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  • Writer's pictureEmma Elliott

Blood In - Blood Out: The Aryan Brotherhood in Prison

A Member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, retrieved from the Houston Chronicle

In a carceral environment, where individuals undergo prisonization, and are stripped of their identity, race becomes a common denominator; a source of belonging, attachment, and an anchor. This bind is especially evident for most notorious prison gangs in the US: Nuestra Familia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Northern Structure, or the Nazi Lowriders (the latter are branches of Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood, respectively).

The Aryan Brotherhood AKA The Brand, Alice Baker, AB, or One-Two is a national criminal network and the country’s oldest major white supremacist prison gang. In 1964, the gang was originally founded by Irish Bikers as a method of protection against the Black Gorilla Family and the Mexican Mafia in prison. Today, the AB is known for being the largest, deadliest, most racist prison gang in the United States.

White supremacist gangs like the AB have been the fastest-growing element of the white supremacist movement, generating a rise in violence and crime. They’re known for being “doubly dangerous” as they merge the “criminal knowhow of organized crime with the bigotry of hate groups”. The Brotherhood's golden rule for entry is: to kill a Black or Hispanic prisoner.

An Aryan brother is without a care/He walks where the weak and heartless won’t dare/And if by chance he should stumble, and lose control/His brothers will be there, to help reach is goal/For a worthy brother, no need is too great/He need not but ask, fulfillment’s his fate/For an Aryan brother, death holds no fear/Vengeance will be his, through his brothers still here. — AB membership pledge

The rise and expansion of white supremacist prison gangs have become one of the most serious—but least discussed—white nationalist issues in the United States. While the emergence of gangs is one of the most significant developments within prison subcultures, gang membership is not only isolated to the prison environment.

Gang cross-pollination has enabled white supremacist prison gangs like the AB to be equally efficient regardless of whether their leadership is within or outside the prison walls. In fact, between 2000 and 2015, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas alone was responsible for at least 33 murders in communities across Texas. Even while in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, the AB has been able to carry out major criminal activities, including ordering people’s deaths, despite being isolated.

Image retrieved from The Law Advisory

While gang affiliation in prison is largely based on racial allegiances, and in most prisons strictly defined by the race of the member, the prison economy plays a major role in the dynamics of prison operations. Organized crime has enabled gangs to look past racial organization as they seek power. In the 1970s the Aryan Brotherhood reportedly put their values aside and cut a deal with the Mexican Mafia; ultimately compromising their white supremacist principles for money.

As drug trafficking in prison became a highly profitable enterprise in the 1990s, race war ideology became secondary to criminal activity in prison. The business partnerships have created interesting dynamics between gang associates which have brought unprecedented amounts of power inside and outside of prisons.

As long as gangs continue to control and regulate the economies inside prisons, violence and crime will continue to plague communities all over the United States, inside and outside of prison.

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