During the 1960’s a group of White convicts serving time inside California’s notorious San Quentin State Prison decided that they had had enough. Tired of watching their race fall prey to two deadly prison gangs, the Black Gorilla Family (BGF) and the Mexican Mafia (Eme), they came together and formed a little gang of their own. They called themselves the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) and they made their membership plan plain and simple. If you wanted to join, all you had to do was kill or attempt to kill a Black or a Mexican. Their motto was “Blood In/Blood Out,” meaning once you’ve spilled blood to join their gang the only way you were getting out was in a body bag. There were no exceptions.
It didn’t take long for the Aryan Brotherhood or “The Brand” as they are often called in prison, to establish themselves as a gang equal to or perhaps even more deadly than the BGF and the Eme. They soon had members in nearly every California state prison and became involved in criminal activities such as drug trafficking (both inside and outside of prison), gambling, extortion and protection rackets, and they laid down a host of laws that they expected all the White convicts to obey. For example, Whites were no longer allowed to eat, drink, or even share a cigarette with anyone outside of their race and all interactions with the “others” were to be kept at a need-to basis only. In a nutshell, their philosophy was “keep it White.” Just show The Brand some respect, obey their laws and come to them if you’re having any problems. That’s all they asked.
For more than a decade the Aryan Brotherhood did everything they could to protect the Whites in the California Department of Corrections (CDC).
Then came the 1980s.
Most seasoned convicts who served time in California during the 80’s have this to say about the Aryan Brotherhood: they turned on their own race. With their number of new recruits steadily on the rise and relations between the Whites and other ethnic groups better than the two previous decades, the ABs started abusing other Whites. Yes, the gang still committed violent acts against Blacks and Mexicans, but their victims were becoming increasingly White. Also, the gang’s membership policy had drastically changed. From the early 80’s up until the present date all someone has to do if they want to join the Aryan Brotherhood is follow orders — do exactly what the gang’s leaders tell you to do. And this mainly consists of assaulting, extorting, and robbing other Whites.
Subsequently, in the 80s, while the Aryan Brotherhood in California were turning from protectors to predators, more and more members of the gang that were released from the CDC were turning up in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). This gave the gang a much broader reach to conduct illegal business activities.
The 1990s would prove to be the worst decade yet for the Aryan Brotherhood. In an effort to thwart gang violence, prison officials in the CDC removed all remaining members of The Brand who were left in General Population to the Control Units in Pelican Bay and Corcoran. At these SuperMax facilities, inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours a day and have limited contact with other prisoners. This made it extremely difficult for the Aryan Brotherhood to maintain dominance and power over the White inmates in the general population institutions.
In the federal system, The Brand was going through some changes of their own. Following in the footsteps of the CDC official, slowly but surely officials in the BOP started housing members of the gang in Marion and Florence ADX, two SuperMax facilities similar to those in California. By 1999 in the in the Federal System there were only three inmates remaining in general population who were considered actual members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Although state and federal prison officials hoped to ultimately destroy the Aryan Brotherhood, the truth is they did not. In fact, through notes written in code and smuggled out of the Control Units by willing prison guards and attorneys, and in some instances, even through letters mailed directly through the regular institutional mail system, the gang was able to make contact with people on the street who in turn would pass the messages from prison to prison. Equally important, the gang still had enough loyalists on the main lines (general population) to maintain some influence in both the CDC and the FBOP. This combined with the solid communication network allowed them to conduct criminal activity from their isolated prison cells, activity that included narcotics trafficking, drug dealing, gambling, extortion, attempted murder, and even murder.
But what nearly did destroy America’s most notorious White prison gang was some of its own members. Faced with the possibility of being indicted for new gang-related crimes, or just plain tired of being locked down in the Control Units, when prison officials got together with state and federal authorities and started offering members of gangs incentives to roll over, (immunity from prosecution, better housing, even food and cigarettes), killers suddenly transformed into cooperators, White Pride Warriors became Witness Protection Wannabes, and in the end, there were just way too many crackers that crumbled. Needless to say, prosecutors were eventually furnished with enough information to file charges against dozens of members of the gang, including a 140-page indictment that spanned three decades and involved 32 murders and attempted murders in prisons and around the country. It was the largest capital murder case filed in U.S. history.
One of the first members caught up in the government’s crusade against the Aryan Brotherhood was Michael “Big Mac” McElhiney, a key member of the gang who sits on The Brand’s Federal Commission, a governing body designed similar to that of the Cosa Nostra. In September of 1998 Big Mac was transferred ;from the Control Unit in Marion, Illinois to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) or “hole” at USP Leavenworth in Kansas to await trial in the Federal District Court of Kansas to await trial for crimes that he and others allegedly committed in 1994 while they were serving time inside Leavenworth. But new charges weren’t the only thing on Big Mac’s mind during his stay in Leavenworth. The future of the Aryan Brotherhood was at stake and intended to do something about it. Acting as his own criminal defense lawyer, Mac used the trial to bring members of his gang together by calling them into court as defense witnesses. And with luck on his side, the government and the warden at Leavenworth goofed and allowed everyone that Mac had subpoenaed to be housed together for the duration of his trial in an isolated segregation unit known as Building 63. For months, the only occupants in Building 63 were members and associates of the Aryan Brotherhood. This gave key members plenty of time to discuss the gangs’ future as well as helped Big Mac concoct a plausible defense.
