In prison battle lines are drawn along racial, territorial and geographical distinctions. And in this country, the US of A, it’s been reported that about one fourth of all male prisoners are gang members. And on some compounds a convict has no choice, but to join a gang. Either that or he gets extorted, checked in, beat down or turned out. That’s just the nature of the beast in the netherworld of corruption and violence.
The feds have reported that prison disturbances have soared by 400 percent as a direct result of gang activity in Y2K. Inmate gangs operate ruthlessly with mafia-style codes and constitutions and fight with the raw brutality of pitbulls. A gang provides not only protection from other gangs, who are more than willing to fight gangs of their same race, but also a sense of family, an identity that transcends the individual. In the belly of the beast gangs offer a respite from the feelings of isolation and powerlessness. They empower prisoners and give status in a world where a man isn’t considered a human being only a number to be corralled, fed and counted like human cattle.
Though the prison subculture exists in relative obscurity, hidden behind concrete walls and razor wire, a prison gang out of Texas, The Aryan Circle, has sent tremors through the vast corridors of the prison industrial complex. The newer white supremacist gang in the Texas prison system, they are making a name for themselves and growing quite violently with deadly attacks against the Texas Aryan Brotherhood, TDC corrections officers, and other prison gangs.
The Aryan Circle originated in 1985 “because we got tired of the AB’s turning out their own kind,” says Johnny Bravo, a 37 year old TDC gang war veteran now in the feds. “It started at Beto #1. Now we are the largest white organization in the TDC (Texas Department of Corrections).” Robert Walker of gangsorus.com, a prison gang identification website verifies this, “The AC was founded in 1985 by Mark Gaspard, and was formed due to the fact that some whites had become too radical in their beliefs.” Not to say that the AC needs his verification. But it’s nice to be recognized by the so-called experts.
“The president of the AC is a legendary dude in the TDC,” Johnny Bravo says. “He was an ex AB member. The Texas AB’s are different than the Cali faction, and the AC is not like the AB’s.” And Johnny should know, he’s been locked up for a minute. “When I get released next year it will be 21 years. I’ve been locked up since 1985.” He names the prisons he’s been locked up at, “Beto #1, French Robinson -the worst prison in Texas, Sugarland, the Wallace Unit, Clemons, Coffield Unit, Allred – I’ve stayed years in every on of them.”
And Johnny says the Aryan Circle is “based on white separatism.” Beliefs include separation of the white race from all others for the betterment and preservation of the race. Johnny breaks it down, “Our own schools. Stick with your own kind. Have babies with your own kind. 1488.” They consider their enemies to be all who are against them, and those who attempt to oppress them. Johnny explains, “We wanted a brotherhood. To stick together and watch each others back. You own kind you can trust.” And in the brutal world of the TDC prison system this bonding was necessary, and at times vital.
There are over 25,000 known gang members in the TDC, and their influence, and control within the prison system has grown exponentially in the past five years. “Its easy for a gang to prosper in that environment,” says Sammy, Buentello, chief of the TDC Security Treat Group division, where all confirmed, and suspected gang members are documented. In 1999 federal Judge William Wayne Justice cited the race-based gangs, and their system of thug rule in a still ongoing case, known as the Ruiz case that deplored TDC prison conditions. Justice found slave like conditions in “a prison underworld, in which rapes, beatings and servitude are the currency of power. Inmates who refuse to join race-based gangs may be physically or sexually assaulted. Vulnerable inmates are subject to being bought and sold among groups of prison predators.”
Johnny Bravo breaks it down like this, “As soon as a white dude walks in the door everyone is lacing up. Right off the rip you’re fitting to fight, fuck or bust a 60. A 60 is commissary, so you gotta spend. That’s your limit. It’s really rough and segregated there.” And whites, who are the minority in Texas prisons, gravitate toward the likes of gangs like the Aryan Circle. The gangs often recruit like fraternities, and specifically, target prisoners who are serving short sentences. New inmates who can’t fight or afford protection find themselves paying an even higher price as a sex slave. “I think it’s a very destructive system,” says Dr Dennis Jurczak, an expert witness and psychiatrist. “And I’ve been in man many systems. I’ve never seen one as repressive as I have seen in Texas.” But the system is also one of the most racial.
“Back in the day we were proud. We were representing our race to the fullest. Loyalty, dedication, solidarity, kinship.” Johnny Bravo says describing what the AC means to him. About his comrades he says, “Most of them are max security. We stayed locked down the better part of the year for racial riots.” Concerning the conflicts with blacks he breaks it down.
