|Founding location||San Quentin State Prison, California, United States|
|Territory||Federal prison system|
|Membership (est.)||300 full members, with 15,000+ associates in and out of prison and 300 in prisons|
|Criminal activities||Murder, assault, drug trafficking, robbery, gambling, extortion, contract killing, racketeering, arms trafficking, inmate prostitution, human trafficking, dog fighting|
|Allies||Mexican Mafia, Sinaloa Cartel, Mexikanemi, Sureños, Hells Angels, Vagos MC, Pagans MC, Sons of Silence, Nazi Lowriders, Public Enemy No. 1, European Kindred, Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Dirty White Boys, American Mafia, Irish Mob, Juggalos|
|Rivals||Black Guerrilla Family, D.C. Blacks, Bloods, Crips, Black Stones, Nuestra Familia, Norteños, Texas Syndicate, MS-13, Outlaws MC, Aryan Circle|
The Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the Brand, or the AB, is a white supremacist and Neo-Nazi prison gang and organized crime syndicate in the United States with an estimated 15–20,000 members in and out of prison. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, although the Brotherhood makes up only a tiny percentage of the U.S. prison population, it is responsible for a highly disproportionate number of prison murders.
Organization of its whites-only membership varies from prison to prison, but is generally hierarchical, headed by a 12-man council topped by a 3-man commission. The group has an affiliation with Aryan Nations, and various alliances and rivalries with other prison gangs.
The Aryan Brotherhood uses various terms, symbols and images to identify themselves, including shamrocks, swastikas, and Celtic and other symbols, and may swear a blood oath or take a pledge.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideology and motivation
- 3 Operations and membership
- 4 Organization and affiliation
- 5 Symbology and identification
- 6 Categorization and analysis
- 7 Media depictions
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Background and origins
Until the 1960s, most prisons in the United States were racially segregated. As prisons began to desegregate, many inmates organized along racial lines. The Aryan Brotherhood is believed to have been formed at San Quentin State Prison, but it may have been derived from or inspired by the Bluebird Gang. They decided to strike against the blacks who were forming their own militant group called the Black Guerrilla Family. In the early 1970s the Aryan Brotherhood had a connection with Charles Manson and the Manson Family. Several members of the Family, who were not in prison at the time, attempted to join forces. The Manson Family became split, the Comoites following former Family member Kenneth Como, and the Mansonites following Manson. However, the relationship did not last long as the Aryan Brotherhood considered Manson "too leftist", while members also took offense of the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
1980s and 90s
In 1981, Thomas Silverstein and Clayton Fountain were charged with the murder of an African American inmate named Robert Chappelle in the Marion control unit. It was believed that Silverstein and Fountain strangled Chappelle in his cell. Later on Silverstein and Fountain killed Raymond Smith, a friend of Robert Chappelle. The two men stabbed Smith 67 times. Later Silverstein started to plot on killing a prison guard officer. On October 22, 1983, gang members from the Aryan Brotherhood killed two correction officers at the United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois. Silverstein killed a prison guard named Merle Clutts in which Clutts was stabbed approximately 40 times. Several hours later Fountain also killed a prison guard named Robert Hoffman. The tactics used were developed for a prior inmate murder; Silverstein used an improvised knife and handcuff key while being taken to the showers. After picking the lock, Silverstein attacked and killed Merle Clutts. Fountain used similar tactics to kill Robert Hoffman.
By the 1990s, the Aryan Brotherhood had shifted its focus away from killing for strictly racial reasons and focused on organized crime, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and sanctioned murders. They took on organized crime-level power inside of the prison system, and, in certain prisons, they may hold more power than even the Italian crime families within the prison system. For example, after being assaulted while incarcerated in Marion Federal Penitentiary in 1996, Gambino crime family boss John Gotti allegedly asked the Aryan Brotherhood to murder his attacker. Gotti's attacker was immediately transferred to protective custody and the planned retaliation was abandoned.
In April 1993 members of the Aryan Brotherhood formed an unlikely alliance with the Gangster Disciples in the southern Ohio correctional facility in Lucasville. The two groups then initiated the Lucasville Prison Riot, which lasted eleven days. The two gangs took several guards hostage and killed nine inmates. The gangs then killed a guard in retaliation against the state government. In all ten people died during the riot.
