Gang Rivalries Spark Control Battles In N.J. Jails


“They’re boastful, especially a member of a gang that is high profile,” says Warden Archie Kline of the Mercer County Correction Center in Hopewell Township, N.J. “We have to recognize them and monitor them. They know they can win a battle, but, damn it, they’re going to lose the war and they know it.” The Trenton Times says Kline and his officers have faced a serious new battle over control of the jail with a growing population of gang members.

“When you’re dealing with gangs, they want to be on top,” said William Lane, president of the corrections officers’ union. “They want to control. If they can control a unit, they can take over the whole institution. The Crips don’t like the Bloods. The Bloods don’t like the Latin Kings. It’s a dangerous situation. Our job is threatened by dealing with these gang members, not knowing who is a gang member.”

Mercer’s problem reflects a booming presence of gangs in jails and cities across the state. As a county facility, Mercer’s jail faces a constant flood of new inmates awaiting trial or serving short sentences. It doesn’t have the resources found at many state prisons to handle the gang problem. An entire team of officers is devoted to keeping track of what Kline estimates is an average of 150 gang members in the facility, which can hold nearly 800 inmates.

To start, corrections officers must find out who is who. The next issue comes down to where to place them.


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