Gang warfare has raged unabated in California’s prisons for almost 40 years. Legend has it starting when an argument at Soledad State Prison began the rift among Latinos that today is manifested in the Norteno/Sureno beef that pits Chicano solely based on the region of the state they come from. Not to be outdone parallel structures among blacks and whites, such as the Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods and Crips for blacks, and the Aryan Brotherhood, Dirty White Boys and Nazi Low Riders for whites, developed, evolving strictly along racial lines. Like they say in Cali, “It’s political.” Gang affiliation is lifelong, blood in/blood out, and as different gangs have claimed power in the system a multitude of wars and beefs have resulted, leaving many dead or scarred up for life. The mark of the penitentiary.
Gang warlords, locked down and secure in supermaxes like Pelican Bay and free from the violence that permeates the gang underworld in the streets and in less secure prison yards where members have movement, pass on instructions to thousands of followers. Orders include instructions to kill errant members, directions on how to collect street taxes from free world members who are dealing drugs, and robbing banks, and demands for retribution against rival gangs. Pelican Bay is where Cali’s gangs high command share an eerie silence with their fellow leaders of the state’s toughest and most ruthless gangs. Shotcallers hold ultimate authority over their people. Just like a Mafia Don they are the bosses. No one can be stabbed or beaten without their permission. And when they green light somebody it’s open season and whoever finds themselves in the proximity of the green lighted dude better get busy or else. It’s just the way the gangs do things. Kill or be killed
The situation is more dangerous and volatile inside California’s prisons than on the streets outside. Wardens and officers allow the gangs to terrorize vulnerable inmates and go about their illegal business, so long as the peace is maintained. The last thing they want is a full scale racial riot, so when inmates complain of being beaten, threatened, extorted or turned out, they are routinely ignored. Over 40 gang investigators work in California’s 30 or more prisons to monitor thousands of gang members’ contacts with the outside world, but it’s not enough. “We could use that number alone at Pelican Bay,” said Brian Parry, Chief of the State Department of Corrections law enforcement unit. “Unfortunately even in lock down they can still conduct business and get messages out.”
And without the gangs being monitored properly California’s prisons have become the most racially segregated as well as most racist places in America today. Race permeates every aspect of prison life. Confrontations between violent racial gangs that fight each other and terrorize and extort weaker prisoners and commonplace. Just stepping into the area occupied by a different ethnic group can be deadly. And as the older more established prison gangs have been targeted by prison authorities new ones such as the Nazi Low Riders have formed and stepped up. Adhering to the ideologies, attitudes and order sent down by their respected elders from Pelican Bay they are like mini-me’s. Sort of like gang by proxy with a self-contained culture based more on criminal motivation than racial ideology, although it does play a part in a propaganda kind of way. With youngsters clamoring to fill the void and make their own mark in the name of their respective race or clique, ganglife in Cali’s prisons has flourished.
“The Ride is holding it down for the AB’s in Cali,” says Moose, an AB associate and Cali native now locked down in the feds. “It’s real political over there and with all the oldheads on lock down the younger generation has come forward to represent for the white race.” The Nazi Low Riders aka The Ride emerged in the late 70′s and early 80′s and took over California’s main prison yards when the Aryan Brotherhood were rounded up, branded as security threats and placed in segregation. John Stinson, an AB member, recently given another life sentence in the federal racketeering case against the AB was instrumental in the formation of the Nazi Low Riders. He got them together to be the AB’s errand boys, to act as middlemen for the AB shotcallers. To move where they couldn’t move and enforce their rules and desires. The Ride agreed to continue the AB’s illegal activities and in 1999 became a validated prison gang along with the Mexican Mafia and Black Guerrilla Family.
“They started at Preston School of Industry in the 70′s. They were John’s little dudes. Kids who wanted to be down with the AB’s. As they grew older and went to state prison their numbers grew,” Moose says. “The Ride are aligned with and owe allegiance to the AB. Without the AB’s authority they are nothing. But Nazi Low Riders that stick with it and follow the program can become AB’s.” Membership in the white race group is by invitation only. New members must commit a violent act and be sponsored by a senior. Members cannot work with law enforcement, associate with known sex offenders or engage in race mixing. Race mixing includes dating out of your race, eating or touching food prepared by another race or celling with a member of another race.
“That shit just doesn’t fly,” says Razor, a Nazi Low Rider from Orange County now in the feds. “We don’t fuck with blacks. We don’t talk to them, associate with them or cell with them. If they put me in a cell with a nigger I’m bucking straight up. I’ll go to the hole, no problem. I’m just not celling with one, period.” Razor whose dad is an AB member doing time in Cali grew up with the philosophy. He explains, “It’s about unity. About standing up for your race. In the Cali system, in almost any prison system, whites are the minority. We don’t let blacks run shit for us. They can run their own car, but they don’t run shit for whites. We do.” But NLR philosophy is a little more relaxed than the AB’s, Latinos have known to be members also, hence the Low Rider in the name. “You must have at least half white blood,” Razor says, “but no black blood.”
