Violent and Racist Gangs Thrive in U.S. Prisons Says ADL
New York, NY, December 8, 1998
Racist prison gangs, bolstered by hate groups
outside of prisons, are thriving and contributing to increased racial tensions and
violence in the American penitentiary system, the ADL reported today. Prison officials
estimate that up to 10 percent of the nations prison population is affiliated with
such gangs. These findings are documented in a new ADL report, Bigotry Behind Bars:
Racist Groups in U.S. Prisons.
"The vicious and racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, has
drawn attention to the disturbing fact that some prison inmates develop and spread racist
ideologies as members of prison gangs," said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National
Chairman. "Many Prisoners have developed a brotherhood of hate, drawing new inmates
into a pact with prejudice. Demonstrated by the senseless death of Mr. Byrd, the danger
does not stop at the prison gates. Often those involved with gangs stay affiliated long
after their release from prison, bringing their racist ideologies into society at
According to the report, one of the most notorious racist prison gangs is Aryan
Brotherhood, which emerged in the 1960s at Californias San Quentin Prison. This
violent gang has since spread to prisons throughout the United States and has been linked
to a number of murders, both in and out of prisons.
The ADL report illustrates how a number of racist groups in the U.S. sponsor prison
"outreach" programs that send tapes and literature filled with white supremacist
propaganda to inmates. These extremist organizations encourage racist inmates by treating
them as "martyrs," fueling their racist ideology through violent rhetoric.
One Oregon inmate in the February issue of Thule, a white supremacist
publication written by and for prisoners, wrote, "We of the White nation are fighting
a great battle
We, as a nation need to use our god [sic] given rights to fight this
war against the canaanite jew [sic] and all other non-white races, for they are the true
enemy of our White race."
White supremacist groups are not the only racist organizations active in prisons. The
Nation of Islam, the Black Muslim group led by Minister Louis Farrakhan, has organized an
extensive prison outreach program since 1984. NOI has fought, sometimes in court, to have
its prison emissaries recognized as chaplains separate from the mainstream Muslim
chaplaincy. Critics worry that Farrakhans rhetoric including a long record of
anti-Semitic and anti-white statements may spill over into NOIs prison
outreach program and radicalize prisoners.
For some right-wing extremists, serving time in jail bolsters their status in the eyes
of their supporters. For example, like David Lane, members of the terrorist group The
Order are treated as "prisoners of war" in the rhetoric of racist publications.
Since his imprisonment in 1985, Mr. Lane has written for The New Order, WAR, Jew
Watch, Aryan Nations Newsletter and The Klansman. In the December 1997 issue of
Storm Watch, he writes, "When it is truly written that judeo-America [sic] and
judeo-Christianity [sic] were the twin murderers of the White race, let the
executioners devices be equally recorded. And let the last generation of the true
White men wreak vengeance with death and destruction."
Editors note: To receive a copy of Bigotry Behind Bars: Racist Groups in
U.S. Prisons, or to arrange an interview with an ADL expert, please call the ADL Media
Relations department at (212) 885-7749. The above report can also be found on the ADL Web
site by clicking here.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.