This Is What It's Like to Belong to a Prison Gang in the Deep South

Drugs, guns, bombs, fights—it seems like the Simon City Royals are into all kinds of mischief in Mississippi.

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Jun 17 2015, 2:30pm

Photo via Flickr user Kate Ter Haar

Last month, the Sun Herald reported that a gang called the Simon City Royals was on the rise in South Mississippi. Since 2010, law enforcement sources told the paper, the gang's statewide membership had grown from around 1,200 to close to 2,000, and the group is especially powerful in the southern part of the state, where they've arguably eclipsed more established brands like the Bloods and the Crips. The gang has been all over the local news since a federal investigation uncovered an illicit gun-trafficking scheme and sent 15 members to prison in 2012.

The Royals originated in Chicago several decades ago, and many of their senior members are doing time in federal prison on gun charges. But as is the case with plenty of other gangs, leaders maintain control of the organization through a system of intermediaries.

Recently, VICE got in touch with an active member of the Simon City Royals doing time in the feds on a felony gun charge. He explained the gang's origins, what they're up to now, and what he's got planned for the Simon City Royals when he gets out.

VICE: How did the Simon City Royals start?
"Vick": We originated as a pure white organization. We started as "four" white boys trying to hold down a park on the Northside. We were called the Simon City Executioners—this was in the late 1930s. We started out as guns for hire. Then we started being called the Simon City Assassins—this was in the 1950s. We were just poor dudes trying to make ends meet the only way we knew how. We were actually a white supremacy organization until 1980, when we united with the Gangster Disciples (GDs). Before 1980, we were like the Crips or the Bloods, no laws or policies, [but] 1980 is when we became the Simon City Royals. We got our colors, laws, policies, [and] unity. We became an organization.

Where did you start, and where are you active?
Northside of Chicago. Simon City is actually the name of a park on the Northside. It still stands today. We are affiliated with the GDs, Latin Folks, Cobras, Maniacs, Spanish Gangsters, and All Folks Nation. We're active in 13 states. But Mississippi is our largest branch—MCL, Mississippi Combat Legion.

How did the gang migrate to Mississippi from Chicago?
Just like all gangs. Brothers from Chicago were down South doing dirt. They got hemmed up and locked up in the state system. They built bonds with Mississippi dudes in prison and made them brothers. When they got out, they took the gang with them. It's been around in Mississippi for the last 20 years or so.

Why did you join the gang?
I wanted to be a part of something that meant something—something that I could be proud to be. My mom and dad have been in prison almost my whole life. Then my last living grandparent died when I was 14, the same year that I joined in. They accepted me and helped me when no one else would. They understood not having no other family. My brother was also in prison. My sister had two kids and lived in a two bedroom trailer. I had to survive. I could relate to them. I 'm not a racist, so this was the only thing I could be and keep my self respect.

What kind of stuff do you guys get into in Mississippi, and how do you carry it?
We are into all sorts of things: tattoo shops, detail shops, bonding companies, vinyl siding companies—anything that helps us move forward. We 're trying to make it easy on our less fortunate [members], trying to make jobs for each other. My homeboys get down just like me. We 're all cut from the same cloth. People will see some hard-ass white boy and they 'll say, "He must be a Royal." We keep shit in line. We 're super strict on each other—get out of line and the brothers will get you. We pass out violations to each other with an iron fist. Ain 't no pity in Simon City.

Give us an example of how you get contraband items into prisons.
Me and some of the bros are sitting in the state pen and we got this guard trying to be one of us. We 've got him convinced we're gonna put him down with us. He's bringing in all kinds of shit: cell phones, weed, meth, whatever we told him. We would call and have the shit dropped off, then he would bring it in. Then he figured out that he was never gonna get put down, and he tried to stop. So when we started running out of shit, we made a call to some bros. They went to his girl 's house where they had been dropping off shit and waited. When he pulled up and got out they got him. He tried to run and my bro that was in the van hit him. After that shit got sweet. The guards were spooked.

What about the meth scene on the street?
The meth scene has got out of hand, too many bullshit people cooking. Hell, anybody is a dope cook now. Everybody gets high. Nobody sleeps. It 's crazy. I'm gonna get out of here and try to get the brothers off the bullshit and get them on something positive, something that will show unity without having to break the law. Let them know we can have things without the dump shit. Start companies to give brothers jobs to help keep us out of prison, raise our families.

How much time are you serving?
I'm serving 53 months for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. My time's almost done. In the feds, our numbers are so small that we unite with all Latin folks to form a structure separate from the GDs, but we still ride with them. We aid the GDs, but we 're a single organization. We don't answer to anyone. A lot of people misunderstand. We deal with our own. Nobody touches a Royal but a Royal. We vote who would be best for the job, who has the most knowledge of how things should run, who deals with problems the best.

Watch the VICE News documentary "Murder, Mayhem, and Meditation" on gangs and prison violence in California's Salinas Valley State Prison.

How do you carry it in prison?
I recruit and bring brothers into the fold. I was at one spot in Louisiana and I brought several brothers into this. They got patched up and carry the colors now. Simon City is about unity and staying together and watching each others backs. We did security for the poker tables up there. We were making good money for all of us on our books, too. We can adapt to any situation and come out winning. That is just how we do it. Simon City.

How do the Aryan gangs treat you?
They tend to shy away from us. They never understand what Royals are. They think we 're white boys that want to be black. Once they 're around us and actually ask questions and get an understanding, they come around, but never at first. They think we 're crazy! We usually show out to let them know just cause we 're country don't mean we're stupid or that we won't go.

As for how I get down, I 'm a problem solver. I make sure the brothers do right. I ran into some Texas Aryan Brotherhood dudes and they thought they were like that. Like they could run me off the pound, but it didn't happen. They didn't like the fact that I had black homies, but that's just how it is. We don't carry it like that in Mississippi or in the Simon City Royals.

Some names and other identifying details have been changed.

Follow Seth Ferranti on Twitter.

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