Managing gangs in a correctional facility: what wardens and superintendents need to know.

Author:Marchese, Joseph J.
Position:CT FEATURE
 
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Gangs and security threat groups (STGs) are responsible for most of the criminal activity in prisons and jails. Activities such as drug and contraband smuggling, assaults (inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff), staff corruption and rule violations can create serious management problems that extend beyond the facility into the community. For these reasons, correctional administrators strive to learn more about gang activities, with the goal of implementing the best STG management practices.

Although there is plenty of information written and presented at conferences and seminars about gangs and STGs, the majority of this information usually deals with specific gang intelligence and not gang management. While most of the information presented is interesting and gives great insight into gang operations, it is often too specific for administrators. Information dealing with tattoos, hand signs, colors and beads is of most benefit to gang intelligence officers who use it when working directly with gang members. Such information does not, however, necessarily help administrators develop an overall strategy or protocol for gang management.

Beyond Tattoos, Hand Signs, Colors And Beads

Correctional administrators need a broad view of facility operations. While knowledge of some gang identifiers is important, the specifics of gang intelligence are best left to gang intelligence officers, who constitute an important component of a facility's gang management protocol.

When establishing a gang management protocol, a comprehensive approach is best. Gang units cannot stand alone, and for this reason a successful gang management strategy must coincide with other facility operations and management practices. In many instances, work generated by a gang intelligence unit can provide important nongang-related information relevant to facility operations, such as identifying security problems or training needs. Operational policies and procedures should therefore be established to ensure gang and other operational units support each other's operations.

Forming a gang unit often depends on the availability of staff and funding. Many administrators find themselves in a position of trying to convince the funding source that there is a serious enough problem to pay for gang investigators. When faced with this task, administrators should demonstrate that the skills of facility gang investigators can be used for other facility functions such as routine intelligence gathering, crisis intervention, hostage negotiations, debriefing critical incidents and staff training. A wiser approach might be to demonstrate investigators, who have responsibilities in several areas, including gang intelligence.

Key STG Management Issues

There are several facility operations issues that administrators should consider when developing a comprehensive gang/STG management protocol, such as:

* Intake;

* Classification;

* Intelligence;

* Mitigating factors;

* Facility disturbances;

* Recruitment of gang/STG members;

* Legal aspects of gang management; and

* Staff training.

Intake

Intake officers should not be required to conduct detailed investigations and debriefings of gang members if it takes away from their primary duties. Intake officers must simply be trained to flag suspected gang members and designate them for interviews with the facility gang intelligence officer. Policies and procedures must be established for the prompt interview of gang members. Protocols for the safety of the suspected gang member at intake and to mitigate any threats caused by this offender to anyone else in the population should also be developed. Protocol development in this area should include transportation vehicles and...

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