prison gangs

The biggest and the most difficult challenge a correctional administrator faces in managing the prison community is how to compel prisoners to observe institutional discipline.  Not that there is deficiency of rules nor dearth of implementers but prisoners, the present crop, have devolved a kind of leadership pattern within their community which the correctional system must have to match.   


To understand gangs in the correctional setting, one must appreciate its origin and the evolution of its direction.   Before, those who had the guts and the heart to kill and had a record to boot on a number of people taken down were easily chosen as leaders.  In prison parlance, they are referred to as “bosyo” or gang lord.  Years later, the leadership quality would shift from the “mad killer” type to the “intellectual” category.  This leader can easily negotiate, had a charm to speak in behalf of his group and had skills to communicate collective requirements to prison administration.  The intellectuals’ days however were quickly doused with the entry of the so-called “super-rich” inmates, the drug lords, the politicians and celebrity prisoners.  Gangs never selected them—-they bought gangs to favor them and do their bidding.  For a time, they called the shots, bribed their way to fulfill their requirements and paid everyone to make life for them in prison as convenient as possible.  THEN, a new crop of leaders grew from the ranks of prisoners.  They are the courageous, the intelligent, and not only resourceful but with plenty of resources leading the pack.  They comprise a combination of leadership qualities, which can instantly challenge prison administration degree-by-degree, intensity alongside passion and with an unbridled commitment to a cause.


Faced with this brand of trailblazers from the prison community, prison authorities are confronted with the problem of imposing control.  As a matter of fact, the issue of control is the principal consideration in correctional administration.  The question that remains is:  who is really in control?  We start our analysis with the profile of the protagonists on the field.  The kind of leadership, their preparation and their respective readiness to embrace a challenge is to be reckoned in understanding the climate of the prison community. 


Like a traditional baptism of fire or a cultural initiation rite, the prison community greets a new prison leader with a series of violence displayed to get attention.  This is to ascertain if the prison administrator can act on dispatch or would vacillate.   This passage is true when a prison facility allows gangs to predominate its landscape.  While dividing the prison camp into manageable partitions may sound effective, if it is not done into categories and conducted in a manner that would allow a grouping strictly according to community of orientation, then prison administration would be at a disadvantage in controlling communal order.


The prison community is a composite company of inmates who are still hopeful of a better future after a period of incarceration.  They comprise almost 50% of the population.  These are also referred to as the “first offenders.”  The 30% are the physically challenged and almost insensitive to their environment.  They are considered resigned to their fate and some kind of reactionaries.  They are highly emotional and are inclined to be sympathetic of the first offenders.  The remaining 20% are the restless, the aggressive and hostile kind.  They may be considered as a minority but from their ranks are born the real firebrand, the leaders of the prison community.  While this category can influence and push the 30% according to their design, the 50% however is their countervailing force.  How the prison administrator can harness benefits of peace and harmony from this profile is the basic challenge of his profession.


Unfortunately in our society, which relies mainly on how media projects social interest, it is also in prison where they get their comeuppance.  When, prison is silent, the presumption is that the prisoners are living with convenience.  In their estimation, criminals should never be permitted to live in harmony since they are all under punishment and therefore should be submerged in fear.  On the other hand, if there is violence in prison, it is presumed that management is bungling and inept.  In both instances, prison administration is usually blamed and at the losing end.  If only media knows the intricacies in prison work that they will appreciate the sacrifices of the prison workers.  To a certain extent, prison realities should never be broadcasted at all.  There is still the principle of privacy, which should be respected.





About vjtesoro

A perpetual student of Corrections

Posted on May 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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