407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Fighting Gangs in our Prisons,
and in Our Neighborhoods


Ron Holvey
Principal Investigator
New Jersey Department of Corrections

The news from the New Jersey State Police was nothing less than shocking—there

prisoner is STGMU prison cell
The Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU), located at Northern State Prison in Newark, was devised to isolate problematic gang affiliated inmates or those identified as gan leaders from the general prison population.

are nearly 17,000 gang members statewide. These sobering statistics, released on June 30, 2005, confirm what law enforcement already suspected—the plague that is gangs is no longer relegated solely to the barrios of East Los Angeles, or the bowels of Rikers Island.  Indeed, from the picturesque mountains of Sussex County, to the beaches of Atlantic City, and everywhere in between, gangs are proliferating.  And while urban centers continue to be the principal home turf for street gangs, the suburbs are reporting an increased gang presence and the inevitable crime and victimization that follow.

Gangs have been in existence for decades, but the veritable explosion in the “gangster” mentality is a true child of the 21st century.  Pop culture, to include music and dress, coupled with those electronic marvels, computers, iPods and cell phones, which serve as a conduit to youngsters everywhere, has served to spread the word that gang membership is not only acceptable, but desirable.
 
Controlling Gangs in Prison It has often been said that prison is a microcosm of the outside world, and as such, within the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), the gang issue has been actively addressed since the late 1980s.  As gang members are apprehended and convicted for criminal misconduct in the community, they are rightfully placed behind prison and jail walls.  This circumstance does not in and of itself mean that upon their incarceration the offender disavows his/her gang affiliation or gang-related proclivities. Thus, as more and more gang members are brought to justice, their numbers in our correctional system grow, increasing security demands in an already highly challenged environment. 

Thus, the Intelligence Section of the department’s Special Investigations Division has made gang management within the prisons a priority. 

entering NJDOC Central Reception facility
The inmates above are entering the NJDOC Central Reception Facility where they will be searched for gang materials and tatoos.

This process begins at the prison intake, with each inmate interviewed and photographed, as tattoos and possession of gang-related paraphernalia often speak volumes about gang affiliation, even if the inmate does not. Identified gang members are advised that any future gang activity will not be tolerated and that noncompliance will have serious consequences.  

When it became apparent that such a large number of inmates were identified definitively as gang members, the NJDOC designed a special unit to house the gang leaders apart from the general population.  To that end, The Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU), located at Northern State Prison in Newark, was devised to isolate problematic gang affiliated inmates or those identified as gang leaders from the general prison population.  The STGMU provides a structured and controlled environment where inmate behavior is closely monitored by a multidiscipline team of departmental staff.

To successfully complete the three-phase program, inmates are required to participate in programs that deal with such areas as alternatives to violent behavior, cognitive development and non-violent living.  The goal is to enlighten the inmates and teach them the skills necessary to interact appropriately without the perceived need of gang membership.  This program is also intended to force inmates to deal with the consequences of their actions.  Prior to moving through the program, inmates are required to sign an “Acknowledgment of Expectations” for each phase that clearly outlines their responsibilities for successful program completion and ultimately requires offenders to renounce their Security Threat Group affiliation prior to completion.
The results of the STGMU program were immediate---the department has seen a system-wide drop of 42 percent in staff assaults and an 84 percent decrease in organized violent behavior among our inmates. 

Furthermore, recent data shows that gang members who have completed the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) program recidivate at less than half the rate of the national average for prisoners who are released to the community.  These statistics underscore the effectiveness of this approach.  The fact that Maryland and North Carolina, among others, are modeling their gang units after the NJDOC’s STGMU unit indicates that the department is not alone in reaching that assessment. 

Managing Gangs in the Community
Currently, seven gangs have been classified as Security Threat Groups by the NJDOC: the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, Bloods, Crips, East Coast Aryan Brotherhood, Five Percent Nation, Neta and Prison Brotherhood of Bikers. A review of the sentences of gang members within the New Jersey Department of Corrections reveals that most gang inmates serve five years or less before returning to the community.  With such relatively short prison terms, it is imperative that the department shares the gang organization, rank structure, codes affiliation and membership of incarcerated gang members with outside law enforcement entities, including municipal and state, to safeguard the community upon release of these inmates.

