Tag Archives: in re fernandez

Prison Gangs

18 Jan

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court strongly criticized the California’s use of segregation of gang members in prison.  It used to be that you were housed in solitary if you refused to assert your gang affiliation, or worse, the prison officials would assume that you were with a specific gang improperly and house you there anyways.  

The very first “gang” to ever appear in the sate system was the Mexican Mafia (La EME) which was created in the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy in the late 1950s.  Currently, in the state prisons the “gang members” primarily consist of Latinos from Southern California, which the Mexican Mafia has times to allegedly. Another known prison affiliation is the Nuestra Familia, another Latino gang, developed in Soledad Prison in the 1960s.  This organization was organized largely in part to protect younger Northern California inmates from members of the Mexican Mafia.  It is alleged that like La EME, Nuestra Familia has built close alliances with street gangs in its members’ home communities.

Another gang that has been a major contributor to racial frictions in prisons is the Black Guerrilla Family, which was founded in San Quentin Prison in 1966, gang experts say. The Black Guerrilla Family declined in numbers during the 1990s, but prison officials say that in about 2003 ago the group began a drive to rebuild its membership, recruiting heavily from black street gangs such as the 415 Kumi Nation, the Crips and the Bloods.

Additionally, there are two white gangs that operate within the prison system — the Aryan Brotherhood, which prison officials say was founded in San Quentin in 1967, and the Nazi Low Riders, an Aryan Brotherhood spin-off that first emerged in the juvenile prisons of the California Youth Authority in the 1970s — have contributed their own volatility to the ethnic mix inside state prisons.

All of these gangs have contributed to the racial segregation and gang formation that exists today in the prisons.  Most recently, the court made the decision regarding a formed “Prison Gang.”  The case involved two alleged members of the Northern Structure prison gang.  

The Northern Structure gang, also known as the Nortenos 14, was founded in 1984, by incarcerated northern California offenders. The gang consists of united gang members from violent northern California street gangs such as Varrio Santa Rosa Norte, Pachuco Loco, Varrio South Park, West Side Windsor, Brown Pride Norteño and several others. Northern Structure is governed by the Nuestra Familia.

In two petitions for habeas corpus challenging separate gang validation decisions by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in which prison staff determined that petitioners were active associates of the Northern Structure (NS) prison gang: 1) petition for Fernandez is denied, where three adequate sources, including a roster of prison inmates, support the validation of Fernandez as a gang associate; 2) petition for Saldana is granted because the debriefing report does not satisfy the evidentiary requirement specified in the regulations that requires that a debriefing report refer to specific gang-related conduct, and there is no other evidence indicating how Saldana was actually involved with the NS; and 3) the validation process employed by CDCR complies with due process requirements and there was no prejudicial error with respect to the limited disclosure of confidential source material.

The end story: all the CDCR needed was a rooster which was supported by other sources, such as testimony by prison inmates and that is enough to support the confirmation that you are a gang member.  

This case goes hand in hand with our last post, as the information that is required for the prosecution to press charges on individuals as gang members was drastically lowering, the recent decision that one gang member cannot be acting in futherance of a gang, might have some pull on how prison gang cases are also handled.