Investigations and prosecutions
In late 2002, 29 leaders of the gang were simultaneously rounded up from prisons all over the country and brought to trial under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The intention was to bring death sentences for at least 21 of them, in a manner similar to tactics used against organized crime. The case produced 30 convictions but none of the most powerful leaders received a death sentence. Sentencing occurred in March 2006 for three of the most powerful leaders of the gang, including Barry Byron Mills (born 1948) and AB "lieutenant" Tyler "The Hulk" Bingham, who were indicted for numerous crimes, including murder, conspiracy, drug trafficking, and racketeering and for ordering killings and beatings from their cell. Bingham and Mills were convicted of murder and sent back to United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility Prison (ADX) in Florence, Colorado where they are serving life sentences without parole, escaping the death penalty.
Prosecuting the gang has been difficult, because many members are already serving life sentences with no possibility of parole, so prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for 21 of those indicted but have dropped the death penalty on all but five defendants. By September 2006, the 19 indictees not eligible for the death penalty had pleaded guilty. The first of a series of trials involving four high level members ended in convictions in July 2006.
On June 23, 2005, after a 20-month investigation, a federal strike force raided six houses in northeastern Ohio belonging to the "Order of the Blood", a criminal organization controlled by the Aryan Brotherhood. Thirty-four Aryan Brotherhood members or associates were arrested and warrants were issued for ten more.
Barry Mills, Tyler Bingham and Thomas Silverstein are among the leaders of the gang. Former members include Michael Thompson and John Greschner. Thompson was a high school football star, and is part Native American. Thompson was sentenced to multiple life sentences with no chance of parole and will spend the rest of his life in protective custody sections of California prisons.
Ideology and motivation
The initial motivation for the formation of the group in San Quentin in 1964 was self-protection against an existing black prison gang. The SPLC has said that although they clearly have a white supremacist ideology, the major motivation is money, and they have occasionally set aside racist views, such as allying themselves with Latino gangs, in order to make a profit.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States, has designated the Aryan Brotherhood as "the nation’s oldest major white supremacist prison gang and a national crime syndicate," and the "largest and deadliest prison gang in the United States.
Daryl Johnson, leader of the Domestic Terrorist Analysis Team whose job it is to monitor the activity of right-wing militias and domestic terorrist groups, said that white supremacist organizations in prisons are a "radicalization threat", committing acts of violence inside prison, and then in the larger communities after release. Johnson named the Aryan Brotherhood, Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and the Aryan Circle as examples of white supremacist prison-based gangs which are radicalization threats.:325
In an investigation in California prisons which ended in 1989, the FBI characterized the Brotherhood as a "violent, white supremacist group,"  and a 2008 DHS intelligence conference in Newport, Rhode Island, divided violent domestic extremism into three types, and concluded that white supremacist groups like Aryan Brotherhood remained a threat and a cause for concern.:189
Operations and membership
The Aryan Brotherhood has members inside federal and state prisons, and outside on the streets. All members are Caucasian, and are either in prison or have been in prison. Joining is difficult; new members are on probation for a year, must swear a blood oath for life, and commit a violent act to join such as killing a rival inmate or assaulting a guard. Members are inculcated with various reading materials smuggled into prisons published by Aryan Nations, Militia of Montana, and other groups, as well as Mein Kampf, The Art of War, and Machiavelli's The Prince.
Criminal activities inside prison walls include male prostitution, gambling, and extortion, and drug trafficking, primarily involving methamphetamines. Outside prison, the AB engages in every kind of criminal enterprise, "including murder-for-hire, armed robbery, gun running, methamphetamine manufacturing, heroin sales, counterfeiting and identity theft," according to the SPLC.
Organization and affiliation
After being formed in California prisons in the mid-1960s, the Aryan Brotherhood had spread to most California prisons by 1975. As some of the leaders were sent to federal prison, they took the opportunity to start organizing in the federal prisons. This ended by creating two separate, but related organizations, the California Aryan Brotherhood, and the federal prison Aryan Brotherhood. As a former top leader said, "“They’re like two related but different crime families. They each have their [ruling] commission… but they’re allies." By the late 1970s, there were fewer than 100 members, but that grew rapidly as they absorbed other racist and skinhead groups, with over 20,000 members in the federal and state prison systems.