 In 1996 the NJDOC initiated the Combined Law Enforcement Intelligence Committee or CLIC, which is comprised of investigators and detectives from multiple agencies throughout the state. Monthly meetings are convened with federal, state, regional, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, with but one objective—sharing information on gangs and their members.  Lists of identified inmates, and aliases are distributed, as is a monthly bulletin that highlights new tattoos, codes, graffiti, statewide trends, identification statistics and incident reports. Moreover, this committee has created a network of professionals who can contact one another outside of the meetings to ascertain the whereabouts and identities of gangs in the community. 

Personnel from the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Unit (SGU), the New Jersey Department of Corrections, and the New Jersey Division of Parole have developed an interagency plan called GANG REDUCTION & AGGRESSIVE SUPERVISED PAROLE (GRASP,) which will significantly benefit the work of each agency related to street gangs in urban venues. 

Under this program, GRASP participants aggressively target gang member parolees to ensure compliance with the terms of parole (including non-association with gang members).

A GRASP team consisting of SGU members, NJDOC investigators, and parole officers, makes unannounced home visits and interviews at parole offices with parolees who were identified during their incarceration in NJDOC facilities as members of one of seven recognized gangs/Security Threat Groups.

Such concentrated efforts, from three law enforcement entities, produce an added safeguard to our citizens, and discourage gang violence and the subsequent victimization.

Gang Awareness and Prevention
While the New Jersey Department of Corrections has made gang management and

gang tatoos
The Latin King inmate above has an array of tatoos. :Amor De Rey" means Love of King which is a motto of the Almighty Latin Kin and Queen Nation.

intelligence sharing a priority, the department has set yet another—zero growth of the gang population.  The Gang Awareness and Prevention Program—GAPP was created to meet this goal.  Perhaps Commissioner Devon Brown says it best: “The Gang Awareness and Prevention Program brings inmates who have renounced their gang membership into schools and other civic venues to discuss the horrors and violence associated with gang membership and the often deadly fate that awaits gang bangers.  It is a testament to the effectiveness of the Security Threat Group Management Unit that so many gang members have graduated from the program and renounced their gang affiliation, thereby creating a safer environment for staff in the prisons. 

“In addition, all of New Jersey’s citizens benefit by the approach to gangs, as the recidivism rate is appreciably lower for those inmates who graduate from the STGMU program,” he continued. “If even one youngster attending a GAPP presentation heeds the admonitions of the reformed gang member, our mission to prevent crime is crowned with success.” 

Parents and educators should be concerned if they notice any of the following:

  • Negative behavior changes
  • Drop in grades
  • Change in attitude toward authority
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Gang graffiti
  • Photos of gang members on display
  • The appearance of gang names, slogans and insignias inscribed on belongings
  • Wearing only gang colors (red for Bloods, blue for Crips)
  • Tattoos
  • Flashing gang signs to others

The gang recruitment process plays out in urban and suburban areas throughout the state every day.  The child who feels unloved, who receives little or no parental supervision or who has low self-esteem will be a target for the gang recruiter. 

With a centralized database that is updated daily, in-depth academy training, monthly intelligence meetings and institutional training, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Commissioner Devon Brown, has addressed the problem of gangs in prisons aggressively, proactively, and with a sense of urgency that reflects a commitment to public safety, both in and out of the prison setting. The fact that local, state, and federal agencies—have reached out to the NJDOC for assistance in the identification and control of gangs lends credence to this assessment. As has often been proven true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  In this respect, numerous other states have looked to model New Jersey’s approach to prison management of gangs.  Most recently, North Carolina has replicated the NJDOC’s STGMU, with Maryland looking to follow suit in the very near future. “In essence, safer behind bars for our officers, safer on the street for our citizens,” Commissioner Brown says. 

