Nelious Horsley, a former leader of Tacoma’s East Side Piru street gang, has now helps teach a violence-prevention class to fellow prison inmates, part of a larger state Department of Corrections strategy to reduce the number of fights and aggravated assaults, says the Seattle Times. About 20 percent of the state’s 16,000 inmates are gang members, but they’re responsible for 46 percent of prison violence, said Dan Pacholke, acting prisons director. Over the past two years, violence at the state’s five largest prisons has dropped as much as 20 percent.
Much of the decline is attributed to intense one-on-one interviews with inmates when they are first sent to prison, an estimated 500 each week from county jails. During the screenings, many are proud to admit their gang affiliations and show off their tattoos, and that information is logged into a growing database. “Tattooing is very telltale. If you’re in a gang, you’re going to tag and flag,” said Pacholke yesterday. The prison system now has a policy of “mandatory separation” to keep rival gang members apart, he said. There’s also “a great deal of sorting” to separate hard-core gang members from the wannabes, who are often younger prisoners who haven’t yet shown the same propensity for violence, Pacholke said. While black street gangs were once responsible for the bulk of prison violence, that distinction has since shifted to Hispanic gangs.