Prison gangs and the Mafia

Prison gangs
Prison gangs

There has long been a tie, at times tenuous and in other cases fairly durable, connecting some prison gangs and the Mafia. Prison gangs meet some of the criteria of being a form of organized crime, although in a very structured environment. Some of these gangs engage in typical Mafia activity, which includes corruption of officials, in this case limited largely to guards, but sometimes including other personnel within and without the institution.

Mafiosi sometimes find it useful to utilize prison gangs to carry out certain violent chores for them, especially for hit assignments, so they are free of suspicion. Because the gangs maintain a discipline on the outside, their members are also available there to the mob as needed. As a major outside activity is drug trafficking, the mob integrates with them and thus has a supply pipeline available for use by other crime groups.

The Colombians find it useful to make use of such supply routes for their merchandise and pay the mobs for their cooperation. It is a matter of some conjecture how much mafiosi pay the outside prison mobsters out of this, but apparently it is enough to keep the career criminals happy.

The Mafia is also very happy because these gangs more than other outsiders can be counted on to keep secrets. They enforce their silence rules as well as or perhaps better than the Mafia itself does, since treachery is often a key ingredient within the socalled Honored Society. Many mafioso leaders have to overcome a strong antipathy to using outside criminals.

Carlo Gambino, for instance, did not like rackets that required the use of too many organized noncareer criminals. Chop shop and stolen car rackets require the use of outside mechanic experts, who Gambino feared would crack under police investigation and turn on the mob to save themselves. That is a peril ever present for the crime families, and thus dealing with firm career crooks becomes a pleasure. Outside prison gangs maintain a stern code in their membership and will react violently when they judge such actions to be required.

Typical among these is the so-called Dixie Mafia, drawn in large measure from tough southern prisons. The Dixie Mafia may be largely a journalistic invention in that its "organization" is rather loose, more operating on a unorganized networking basis. Still, there are members of this loose group always ready to carry out missions for the mob, ranging from extortion to contraband trafficking of all types to homicides to order.

Some of the other prison gangs known to cooperate at times with the mob still take care of their own businesses. Even those gangs noted in prison for following strict racial or religious lines generally make an exception in dealing with the Mafia. It is, as one mobster has been described as explaining such acts, "sort of professional courtesy."

This would apply to the Texas Syndicate, made up of Mexican-American inmates from El Paso and San Antonio, and to the Mexican Mafia, composed of Mexican Americans from southern California in several of the state's institutions and seven other states. Its leadership structure can be said to closely mirror the Cosa Nostra organization, which gives mafiosi confidence in dealing with them. Any outfit that mimics the mob can't be all bad.