By using cooperative prison guards and inmate food service workers who rolled meal carts in and out of Building 63, Big Mac and his brothers were able to correspond with inmates in General Population. On one occasion, perhaps under the impression that the Aryan Brotherhood still had some influence in Leavenworth, they sent a “kite” (note) across the yard ordering all the Whites to come together and “kill as many D.C. niggers as possible.” (At the time there was an ongoing battle between the ABs and the D.C. Blacks. This battle resulted in the deaths of inmates at USP Lewisburg and the Control Units in Marion, Illinois.) This coordinated attack was supposed to take place on Halloween night 1999. It never happened. In another attempt to assert authority, big Mac and the boys sent a threatening message to members of a prison gang called the Dirty White Boys (DWBs) and ordered them to “cover their patches” and join the Aryan Brotherhood or be “hit on sight” — assaulted or killed at the first available opportunity. The Dirty White Boys, the dominant White prison gang in the federal system at the time, ignored them.
At the end of 1999 Michael McElhiney went to trial and received a hung jury. He and the rest of his brothers were promptly returned to their Control Units at Marion and Florence ADX certain of one thing: they needed to find a way out of the Control Units — and fast. Because with the exception of the federal penitentiary in Lompoc California (USP Lompoc), it appeared that the Aryan Brotherhood no longer had any real power left in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In 2002 the government re-tried Big Mac and in September of the same year he and his brothers were back inside the hole at USP Leavenworth. Only this time they weren’t sent back to Building 63 nor were they allowed to be housed in the same cells together. Instead, Big Mac was housed in the basement by himself while the rest of his brothers were taken to the SHU and put on A-range. The only other inmates on A-range at the time were 8 members of the Dirty White Boys.
Using strips of torn bed sheets to pass kites from cell to cell and by draining the water out of their toilet bowls so they could use the sewer system as a make-shift telephone line (they talked directly into the empty toilets or “telephones”, the ABs and the DWBs were able to communicate freely and talk prison politics. Their main topic of conversation: the merger of the two gangs. Only instead of threatening the Dirty White Boys, this time the ABs offered a peaceful acquisition. The reason they changed their tone? Because the DWBs had over 300 members Bureau-wide and the Feds were opening new prisons in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania. If the two were to join forces and use the name of a prison gang who was still widely feared and respected in many state and federal prisons, the Aryan Brotherhood, with the Dirty White Boys numbers they could get a foothold in all of these new joints and dominate the Federal System.
At least that’s the reason they gave the Dirty White Boys. The truth of the matter is that the Bureau officials had the Aryan Brotherhood on “indeterminate SHU status,” meaning they had no immediate plans to release The Brand from the Control Units and could basically leave them there as long as they deemed the gang was a “threat to the safety and security of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” But if the ABs could manage to pull off a merger with a gang on the mainlines, especially a gang the size of the Dirty White Boys, it would make no sense for prison officials to keep them locked down if there were 300-plus new recruits running around out in the general population institutions. For the Aryan Brotherhood, it was a strategic move designed to get them out of their tiny prison cells.
But the Dirty White Boys weren’t going for it. They knew The Brand was desperate to get out of the Control Units and they knew The Brand was only trying to use them. And if they did agree to such a merger and The Brand did get out of Marion and ADX, the DWBs also knew that it would be only a matter of time before the commission ordered the gang to attack the D.C. Blacks. They were completely obsessed with kicking off a full-scale racial war with these particular prisoners and the Dirty White Boys wanted no part of it. They were just fine with The Brand staying right where they were at — in Marion and ADX.
Ironically, it would be the government who helped resurrects the Aryan Brotherhood in the federal system. Pursuant to organized crime related charges, they targeted members of the gang in the California State Prison System as well as members who were on parole and convicted them at a federal level. Then for reasons unknown, rather than send them to the Control Units with the others, they let them into General Population.
Bobby Ray Shields was a convict from California who joined the Aryan Brotherhood the old-fashioned way — by murdering another inmate. In 2003 after pleading guilty to RICO charges, he was sent to USP Lompoc where he received a warm welcome from the Whites. And in a short amount of time, with the backing of a California-based prison gang called the Nazi Low Riders (NLR), Bobby Ray began to take control of the yard.
Once again, the Aryan Brotherhood was on the rise. In 2005 a member of The Brand nicknamed “Ziggy” was released from the ADX and placed into general population at USP Florence. At the time there were a few Dirty White Boys on the yard, about a half-dozen members of a Utah-based prison gang called the Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW), and around 20 members of another Utah-based gang called the “SACs,” or Soldiers of Aryan Culture. Yet Ziggy, a lone member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was able to take the reigns and start calling shots for all three of the White prison gangs at USP Florence based solely on The Brand’s reputation.
In 2004 there were members or affiliates of the Aryan Brotherhood in USP Victorville, USP Beaumont, USP Big Sandy, USP Coleman and USP Pollack.