In the early days of the group, there was a one-man, one-vote system, but this broke down with the rapid expansion, and a hierarchical structure was establised, headed by a 12-man council, and overseen by a three-member commission. The federal and state systems each had their own council and commission. Organization varies somewhat, from prison to prison. For example, in the Arizona prison system, members are known as "kindred" and organize into "families". A "council" controls the families. Kindred may recruit other members, known as "progeny", and serve as a mentor for the new recruits.
A sort of internal banking or accounting system was instituted, which allowed them to "tax" criminal activity on the streets, and collect 20% on the proceeds, money which is then laundered and controlled by the commission.
Affiliations, alliances and rivalries
In 1992, the Brotherhood established ties with American Mafia crime, via boss John Gotti, who was sentenced to prison and contacted the Brotherhood for protection while he was in prison. Gotti also organized a business partnership on the outside between his group and the Brotherhood on the outside, which greatly expanded the group's power on the streets.
Their communication and control has become so tight and efficient, that they have been able to organize and direct major criminal enterprises on the outside, even from solitary confinement, much to the frustration of federal and state authorities.
Symbology and identification
The Aryan Brotherhood uses various symbols and images to identify members, and the organization, and spoken or written mottos and oaths to secure them.
Tattoos and other marks
New members were branded with a tattoo, following the procedure in a prison novel popular among inmates. The image was either a green shamrock (also called, "the rock"), the letters AB, the number 666. "The brand" meant the inmate belonged to Aryan Brotherhood.
Like most prison gangs, Aryan Brotherhood members mark themselves with distinctive tattoos. Designs commonly include the words "Aryan Brotherhood", "AB", "666", Nazi symbolism such as SS, sig runes, and swastikas, as well as shamrocks and Celtic iconography.
Mottos and pledges
Other means of identification of group membership were the "blood in, blood out" motto symbolizing life-long membership with no exit other than death, and "the pledge", an eight-line oath that each new member had to swear.
Categorization and analysis
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the gang makes up less than 0.1% of the prison population, but it is responsible for between 18-25% of murders in the federal prison system.
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the Domestic Extremism Lexicon report in 2009 that defines different classifications of extremists. On the last entry of the 11-page report, it broke down the "white supremacist movement" into six categories: Neo-nazi, Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity, racist skinhead, Nordic mysticism, and Aryan prison gangs.
An analysis at Slate describes the Aryan prison gang classification as "further outside the white supremacy mainstream," and describes them as largely independent of other white supremacist groups, although the lines blurred as time went on. But it also refers to them as "more flexible" than other white supremacist groups since "their criminal goals usually take precedence over ideology."
- Aryan Brotherhood—National Geographic documentary
- America's Deadliest Prison Gang
- Ross Kemp on Gangs (2004–2008)
- Gangland: "Aryan Brotherhood" (History Channel)
- Outlaw Empires (1 episode, 2012)
- Marked—on the History Channel (August 27, 2009)
- Shot Caller (2017)
- Supremacy (2014)
- Inherent Vice (2014)
- Honour (2014)
- Snitch (2013)
- Fire with Fire (2012)
- The Experiment (2010)
- Once Fallen (2010)
- Felon (2008)
- Death Race (2008)
- Big Stan (2007)
- The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2007)
- Miami Vice (2006)
- Lockdown (2000)
- Animal Factory (2000)
- American History X (1998)
- Dead Man Walking (1995)
- Top Dog (1995)
- Higher Learning (1995)
- Blood in Blood out (1993)
- American Me (1992)
- South Central (1992)
- Ricochet (1991)
- An Innocent Man (1989)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 4, episode 1: "The Ghost") (2016)
- Ray Donovan (season 3: 2015)
- Breaking Bad (Season 5: 2012-2013)
- Person of interest (season 2, episode 1: "The Contingency") (2012)
- Explorer (2010)
- American Gangs (2009)
- Sons of Anarchy (2008, 2014)
- Raines (2007)
- Prison Break (2005–2009)
- Law & Order (2004)
- Oz (1997–2003)
- Police Story (season 5, episode 5: "The Broken Badge") (1978)
- Hard Time (comic book; 2004–06)
- Christian Identity
- Ku Klux Klan
- Nazi Lowriders
- Prison tattooing
- Public Enemy No. 1 (street gang)
- White power skinhead
- ""Blood In, Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood", Crime Magazine". Crimemagazine.com. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- Charles Montaldo (2014). "The Aryan Brotherhood: Profile of One of the Most Notorious Prison Gangs". About.com.
