#16 It’s Not Always About Gangs – Part I
Every federal prison has a Special Investigative Services (SIS) division. They are in charge of investigating most internal problems in a prison, from murders and assaults to suspected drug smuggling and suspicious money transfers. They also serve in much the same capacity as the Internal Affairs division would, in a regular police department, by investigating allegations of misconduct and other complaints against prison staff members.
As you may guess, none of this makes them popular. They are ostracized among their own, and no normal prisoner speaks to them, under any circumstance. In addition to that fact, they never work in a unit in the prison, as other guards do, so they never learn about prison or prisoners, by personal experience. The only interaction they have is with their snitches.
Those who inform to SIS are nearly always drug addicts. An addict in prison usually has no way to earn money, and no willingness to try. Informants for SIS can be paid in drugs, cash placed on their account, or any other items of value confiscated within the prison, such as stamps, food, or shoes, all of which can be traded for drugs. If the informant has a large drug debt to a particular dealer, which they cannot pay, they can simply turn that person in, and the debt disappears, as the dealer goes to the hole. Gang leaders often snitch, to shift blame for things they have done, or ordered to be done, onto someone else. (Many a prisoner who is minding their own business , not involved in any prison crimes or gang activity, has suddenly discovered that they are the "leader" of a gang, on their way to isolation and prosecution, while the actual leader smugly points the finger at them. ) Non-gang members, seeking credibility, make up stories to claim they are high up in the gang hierarchy. (Many a gang member has ended up in court, hearing how they confessed to, or acted on the orders of, a "brother" they have never seen before.)
Paradoxically, the way things function leaves the SIS officers, who should be well informed on what goes on in the prison, actually knowing very little, and believing in many things which have never occurred. In prisons with much real gang activity, they are often sent on wild goose chases by their snitches, while the real issues go neglected and unnoticed. It can reach ridiculous proportions. But it is in prisons with little gang activity, where SIS must justify their existence, that their most outlandish conspiracies are manufactured.
As I have explained previously, there is almost no violence in the federal death row unit. In its entire existence, there has only been one serious assault. I am personally familiar with both individuals involved in that incident and am aware of everything which transpired. Although one person was black, the other white, race was not a factor in the matter. Nor was it in any way gang related. Yet once SIS became involved, they learned from "reliable informants" that it was actually a conspiracy by several individuals. Neither the informants, nor those accused, actually had any knowledge of what occurred. Even so, in the end, the incident was laid at the feet of a gang, which does not even exist within this prison!
As for my own personal experiences with SIS over the years, they have classified me as being in a total of 11 different gangs at various times. In each instance, it was confirmed by "reliable informants". Even those with little knowledge of how gangs operate can surely realize that no one can be in that many gangs, or switch from gang to gang, without being murdered. But reality is never allowed to interfere with SIS theories, or what comes from an informant. So each time, it was regarded as the gospel truth, and their snitches no doubt were well paid for their fictional tales.
If you watch TV programs about prisons and prison gangs, try to keep all this in mind. Even if it is coming straight from someone claiming to be a "gang expert", or from someone identified as a "gang leader", it does not necessarily mean they know what they are talking about. And despite what some may want you to believe, not everything in prison has to do with a gang.
Picture: Oleg Elkov / Shutterstock.com