Principal Investigator Ron Holvey has spent 25 years with the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Recognized nationally as a gang authority, Holvey is the Vice President of the East Coast Gang Invest NJLM - Fighting Gangs in our prisions and neighborhoods

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Fighting Gangs in our Prisons,
and in Our Neighborhoods


Ron Holvey
Principal Investigator
New Jersey Department of Corrections

The news from the New Jersey State Police was nothing less than shocking—there

prisoner is STGMU prison cell
The Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU), located at Northern State Prison in Newark, was devised to isolate problematic gang affiliated inmates or those identified as gan leaders from the general prison population.

are nearly 17,000 gang members statewide. These sobering statistics, released on June 30, 2005, confirm what law enforcement already suspected—the plague that is gangs is no longer relegated solely to the barrios of East Los Angeles, or the bowels of Rikers Island.  Indeed, from the picturesque mountains of Sussex County, to the beaches of Atlantic City, and everywhere in between, gangs are proliferating.  And while urban centers continue to be the principal home turf for street gangs, the suburbs are reporting an increased gang presence and the inevitable crime and victimization that follow.

Gangs have been in existence for decades, but the veritable explosion in the “gangster” mentality is a true child of the 21st century.  Pop culture, to include music and dress, coupled with those electronic marvels, computers, iPods and cell phones, which serve as a conduit to youngsters everywhere, has served to spread the word that gang membership is not only acceptable, but desirable.
 
Controlling Gangs in Prison It has often been said that prison is a microcosm of the outside world, and as such, within the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), the gang issue has been actively addressed since the late 1980s.  As gang members are apprehended and convicted for criminal misconduct in the community, they are rightfully placed behind prison and jail walls.  This circumstance does not in and of itself mean that upon their incarceration the offender disavows his/her gang affiliation or gang-related proclivities. Thus, as more and more gang members are brought to justice, their numbers in our correctional system grow, increasing security demands in an already highly challenged environment. 

Thus, the Intelligence Section of the department’s Special Investigations Division has made gang management within the prisons a priority. 

entering NJDOC Central Reception facility
The inmates above are entering the NJDOC Central Reception Facility where they will be searched for gang materials and tatoos.

This process begins at the prison intake, with each inmate interviewed and photographed, as tattoos and possession of gang-related paraphernalia often speak volumes about gang affiliation, even if the inmate does not. Identified gang members are advised that any future gang activity will not be tolerated and that noncompliance will have serious consequences.  

When it became apparent that such a large number of inmates were identified definitively as gang members, the NJDOC designed a special unit to house the gang leaders apart from the general population.  To that end, The Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU), located at Northern State Prison in Newark, was devised to isolate problematic gang affiliated inmates or those identified as gang leaders from the general prison population.  The STGMU provides a structured and controlled environment where inmate behavior is closely monitored by a multidiscipline team of departmental staff.

To successfully complete the three-phase program, inmates are required to participate in programs that deal with such areas as alternatives to violent behavior, cognitive development and non-violent living.  The goal is to enlighten the inmates and teach them the skills necessary to interact appropriately without the perceived need of gang membership.  This program is also intended to force inmates to deal with the consequences of their actions.  Prior to moving through the program, inmates are required to sign an “Acknowledgment of Expectations” for each phase that clearly outlines their responsibilities for successful program completion and ultimately requires offenders to renounce their Security Threat Group affiliation prior to completion.
The results of the STGMU program were immediate---the department has seen a system-wide drop of 42 percent in staff assaults and an 84 percent decrease in organized violent behavior among our inmates. 

Furthermore, recent data shows that gang members who have completed the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) program recidivate at less than half the rate of the national average for prisoners who are released to the community.  These statistics underscore the effectiveness of this approach.  The fact that Maryland and North Carolina, among others, are modeling their gang units after the NJDOC’s STGMU unit indicates that the department is not alone in reaching that assessment. 

Managing Gangs in the Community
Currently, seven gangs have been classified as Security Threat Groups by the NJDOC: the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, Bloods, Crips, East Coast Aryan Brotherhood, Five Percent Nation, Neta and Prison Brotherhood of Bikers. A review of the sentences of gang members within the New Jersey Department of Corrections reveals that most gang inmates serve five years or less before returning to the community.  With such relatively short prison terms, it is imperative that the department shares the gang organization, rank structure, codes affiliation and membership of incarcerated gang members with outside law enforcement entities, including municipal and state, to safeguard the community upon release of these inmates.