In prison, Ride members must participate in mandatory exercise and physical training programs. Members must donate a percentage of all items received through the mail or purchased at the commissary to the shot caller, so he can look out for brothers in the hole or those just arriving from different prisons or the street. It’s called kicking down and every member must do it. Even non-members must kick down. It’s a form of tribute to the gang. A member can be stabbed or killed for holding out on the gang or if he rapes or disrespects another member of the gang or claims to be a member before obtaining membership status. “We meet out in the yard every day to do burpees in the morning. It’s like roll call. If you’re not there you’re gonna hear about it from the rep on the pound.” Razor says. “In the state it was crazy. We had like 30 to 40 honkies out there on some military type shit working out. And other dudes, white dudes on the pound got to kick down to us. I don’t care if its weed, commissary, magazines, books, whatever. They’re kicking down. That’s just how it goes. And white boys that don’t get with the program or hang out with black are called greyboys. “What do you get when you mix white and black,” Razor says. “Grey.” Hence the name.
Shotcallers hold what they call church meetings to discuss gang business, extol the virtues of white power, ideology and white pride. They’ll be out on the yard all cliqued up with their heads shaved bald sporting skull tattoos with lightning bolts symbolizing the SS or other Nazi imagery including swastikas, pictures of Adolf Hitler, 88 tattoos, white pride written down the back of their arms or on their back and NLR tattoos adorning their bodies. Ride members refer to black prisoners as rugs, porch monkeys and toads and read books like Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Works by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
“The white race is genetically superior. We’re smarter.” Razor says. “We invented damn near everything. I started out a traditional skin, but I got infatuated with NLR ideology. I liked the structure of them. I gravitated toward them.” And Razor explains how he attainted membership. “I was in that wicked way. I was strapped. I was ready to get me a nigger and I got one.” And Ride members clean their own house. “Any white dudes that are snitches or child molesters are hit. They are trash. We don’t tolerate that shit. They’re worse than niggers. We’ll fuck them up or check them in real quick.”
Federal authorities report that the Nazi Low Riders commit acts of violence to spread a white supremacist philosophy and to control the drug trafficking activities of whites. Their philosophy centers on racial pride and they control a significant portion of the illegal activities committed by white inmates in California’s prisons, but the groups criminal influence and activities are not bound by prison walls. They are a major force in the West Coast criminal underworld that participates in the production and trade of methamphetamine.
“Problems with the gang have extended to the surrounding communities and throughout the inland area,” Ontario Police Chief Lloyd Scharl said. “They’re operating meth labs and sending money in the form of tribute back to the leaders at Chino.” As the fastest growing gang in the California system the Nazi Low Riders have developed a power base in LA and Orange Counties in Southern California. As prisoners go home they take their Nazi Low Rider allegiance, status and ideology with them. “Loyalty is a very big thing with gangs. Street gangs are like the junior varsity team and the prison gangs are like the varsity,” a law enforcement official said. And with that comparison the NLR must be the minor league affiliate to the AB’s major league team. But the NLR are growing and growing fast.
“We’re running shit from the prisons to the streets,” Razor says. “And we’re spreading to other parts of the country and into the federal system. You got to understand the gang is my family. These dudes are my brothers. My comrades in arms. We go to war together. We represent the white race. We are the soldiers at the front of the war. The war for the white race.” Over 200 members claiming allegiance to the Ride have been in federal or state court in the last couple of years in California for offenses ranging from drug trafficking to Vicar. There’s been a lot of prison cases for stabbing prisoners and rapists.
“We don’t condone rapists,” Razor says. “To have a rapist socializing with NLR that’s bad stuff as far as politics go. Whites aren’t supposed to hurt kids. You don’t rape period. We are running the prison for whites and we want to know who is coming in.” And about the assaults on blacks Razor says, “That’s how you make your bones. They’re doing the same thing to us. It’s a never-ending cycle.” A cycle of violence that enables the Ride to hold power through intimidation and brutality. In the world of prison and the Rides self-contained culture stabbing a black is considered a badge of honor.
“They’re ruthless dudes,” says a vato from Cali that has dealt with NLR members in and out of prison. “I know that. I did time with them. They mostly deal with meth and rob their connections. A lot of them got Hitler tattoos on their shaved heads. They’re all tatted up. When I left the state in 99 they were barely coming out.” And with names like Skully, Diamond, Chance, Z, Boob, MFS, Sulky, Rock Solid, Spinner, Snake, Peckerwood and Irish, Ride member have taken on WWF qualities. With their tattoos, chiseled frames and white pride philosophies they seem more like Viking warriors than convicts or gang members. But their larger than life persona’s and wild exploits have led to trouble for the gang.
