Prison gangs form a unique part of the history and current functioning of the U.S. prison system. The gangs have long played both a symbiotic and a pestilential role in the prison system. They have evolved for a number of reasons unique to the U.S. prison system. And because of this, they have become an endemic part of the system. Prison gangs are not likely to be going anywhere soon.
Many of the reasons that prison gangs are allowed to continue functioning within the country’s carceral institutions are simply pragmatic. In the racially charged and diverse environment of prison, the gangs can actually help to maintain order by enforcing strict discipline on their members not to cross racial lines, an action that could easily spark a race riot. Because the gangs themselves are able to dish out harsh physical violence to keep their own members in check, the prisons are actually able to afford all of the prisoners far more freedom than would otherwise be possible. On the other hand, if there were no gangs, the guards themselves could not use preemptive violence to keep inmates from starting serious interracial conflicts. Therefore, in some of the most racially charged prison systems, like that found in the state of California, prison gangs help to maintain order that would otherwise only be possible by keeping the inmates on permanent lockdown.
But for all of the benefits that the prison gangs confer on the carceral system, there are many serious drawbacks. Unsurprisingly, gangs comprised of hardened criminals have a tendency to engage in crime. Part of the unspoken agreement that prisons have between themselves and prison gangs is that the guards and administrators tolerate a certain background level of criminal activity. This can include things like petty drug dealing, gambling and even prostitution. In exchange for being able to commit low-level, victimless crimes, the gangs are expected to keep order.
However, such unspoken and unwritten agreements are tenuous by their very nature. And this fragile equilibrium can easily be catastrophically disrupted by small inputs. One serious disruption has been the introduction of contraband cellphones. Rather than carrying out petty, victimless crimes on the inside, gang leaders use the phones to carry out serious, violent crimes on the outside. These have included hundreds of cases of witness intimidation, hired hits and even the murder of prison staff.
The threat of contraband cellphones has grown large enough to permanently throw the balance between prison gangs and internal institutional order out of whack. But now, Securus Technologies has devised a system that is 100 percent effective at combating contraband cellphones. Known as the Wireless Containment System, the device is able to intercept and block all illegal cellular calls originating from within its operational radius.