This week, seven members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas were sentenced to prison, the latest result of a crackdown on the white supremacist prison gang stemming from a 2013 federal racketeering indictment out of Houston. But while the feds are working to wipe out this racist collective, the Brotherhood's tentacles are even now spreading outside the confines of the prison system.
The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) emerged in the 1980s, adopting the name of a notorious California gang prison gang founded decades earlier. Legend has it the Texas inmates even asked the original for permission to start their own chapter.
They ABT were initially feared for the brutal murders their members conducted while waging war with rivals, like the Aryan Circle and Texas Mafia. But as members got out, they organized on the streets and dove into the methamphetamine business. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is their stronghold, but they also have a presence in Houston and San Antonio. Although most of their founding and longtime members are in 24-hour lockdown units, their name and reputation elicits terror inside and outside the correctional system. The gang is known for their revenge killings and they live by the motto, "God forgives, brothers don't."
Like most serious prison gangs, the Brotherhood operate with a "blood in, blood out" policy and their shot-callers are career prison gangsters who act as generals for the gang and issue orders from their cells in super max units.
"It's all about brutality. The most violent ones have the most respect. The only intelligence needed is how to get in the drugs, other than that it's all about muscle," a federal prisoner we'll call Crazy Billy tells me. Crazy Billy is a 35-year-old Ohio native who got pinched for robbing a bank. He's been inside for the last 12 years and has had many dealings with the ABT and white prison gangs in general.
"People join gangs because they want to be a part of something. That or they're too weak to stand on their own. So they want to be in with whoever runs the yard. I've seen dudes from New York patching ABT because that's who's running the yard," Crazy Billy says. "I don't really like the gang. I've had my beefs with them. But I do know this: When they're deep on a yard, it makes other races respect the whites more. Because they know that at least that group will roll."
As the gang has grown and spread out into the world, street operations have expanded and the feds have brought several indictments against them. This latest racketeering case dates back to the early 1980s and lists a multitude of prison and street murders, assaults, and kidnappings along with charges related to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine . But with the latest round of sentencing, much of the ganger's leadership has been dismantled.
"I know that in the state system the ABT are on permanent lockdown. The dudes are not happy about the indictments—it's cut off some of their communications," Crazy Billy says. "Most of them want to be looked up to. They're always in everyone's business. They want to be in the mix of whatever's going down. Why? Cause they don't have anything better to do. They're not trying to better themselves. They're trying to a) get more power, and b) get more money."
Despite federal prosecutions that have netted 73 convictions, no gang member has been charged with a hate crime. Instead, the feds have gone after the whites-only gang strictly as a criminal enterprise. The Aryan Brotherhood, of course, hold race-based beliefs but have repeatedly shown that when it comes to doing business they will work closely with Latino, black, and other groups. The only color they hold truly sacred is green.
"I haven't found too many that hold to their racial beliefs. Most of them are needle-Nazi's and only looking out for themselves and their gang." Crazy Billy says. "They won't let another race jump on anyone though. If they did, that'd be it for them. They don't have any problems working with other races business-wise. They'll also take advantage of weaker whites. Out West the AB's taxes white lames to walk the yard."
The Department of Justice has referred to the recent round of convictions as a "decimation of the gang's leadership and violent members and associates." The gang's acting leader, Larry "Slick" Bryan, 52, was sentenced to 300 months in federal prison. But Crazy Billy offers a different perspective.
"When the ABT takes over, they are on point. If there's gonna be some racial shit popping off… everyone is fucking going," he says. "The ABs in Cali started to protect white dudes back in the day. Then they got a taste of power and just flipped and prayed on their own kind."
So even if the current crop of Aryan Brotherhood of Texas leadership has been thinned, the tribalism inside the prison system—and the gang's apparent ability to make money on the outside—ensure it won't be fading from view any time soon.
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