“Violent prison based gangs such as the NLR are prominent on law enforcements radar screen,” US Attorney John S. Gordon said. “The CDC, federal, state and local investigative agencies and my office are all committed to combating the violence, drug trafficking and other criminal activity committed or directed by organized prison gangs inside and outside prison walls.” In 2002, Gordon’s office returned a 17 count, 54 page indictment in the Central District of California, which accused the NLR of controlling Caucasian inmates in the state prison system through murder, intimidation and drug trafficking. The indictment said that the NLR took control of white inmates in the California system when the DOC took steps to curtail the Aryan Brotherhood.
The indictment was the result of a three year investigation into the NLR by the US Attorney’s office, the FBI, the Ontario Police Department, ATF and the California Department of Corrections, court records indicate. In 1999, Ontario Police formed a multi-agency NLR task force that gathered intelligence, pinpointed strongholds, tracked down gang members and fugitives belonging to the gang and identified NLR street units. The gang was charged with 19 acts of attempted murder that took place behind prison walls and with conspiring to distribute drugs in prison, extortion, witness tampering, witness retaliation, robbery and murder. “They largely controlled the illegal activities of the white prison population throughout California’s prison system,” US Attorney Adam Kahenstein said.
“We wanted to attack the leadership of the organization,” Daniel McMullen, supervisory special agent at the FBI’s Riverside office said. And Michael Bridge was identified as one of the main leaders. The indictment state that Bridge “has risen to one of the highest levels of leadership within the NLR.” Further investigations began when the Ontario Police Department looked into a spate of violent crime and an upsurge in meth labs attributed to the Ride. Twenty-nine more members were eventually indicted and prosecutors accused members of ordering hits, committing acts of violence and numerous weapons violations. “We effectively took the legs out from underneath this organization,” Corporal David McBride of the Ontario Police Department said and even a prison guard was indicted and convicted as part of the gang.
In 2004, Shayne Ziska, a $66,000 a year guard at Chino State prison was convicted of helping the gang to distribute drugs, pass messages and assault other inmates from 1984 to 2000. Court records say he allowed NLR members out of their cells to plot crimes and exact retribution upon prisoners who violated their code of conduct. Ziska brought them heroin and meth and allowed them free reign in the cellblock, so they could make wine and beat other prisoners at will. When Judge Hatter issued his verdict of guilty on one count of Vicar (violent crime in aid of racketeering) he thanked the US Attorney’s office for “shining the light on one of the darkest areas of the state.”
Two members of the Ride, Brian Roberg and Robert Wilson, testified against the guard. “It was something that I was thinking about for some time. I started talking to the FBI initially because I wanted to change what was getting me busted in my lifestyle,” the snitch said in court. The 34 year old Roberg who was a senior NLR member who controlled several prison yards according to court documents before he betrayed his homies is now in the hat as they say. He’s green lighted on the hit list. Marked for death. He’s doing his time now in a sensitive needs yard with all the other dropouts. It used to be turncoats like Roberg who wanted to get out of the life of stabbing, retribution and hit lists checked into PC, but now the Cali system has whole yards for dropouts called sensitive needs yards. Formerly these yards were the sole domain of child molesters, rapists and snitches. Nowadays rats like Roberg are forced to live with and associate with those that they formerly professed to hate. Those that they would formerly check in, beat down and kill.
And about the corrupt guards in the California system Special Master John Hagen who investigated the Ziska case said, “Rather than CDC staff correcting the prisoners, some guards end up acquiring the gang mentality. They form their own gangs, align with the prison gangs and spread their own code of silence. The code of silence and gang mentality is taught to new recruits because of longstanding CDC culture.” And Razor agrees.
“In the state the cops fuck with us,” He says. “They make moves for us and expose undesirables, so we can take care of them. Most of them don’t like the lames or niggers either.” It’s a dog eat dog world where racism and violence rule and Judge Hatter from the Ziska case knows this. “I am clearly of the mind that the CDC ought to be indicted as well, if they could be,” he remarked, but we all know that won’t happen. The state protects their own.
California has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people in an environment where racist gangs flourish and thrive. Convicts use gangs to form power bases and alliances within the predatory and dangerous walls. And even reach out to the street to tax drug dealers and spread their violent and racist ideology. Being in a prison gang is like being in the Mafia. Respect and power come with the territory. The Ride is a stepping stone to becoming a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, the crème del crème of white prison gangs. The equivalent of being a made man. “I wanted to be recognized by the AB for the work I put in.” Brian Roberg said in court. “The NLR are assets to the AB for getting work done and spreading the message. It was about AB politics. It was about being aggressive with attitude.” And maybe that sums up the Nazi Low Riders, but Roberg realized the truth of the matter eventually. “You start seeing things after doing so much time,” He said. “After watching people fight for power and backstabbing one another you say, ‘This is all bullshit, the shotcallers are up in Pelican Bay. You’re their pawn. This is their chessboard.’” And that’s the truth, plain and simple.