice of giving prisoners initial cellmatesof their own race violates the Equal Pro-tection Clause of the 14th Amendment.The policy, of course, was to keep in-mates from killing each other, but merelysaving lives is less important to six Su-preme Court justices than promoting themyth that race is not supposed to mat-ter.
The California prison system is notonly the largest in the country but alsothe most racially mixed. Of 160,000 in-mates, men account for 150,000 or 94percent. In 2003, the system took in morethan 112,000 men. The racial mix is analmost perfect recipe for friction: 37percent Hispanic, 29 percent white, 29percent black, and six percent Asian,American Indian, and Pacific Islander.Race- and even ethnic-based gang vio-lence is the top security concern forprison guards. California, in the wordsof one official, is “ground-zero” for race-based prison gangs.For prisoners in most states, asidefrom the fact of incarceration itself, raceis the central reality of life. For Califor-nia prisoners, race-based gangs are of-ten the very key to survival. Gangs pro-tect members from other gangs, and area source of information on friends andenemies. Gangs supply food and ciga-rettes, and arrange visits from people onthe outside. Gangs dictate prison eti-quette, and enforce it with violence.Because prison is such a dangerousplace—a single misstep can provoke abeating or even death—gang membersform strong bonds.There are two main Hispanic prisongangs in California: the Mexican Mafiaor
(from the Spanish pronun-ciation of the letter “m”), which is asouthern California Hispanic gang, andNuestra Familia, a northern CaliforniaHispanic gang. The northern and south-ern Hispanics hate each other. NuestraFamilia has a sub-group, Nuestra Raza,that operates in the high-security hous-ing units. The main black prison gang isthe Black Guerilla Family, although theCrips and the Bloods are also active.There are two major white
gangs, theAryan Brotherhood and the Nazi LowRiders. The Low Riders grew out of theAryan Brotherhood in the 1980s andtend to be younger. The Hells An-gels have a minor presence.Interestingly, the Aryan Broth-erhood has a defensive alliancewith the southern Hispanics of theMexican Mafia against the north-ern Hispanics of Nuestra Familiaand against the Black GuerillaFamily. Apparently southern His-panics hate their northern kinfolk even more than they hate whitepeople. The Aryan Brotherhoodalso has friendly relations with theother white gangs, the Nazi LowRiders and the Hells Angels.Gangs are inherently violent. Theyroutinely rob other prisoners or forcethem into prostitution. Some gangs makeprospective members kill another pris-oner in order to join. This is known as“making your bones.” Hispanic andblack gangs are notorious for mayhembut the Aryan Brotherhood is no strangerto violence, either. Prison authoritiesdescribe it as “a singularly vicious prisongang that has a hostility to black in-mates.” Race-based gangs are such aproblem in California that the state builta special “Supermax” prison at PelicanBay—in the northwest corner of thestate, as far from other prisons as pos-sible—to hold the worst cases. This iswhere the leaders live.Gangs are the only significant pris-oner groupings, which means there areno real affiliations that are
race-based. Race and ethnicity are the bound-aries of what amount to warring armies.This is why California temporarily sepa-rates new male inmates by race. Womenare less violent, so they are never segre-gated.
A guard runs to break up a prison-yard fight.
Southern Hispanic pris-oners hate northern His-panics even more thanthey hate white people.