Gangs, Cars, and the Social Hierarchy of Prison Life — Randy Lanier’s Prison Diary
While I was away at Springfield having a hip replacement there were many incidents here at USP Coleman. The biggest one was the gang fight in the rec yard between the Bloods and the Latin Kings. They had homemade knives and locks on a belt. Despite shots being fired from the guard tower several inmates refused to quit fighting. Many officers responded and they too ended up fighting with the inmates.
After that situation the administration split the rec yard, so that now the North side, and the Southside inmates rec separately.
We have three sections on the rec yard, all fenced in with razor wire on top. The softball field is one section, the handball courts and the basketball courts is another section . The soccer/football and track is a separate section. When the north side has the indoor rec center they also have use of the soccer and track. When the North side has the rec center and soccer field, the Southside inmates can use the softball ,handball and basketball courts. Upon arriving at the rec yard you are locked in your section. The schedule changes each day.
Prison has changed in many ways over the years, There are more gangs and now. As a result of all the intimidation by gang members, new groups known as “cars” evolved in order to combat the gangs.
Not quite a gang, cars are groups of inmates from various states. For example there may be an Alabama car, Florida car, Kentucky car, Boston car, etc. The people in the car agree to stick together, look out for each other, and protect each other in the case of gang conflicts. If someone from their state disrespects or does something that causes gangs or other inmates to get upset, the car inmates will step in and straighten the situation out.
The principle difference between gangs and cars is the level of input from their members. While a gang may have a single leader, the car works more democratically with members of the group deciding together on the best course of action and for this reason cars are not considered gangs. Also once you are in gang you are there forever, blood in, blood out. Cars are far more loosely organized and you can choose to leave the group.
When an inmate is in a car, no gang member can extort, bully, or assault him. The car hands out any punishment that may be required. However, if you are in a car and the car has a problem, you are expected to “ride” with them.
An inmate chooses to be in a car or a gang. Or, like me, they can choose to remain independent. You might wonder if it is difficult to be on my own without the “protection” of a gang or car. It isn t so bad, you just have to avoid situations that would create conflict, which usually involves drugs, gambling, sex, or other “against the rules” activities. I am also careful about who I associate with as sometimes you can get dragged into problems by the people you associate with. I keep myself and my behavior clean and I usually don’t have issues.