WA Uses Separation To Quell Prison Gang Fights


Worried about escalating gang violence behind bars, the Washington state Department of Corrections last May began housing members of two rival Hispanic gangs known as the Norteños and Sureños in separate units, reports the Seattle Times. Corrections officials say the approach has helped reduce violence. While known gang members make up 18 percent of the state’s prison population of 18,000, they account for 43 percent of major violent incidents, said a DOC spokesman.The new approach starts at the reception facility in Shelton, Mason County, where male inmates enter the prison system. Corrections officers try to determine whether a new inmate has a gang affiliation. Some inmates identify themselves as members of a gang, and officials also look for signs such as tattoos. The DOC said the gang with the most members in state prisons is the Crips with 2,385, followed by the Sureños with 1,773 and White Supremacists with 1,389. Norteños, who are fewer in number but better organized, and Sureños are responsible for most fights, the DOC said. According to the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment, released by the National Gang Intelligence Center and the National Drug Intelligence Center, as members of individual Hispanic street gangs enter prison, they put aside former rivalries with other Hispanic street gangs and unite under either the Sureños or the Norteños.

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