- Dan Freedman. "Sinaloa cartel uses street gangs as U.S. franchises". Archive.sltrib.com. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
- McCleskey, Claire O'Neill (November 29, 2012). "The allies sureños have are "Skinheads" or "Nazis"". InSight Crime.
- "Hells Angels MC".
- "Pagans MC".
- "Sons Of Silence MC".
- "The Nazi Low Riders - NLR". About.com.
- "Public Enemy No.1 (PENI)".
- "European Kindred".
- Posted by JJ (2009-12-06). "Prison Gangs: The Aryan Brotherhood - CollegeTimes". Collegetimes.us. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- "ARYAN PRISON GANG LINKS WITH MAFIA Drugs, money & the Gambinos". Nydailynews.com. November 3, 2002. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- Stroud, Sara (December 21, 2008). "Alleged shooter had gang ties". Vallejo Times-Herald.
- Clay, Nolan (September 17, 2015) "Irish Mob and United Aryan Brotherhood behind Cushing prison disturbance, Oklahoma County sheriff confirms"
- "DC Blacks".
- "Nuestra Familia".
- "Texas Syndicate".
- "Aryan Circle".
- Holthouse, David. "Smashing the Shamrock". SPLC Intelligence Report. Fall 2005. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- Coverson, Laura. "Aryan Brotherhood Tried for 40 Years of Prison Mayhem". ABC News. March 15, 2006. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- David Grann. "The Brand", The New Yorker, February 16, 2004,(subscription required) collected in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes (2010).
- Ed Sanders, The Family, 1971, 1560253967. P. 255
- "How a 1983 Murder Created America's Terrible Supermax-Prison Culture". Justin Peters. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Duersten, Matthew. "Who'll Stop the Reign?". LA Weekly. February 3, 2005. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
- Hughes, Jim. "Aryan Brotherhood Makes Home in State". Denver Post, November 24, 2002. Retrieved October 27, 2006.[dead link]
- "Divided by bars and colour". BBC. December 5, 2002. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
- "THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CURTIS FLOYD PRICE, Defendant and Appellant". ceb.com. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
- "United States v. Barry Byron Mills, et al" (PDF). Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- Matt Dellinger. "Murder in Maximum Security". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
- "Man fatally shot by officer identified". Mysanantonio.com. February 6, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
- "Aryan Brotherhood". Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- Johnson, Daryl (14 September 2012). Right-Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat is Being Ignored. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-1897-0. OCLC 820388137. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Freedom of Information Office, Paperless Archives; Freedom of Information Office (2006). Aryan Brotherhood FBI Files. Electronic resources : Paperless Archives. Beverly Hills: Paperless Archives. OCLC 880183968. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- Organized Crime, p.284, 2000
- Heege, Carrie A.; Byers, Bryan D. (15 December 2004). Bosworth, Mary, ed. Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities. 1. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. p. 40–41. ISBN 978-0-7619-2731-0. OCLC 755061966. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- Arizona Department of Corrections. "Arizona Aryan Brotherhood" Archived September 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- Tucker, Kenneth S. "Major Prison Gangs". Florida Department of Corrections. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- Brook, John Lee (June 2011). Blood In, Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood. SCB Distributors. ISBN 978-1-900486-80-4. OCLC 793002272. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- "Hate on Display: Aryan Brotherhood". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- "Domestic Extremism Lexicon" (PDF). Federation of American Scientists. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 26 March 2009. p. 10. IA-0233-09.
- Rastogi, Nina (2009-05-05). "The Six Flavors of White Supremacy". Slate. The Slate Group, LLC. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
- "Aryan Brotherhood". Tvsquad.com. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "National Geographic TV Series: Explorer". Channel.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "Discovery Channel TV Series: American Gangs". Dsc.discovery.com. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2011.