“Bighead is a legendary dude.” Johnny says. “I’ve seen him walk up into crowds of toads, and spit in their face. He got a riot started in commissary by farting, and a toad said he’d stick a dick up his ass. The riot started in Beto #1. We got locked down for 9 months. Bighead is still in the TDC. Been in there since he was 17. He’s probably 36 now.”
According to Johnny, “Everyman in the TDC- white, black, brown- will get tried. If its one on one he’s a man, but if two blacks whip a white, and the other whites don’t do nothing they’re hit. We’re gonna get them.” At one point in the TDC the feds came in, and said, they needed to integrate. They handcuffed the prisoners, and tried to force integration, but Johnny lays it all out, “We don’t house with them period. TDC had interviews, and they classified you: RR-racially restricted whites only, RE-racially eligible or RB-racially black. That’s just how it was. If you got caught talking to a black other whites will stay away from you. The toads hate you, they don’t like you homie. When they look at you they look at your ass or your money. Texas prisons is the most racial place.” And the biggest problem is that the prisoners who spend part of their lives in this violent, degrading environment do get out.
Case in point- the senseless June 1998 James Bryd murder in Jasper, Texas. Two men, having paid their debt to society inside the brutal world of TDC, and swearing allegiance to the sacred principle of Aryan Racial supremacy were released, and plucked up a drunken black man off the street, chained his ankles to the back of a pick up truck, and dragged him to his death. “Texas prisons breed that,” Johnny Bravo says of the horrific event.
Johnny goes on to say how the AC “started in prison and made it to the world. They got different chapters like motorcycle clubs.” The gangsorus website says the AC is believed to consist of three branches- incarcerated men, incarcerated woman and an external branch, which consists of non-criminal white men in the free world. Their hierarchy consists of a president, vice president, majors, captains and several other titles.
“We got patch numbers,” Johnny says. “If dude claims to be AC I’ll ask him where’d you get prospected at? I could write back to Texas and find out, everybody has a patch number. If I walked up to a dude today, and I said, where’d you get picked up at, and he said, I just heard about it. Nah, you can’t do that.
About potential members Johnny offers, “We would lace them up. Tell them a toad will come to them, and pull their cord. We would tell them what to do, and if they fell short of that he was hit. You had to be a man. If you’re a man we got your back. Why would we help you if you wouldn’t help yourself.” And the AC was no strangers to conflicts.
“We had a lot of confirmed wars down there.” Johnny says. “The original thing with the AB’s was a bloodbath. There were no in betweens, you’re either with them or not. We’ve been at war with them, The Black Gorilla Family, the White Knights, and the Texas Emes (Mexican Mafia). And if you go down to Texas and you’re a Latin King, you are dead,”
About the conflicts Johnny says, “We gave them a chance to cover up or disband, but we didn’t give the Emes that chance. The reason the war started with the Emes was behind a handball game. They were playing handball, there was a bad call, and the Eme hit the AC guy. When dude woke up he wanted to know who did it. He got a shank, and killed the Mexican he was playing handball with, but it was the wrong one. 4 years and 13 deaths later we signed a peace treaty. That happened in 1996. The faxes were going around the TDC like crazy. They put all the AC in one unit. They cleared out units for us. The shit was kicking off everywhere. In transit. If we saw the Emes in the chow hall we’d stab them. A four year riot behind a handball game. We had a green light on them on sight. Wherever you went, whatever compound. A green light. If we found out about an AC not jumping an Eme on sight we’d run court on him. Took it up in front of the district captain. Shot word to the president.” And disciplinary measures such as cover him up, smash and beat him down, PC him, give him an extra duty type deal, or loss of rank would come back down. “There’s a chain of command,” Johnny says. “Everything comes down from the top. We got hundreds of lifers. Most of the brothers got big time. A lotta lifers. Texas gives out life like crazy. I’ve seen people come in with 5 and get a life.”
And looking back now Johnny Bravo who gets out soon says, “I’m through. It’s known all over the system that I’m through. I’m nothing but a heat stick. I can’t do nothing. Lots of reasons too. It’s bad inside, all the young kids they think with their fists. It’s violent. Back in the day we had a reason. Now the reason is violence.” And in the TDC, where they isolate gang members, and place them in lockdown status to discourage membership, maybe it not even worth it anymore. But there’s an uneasy balance between necessity, and what’s right or wrong. To Johnny Bravo being in a prison gang like the AC was a badge of honor, but now with huge organizations operating in prisons across the nation its like he said, its just a heat stick for everyone involved.