At the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania the same year there were the following White gangs: the Dirty White Boys, The “ACs” or the Aryan Circle, the 88s, the Nazi Low Riders, the Soldiers of Aryan Culture, the Hell’s Angels, the Pagans, and the Texas Aryan Brotherhood, which have no affiliation with the original California bunch. While there was no one gang who “ran the yard” per se, the DWBs had 13 members which was more than any of the other White gangs on the compound.
Bobby Ray Shields was transferred to USP Lewisburg in the in the spring of 2006 where he was in for a rude awakening. Because he was a member of The Brand, and because The Brand is still by far considered the most deadly White prison gang of our time, he automatically assumed that he was entitled to call the shots. He assumed incorrectly. When he realized that things weren’t going to go according to plan, he tried to cut a deal with the Dirty White Boys where they could work together but Bobby Ray would be calling the shots. He even said that he ad been authorized by The Commission to propose a new deal with the DWBs. That is, rather than abolish the gang and join the Aryan Brotherhood, the DWBs could remain independent and become a stepping stone to join the Aryan Brotherhood, such as the Nazi Low Riders in the federal system have become. Put a different way, the NLRs and the DWBs would be soldiers for The Brand and only the promising members of each gang could “step up” and become actual members of the Aryan Brotherhood. Not only did the Dirty White Boys refuse the offer, but one DWB named Windell “Wilbur” Rigsby took it a step further and told Bobby Ray that as long as there were Dirty White Boys on the compound, the Aryan Brotherhood would never again run a thing in Lewisburg.
In prison speak, Bobby Ray got punked.
With his main objective being to take control of the yard, and knowing that the Dirty White Boys were standing in his way, Bobby Ray next tried to form an alliance with the other gangs in hopes they would come together and turn on the DWBs. With the exception of the NLRs (all three of them), none of the gangs went for it. When the plan failed, Bobby recognized that the Aryan Brotherhood needed more numbers so he sent a message to his brothers in the ADX seeking permission to pull two new recruits. If the Aryan Brotherhood was ever going to get a foothold in Lewisburg again, Bobby Ray reasoned they were going to need more members.
On January 31, 2007, with The Commissions’ approval, Bobby ray got his wish. Two members of the Nazi Low Riders named “Grumpy” and “Boulder Head” officially became members of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood. But unlike most new recruits who have to “earn their bones” to join the gang, these two didn’t have to do a thing.
They simply just became members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Inside of these prison walls and in the “free-world” alike, there are many misconceptions about the Aryan Brotherhood. To begin with they are not a White supremacy gang. While there are members of the gang who firmly believe in White supremacy or White separatist ideologies, they also have members and close affiliates who are Hispanic, Hawaiian, Asian and Native American. Furthermore, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Mexican Mafia have formed somewhat of an alliance. Meaning, if either of them has a problem with an African American gang, the two will band together. Also, it should be mentioned that many ABs have Mexican wives, girlfriends and children. A true White supremacist gang would never tolerate any of this behavior. Next there are many state prison gangs who have adopted the name Aryan Brotherhood. This gives people the false impression that there is one very large organization or Brotherhood of white prisoners who all belong to a gang that is governed by one body and has members in nearly every state and federal prison throughout the United States. This is totally false. At best, some of these Aryan Brotherhood gangs are splinter-groups that no longer have any affiliation with the original California-based Aryan Brotherhood and most never had. Some of these gangs are the Arizona Abs, the New Mexico ABs, the Texas ABs, the Ohio ABs, and even the Universal ABs.
Today’s Aryan Brotherhood — the REAL Aryan Brotherhood — is a disorganization that exists within the Control Units of the California Department of Corrections and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They are often used by prosecutors for political gain and portrayed by the media an evil racist regime. It’s like reporters — often mislead by prison officials — want the world to believe that lurking inside of America’s prisons there is a well organized White supremacy gang who rules by deadly force and is capable of churning out droves of Aryan Warriors into society so they can pursue a supreme Aryan agenda, just like Hitler dreamed. And that’s just not the case. Most ABs is prison junkies desperate to control the environment in which they live so they can make enough money to stay high. Although there is strong evidence which proves that some members of the gang do get released from prison and carry out “missions” for their brothers on the inside, the gang as a whole is currently incapable of putting enough money together to fill a piggybank Nevertheless generating the capital that they would need to pursue a genuine criminal, political, or racist agenda.
In the beginning, the Aryan Brotherhood had one true purpose — to stop Blacks and Mexicans from abusing Whites. They used their unity for monetary gain and in the process they lost themselves. Yes the gang will continue to recruit new members and yes the gang will continue to commit new crimes — including murder. And yes, the gang will probably take over a few prison yards. But so will scores of other White prison gangs…and that’s my point exactly.
Today’s Aryan Brotherhood is no different than you average ordinary White prison gang. They’ve just been around a lot longer.
Yes, the gang will probably take over a few prison yards. But so will scores of other White prison gangs…and that’s my point exactly.
Today’s Aryan Brotherhood is no different than you average ordinary White prison gang. They’ve just been around a lot longer.