Intelligence: the key to gang suppression.

Author:Parry, Brian

From the cellblock to the community, from the prison yard to the street corner, the gangs continue their reign of terror. Across the country, gangs continue to impact our prisons, jails and communities. All too often gangs disrupt inmate programming and prevent the majority of inmates from serving their time without the fear of gang-related violence.

Assaults, murder, fear and intimidation are the tools used by gangs to control institutions and the community. It seems like every major street gang is controlled and directed by prison gang members incarcerated in some of the countries most secure facilities. It is now common knowledge, through the media and federal prosecution, that many of the countries major prison gangs control and direct organized criminal enterprises that have tentacles reaching well beyond prison walls and deep into our communities.

According to the California Department of Justice, an agency actively combating gangs, one of the most effective methods to suppress gangs is having advanced knowledge of their activities. Intelligence gathering is the method and the cornerstone of all efforts to curb, suppress and prevent gang activity that is both criminal and disruptive to public safety and the safety and security of penal institutions.

Gathering gang intelligence in a correctional setting is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Bits and pieces of information in and of themselves may mean nothing but once added to the total picture may complete the puzzle. The intelligence must be gathered, organized, evaluated or analyzed, corroborated and then disseminated to the right people.

A necessary component of any correctional intelligence gathering unit is the sharing of information with other law enforcement agencies. This collaboration, sometimes referred to as police/corrections partnerships is critical to public as well as institutional safety. These partnerships are force multipliers in an era of shrinking budgets and limited resources.

Additionally, the concept that "we are all responsible for our safety" is another benefit to intelligence gathering in a correctional setting. Although an institution may have a limited number of gang intelligence officers, it is incumbent upon all staff, both sworn and support, to understand gang dynamics, be trained to identify gang activity and know how and to whom to report the activity. The line staff should be the eyes and ears of the gang intelligence officers because they are among the inmates all of the time. The line staff can provide the bits and pieces of information, and the gang intelligence officers can do the follow up.

Furthermore, the gang intelligence unit's work is essential to administrators when planning, formulating and implementing gang management policies and strategies. Administrators need reliable information in order to make sound strategic decisions, allocate resources and for requesting additional revenue to ensure the safe and secure operation of facilities.

Additional Benefits of Gang Intelligence

The benefits of an effective gang intelligence unit in a correctional setting are many. Some of the more notable benefits are explained below:

Staff Safety. Staff safety should be foremost on everyone's mind. Violence, threats and intimidation were in the past used by gangs exclusively against witnesses and victims to prevent them from testifying in court. Those tactics are now being used routinely against law enforcement and correctional staff. No one seems to be immune. Threats have been lodged against correctional officers, prison administrators, police, probation and parole officers, prosecutors and even judges. Last year a veteran California correctional officer was stabbed to death by a known gang member. Although the murder was not planned by a gang, the assailant was a known gang member with a history of violence.

Gang intelligence that has been regularly gathered and corroborated has uncovered plots to injure or kill. These plots have been foiled as a result of the intelligence being transformed into action, thus being referred to as "actionable or tactical" intelligence.

For instance, in the not too distant past, the Mexican Mafia prison gang threatened to kill the now former director...

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