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This following essay is written by anarchist prisoner, Sean Swain, and was originally released on the Final Straw Radio show. For more info about how to support Sean, go here.
In Ohio prisons, pretty much everyone is in a gang whether they’re in a gang or not. If you’re an Ohio prisoner and you’re not in a gang, prison administrators will put you in one. And if there’s no gang for you, they’ll just create a new one.
The reason is, it’s a federal bloc grant swindle. Here’s how it works:
The U.S. Department of Justice keeps a kind of database on what it calls “Security Threat Groups,” or STGs, not to be confused with STDs, or “sexually transmitted diseases.” The Department of Justice does not monitor chlamydia or gonorrhea. Yet. At least, as far as I know.
What it does monitor, Security Threat Groups, includes groups like the Bloods, the Crips, the Gangsta Disciples, the Aryan Brotherhood. Those are the larger, more-recognizable so-called Security Threat Groups.
So, to keep a handle on these groups, the U.S. Department of Justice gives what it calls “bloc grant funding” to states. States like Ohio that participate in the STG-monitoring program maintain a database that it shares with the Department of Justice, keeping files on gang members and their activities. For each gang member the state monitors, the Department of Justice allots a certain amount of funds.
The more gang members, the more money the state prison system gets.
Back in the 1990s, you had a handful of gangs or Security Threat Groups. Each of those gangs had a handful of pretty visible members. There as an investigator at each prison whose job was principally something else, who kept files on these gangs.
Since then, with the availability of federal bloc grants, we now have seemingly hundreds of security threat groups, some of them having only two or three members, all registered in the computer database. We have seemingly tens of thousands of gang members filling the Ohio prisons. And we have not one– but two –investigators employed full-time at every Ohio prison, with their salaries covered by bloc grant funds; their offices’ expenses covered by bloc grant funds; their computer hardware for conducting their work covered by bloc grant funds.
Gangs are an industry.
I know prisoners who have been listed as gang members for simply growing up in a specific area where most of the kids join a specific group, or for getting junk mail from an organization not listed as a gang. A Jewish friend of mine was secretly gang-jacketed as a Black Panther for years for no reason at all and didn’t even know it.
You’ll recall that I was gang-jacketed in 2012 as being a “leader” of the Army of the 12 Monkeys– an organization without an organization –on the basis that my “ideology” matched theirs. So, because I imagine a world without leaders, I became a leader of an organization that has no organization.
None of this seems dubious to the folks who maintain the files.
In all of this, it’s the investigators themselves– those who are rewarded job security by the existence of gangs and gang members — who do the validating of gangs and gang members. That is, the investigators decide what a “security threat group” is, and decide what organizations meet that definition, and then further decide what “membership” in the group means and what constitutes “evidence” of “membership.”
Some religions have been validated as Security Threat Groups. Some prisoners have been validated as members for “associating” with the other prisoner that prison officials assigned to the same cell. So, saying hi to the prisoner who was moved into your cell could make you a member of his gang… which might be “The Presbyterians” if the prison’s investigator happens to be an over-sectarian Southern Baptist.
Essentially, the Security Threat Group database is like a cash register. Every time a prison investigator punches the keyboard, another check pops out.
Their kids braces and college educations are dependent on these investigators constantly expanding the number of gangs and gang members to monitor, so gangs proliferate… even if they don’t. And keep in mind, these gang jackets don’t get deleted when you step out of prison. Oh, no. This is a federal database. So, if you get gang-jacketed in prison as the grand poo-bah of the banana gang, whether it exists or not, when you get out, that local cop pulling you over can punch in your license plate number and get an alert that you are likely armed and dangerous. Your high school-aged nephew who borrowed your car to take his girlfriend to the movies might just get surrounded by SWAT teams and snipers because of a broken tail light.
Recently, Juggalos sued the Department of Justice when the DOJ refused to take the Juggalos out of their security threat group database. In case you don’t know, Juggalos are fans of a rap group called Insane Clown Posse. Juggalos generally dress up like clowns and drink a lot of Faygo-band soft drinks. That’s their thing. But, according to prison investigators, their proclivity to listen to the same music and enoy the same soft drinks and to apparently share the same subculture makes them a security threat group.
Their lawsuit is currently pending. In the meantime, whatever you do, don’t let it slip to prison investigators if you enjoy Faygo soft drinks.
This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. If you’re in the federal security threat group database, you ARE the resistance…
Sean Swain A243-205