Texas: Home of the Country's Two Largest White Supremacist Prison Gangs

James Byrd, an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas kingpin, was ordered to spend the rest of his life sentence in solitary confinement.
James Byrd, an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas kingpin, was ordered to spend the rest of his life sentence in solitary confinement.

A new report released Monday shows just how big of a problem Texas's white supremacist prison gangs are. For starters, they're now active even in prisons outside of Texas.

According to the report, authored by the Anti-Defamation League, Texas is home to two of the largest prison gangs in the country, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and the Aryan Circle, which collectively have more than 3,500 members nationwide and one member as far away as France.  But these groups are not just made up of a bunch of inmates picking fights in the prison yard. They extend far beyond prison bars, the report notes. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, for example, is responsible for at least 33 murders in communities across Texas in the past 15 years, according to the report.

That group has also made quite a few headlines in recent months following several big crime busts. Last fall, the feds sent 73 Aryan Brotherhood of Texas members to prison, concluding a six-year investigation that originated in Houston in 2009. As the Houston Chronicle reported, some of these men had sliced off fingers of corpses as souvenirs from people they killed or used a blow torch to burn off a man's tattoo. Around the same time last fall, a kingpin of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas was sentenced to serve the rest of his life prison sentence in solitary confinement so that he couldn't operate the gang by associating with other inmates. The feds say that guy had once stabbed a person 37 times in the face, and once even soaked a piece of bread in his victim's stab wound, then made him eat it.

But according to the Anti-Defamation League, the majority of white supremacist gang members aren't doing time for morbidly violent crimes like this kingpin. They're in for drugs — meaning they only serve two or three years and then are dumped back into the community, where they may continue making meth. In fact, white supremacist gangs grew in the 21st century thanks largely to the growth and accessibility of meth, according to the report. And also thanks to social media. As the Anti-Defamation League notes, "Although one might think that members of organized crime groups might be reluctant to use social media websites, nothing could be further from the truth."

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Most recently, earlier this month in East Texas, the Feds busted an Aryan Brotherhood meth ring that turned out to be run by women, who apparently weren't very shy about their white supremacy on the Internet, as the Daily Beast pointed out. Women aren't allowed to be formal members of the gangs, according to the report, but they are allowed to help out; in that case, they're called "featherwoods." A few weeks ago, the feds busted 17 people, led by three alleged featherwoods, with 560 grams of meth in Longview. Their meth ring was supposedly linked to two execution-style murders that had recently happened, though U.S. Attorney John Bales was not certain at the time.

Bales called the women's involvement an "unfortunate expression of girl power."

Perhaps he meant an unfortunate expression of racism.

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