Gangs in Prison

The Decline of Traditional Prison Gangs

As the old saying goes, ‘what goes up always comes down’. That’s exactly whats happening to older, more traditional prison gangs that ruled yards since the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Older gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, Barrio Azteca, Texas Syndicate and Aryan Brotherhood are on the decline due to a new generation of rapidly growing prison cliques emerging across prisons nation wide. Todays young offenders tend to favor these loosely structured gangs that promote unity of ones city instead of ethnic or racial pride. Modern gangs are multiplying in numbers with young members ranging from 18 – 35 years old, where as most active members of traditional prison gangs consist of older offenders 35 to 60 years old.

New prison cliques refuse to follow traditional principles established by older prison gangs. Common traits of todays newer gangmembers are a lack of respect for both convicts and correctional officers. Although new cliques in prison are far less organized and aggressive than older security threat groups, new gangs create many problems inside prison. Cases of weaker inmates being robbed, assaulted and extorted are increasing due to todays gang predators.

While leaders of traditional gangs maintain order and control of their “soldiers”, new gangs do not have leaders to answer to. Modern gangmembers calls their own shots.

All prison gang rules have always required that members seek the authorized approval from their ranks before initiating an attack on a another offender. Gang members of todays prison gangs do not have to ask permission from anyone and tend to react on impulse. Major conflicts between both traditional and modern prison gangs have arose due to these differences. A clear example of the carelessness of todays modern prison gang members was made public after a reporter from the Houston Chronicle newspaper interviewed an offender belonging to the Tango Blast, a modern Texas prison gang that now controls most cell-blocks in TDCJ units across Texas.
“Tango will take anybody,” said Randy Moreno, an ex-convict who joined the Houston branch of the Tango Blast.” “You don’t even have to be down from Houston to be Tango Blast,” he said. “They’re like the headless horseman. He pops up out of nowhere. He’s chaotic, but he has no head to tell you what his goals are.”

Traditional prison gangs have all prohibited their members from conducting any form of financial or narcotics dealings with unorganized gangs such as the Tango Blast. The risk of a drug deal gone bad is high when dealing with a “headless horseman”.


Older prison gangs may be on the decline in America’s prison system but the level of their crimes remains severe. In 2003 members of the Barrio Azteca, an older, yet deadly prison gang were ordered to brutally beat and stab a Tango Blast member at the French Robertson maximum security prison located in Abilene, Texas. The victims attackers used boots and metal rods to beat and stab him while he sat using the restroom. The attack was instigated by the victim, a Tango Blast member who attempted to rape and extort a “kid” who was under the paid protection of the Barrio Azteca.

How long older prison gangs will exist is yet to be predicted. If modern prison cliques continue to grow at the rapid pace they currently are, Traditional prison gangs will soon be out of business.