Security Threat Groups (STGs)
Jess Maghan, Ph.D.



Ironic as it may seem, it is now safe to say that prison gang oversight is becoming as sophisticated
as the gangs themselves. The national (and international) intelligence sharing, technological
surveillance, officer training programs, emergency preparedness, interagency cooperation, research
and evaluation of Security Threat Groups or gangs in the prison environment have emerged as a
priority custodial operations and security component of modern correctional services. Current
security and custody jargon refers to the prison gang problem as Security Threat Groups (STGs).
Anti-gang policies and procedures have moved to the forefront of institutional security priorities. The
U.S. Bureau of Justice Administration's (BJA) now provides information related to prison gangs,
gang members, and prison gang activities through its Regional Information Sharing System (RISS).3
It also provides technical assistance and training on a national basis to correctional agencies and allied
law enforcement personnel. This network is evolving into a formal system for the sharing of gang
intelligence data and strategies.

However, these STG control efforts must be carefully construed. One of the strongest objections to
enhancing the institutional focus on frequent, violent offenders is that the present system is already
sharply focused. If correctional agencies are already concentrating on the most dangerous offenders,
it will do little good and conceivably some harm to urge still greater concentration. The safety and
security of those inmates who seek to do their time and cooperated with institutional programs are
jeopardized in the process of overarching efforts solely focused on controlling inmate gangs. The
ability for non-gang inmates to avoid gang involvement is becoming less tenable. This population of
inmates is seriously in need of primary focus. They, along with the correctional officers, are
increasingly forced to survive within a security regime designed solely to control gang-bangers and
troublemakers.

On the extreme side the gang rules of the street now apply to the correction facility. The mentality
of the gang "drive-by execution" has become manifest behind the walls of our correctional facilities.
Gangs flourish in prisons for protection purposes, just as gangs flourish in the street for social reasons
of turf and protection. Just as gang leaders may "police" neighborhood turf these strategies often
erupt into assassinations. Inmates and staff are murdered and mutilated on "orders" from prison gang
leaders.