 In 1996 the NJDOC initiated the Combined Law Enforcement Intelligence Committee or CLIC, which is comprised of investigators and detectives from multiple agencies throughout the state. Monthly meetings are convened with federal, state, regional, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, with but one objective—sharing information on gangs and their members.  Lists of identified inmates, and aliases are distributed, as is a monthly bulletin that highlights new tattoos, codes, graffiti, statewide trends, identification statistics and incident reports. Moreover, this committee has created a network of professionals who can contact one another outside of the meetings to ascertain the whereabouts and identities of gangs in the community. 

Personnel from the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Unit (SGU), the New Jersey Department of Corrections, and the New Jersey Division of Parole have developed an interagency plan called GANG REDUCTION & AGGRESSIVE SUPERVISED PAROLE (GRASP,) which will significantly benefit the work of each agency related to street gangs in urban venues. 

Under this program, GRASP participants aggressively target gang member parolees to ensure compliance with the terms of parole (including non-association with gang members).

A GRASP team consisting of SGU members, NJDOC investigators, and parole officers, makes unannounced home visits and interviews at parole offices with parolees who were identified during their incarceration in NJDOC facilities as members of one of seven recognized gangs/Security Threat Groups.

Such concentrated efforts, from three law enforcement entities, produce an added safeguard to our citizens, and discourage gang violence and the subsequent victimization.

Gang Awareness and Prevention
While the New Jersey Department of Corrections has made gang management and

gang tatoos
The Latin King inmate above has an array of tatoos. :Amor De Rey" means Love of King which is a motto of the Almighty Latin Kin and Queen Nation.

intelligence sharing a priority, the department has set yet another—zero growth of the gang population.  The Gang Awareness and Prevention Program—GAPP was created to meet this goal.  Perhaps Commissioner Devon Brown says it best: “The Gang Awareness and Prevention Program brings inmates who have renounced their gang membership into schools and other civic venues to discuss the horrors and violence associated with gang membership and the often deadly fate that awaits gang bangers.  It is a testament to the effectiveness of the Security Threat Group Management Unit that so many gang members have graduated from the program and renounced their gang affiliation, thereby creating a safer environment for staff in the prisons. 

“In addition, all of New Jersey’s citizens benefit by the approach to gangs, as the recidivism rate is appreciably lower for those inmates who graduate from the STGMU program,” he continued. “If even one youngster attending a GAPP presentation heeds the admonitions of the reformed gang member, our mission to prevent crime is crowned with success.” 

Parents and educators should be concerned if they notice any of the following:

  • Negative behavior changes
  • Drop in grades
  • Change in attitude toward authority
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Gang graffiti
  • Photos of gang members on display
  • The appearance of gang names, slogans and insignias inscribed on belongings
  • Wearing only gang colors (red for Bloods, blue for Crips)
  • Tattoos
  • Flashing gang signs to others

The gang recruitment process plays out in urban and suburban areas throughout the state every day.  The child who feels unloved, who receives little or no parental supervision or who has low self-esteem will be a target for the gang recruiter. 

With a centralized database that is updated daily, in-depth academy training, monthly intelligence meetings and institutional training, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Commissioner Devon Brown, has addressed the problem of gangs in prisons aggressively, proactively, and with a sense of urgency that reflects a commitment to public safety, both in and out of the prison setting. The fact that local, state, and federal agencies—have reached out to the NJDOC for assistance in the identification and control of gangs lends credence to this assessment. As has often been proven true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  In this respect, numerous other states have looked to model New Jersey’s approach to prison management of gangs.  Most recently, North Carolina has replicated the NJDOC’s STGMU, with Maryland looking to follow suit in the very near future. “In essence, safer behind bars for our officers, safer on the street for our citizens,” Commissioner Brown says. 

Principal Investigator Ron Holvey has spent 25 years with the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Recognized nationally as a gang authority, Holvey is the Vice President of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association, and has served as an expert witness in both state and federal courts, helping to turn back legal challenges to the Security Threat Group Management Unit.

 

 

Article in October 2005, New Jersey Municipalities