Prisons Face 'Unique Challenges' With MS-13

Officials grapple with more fights, attacks, even extortion as MS-13 population rises behind bars
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2018 9:04 AM CST
In this March 26, 2012, file photo, an MS-13 gang member attends mass at a prison in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador.   (AP Photo/Luis Romero, File)

(Newser) – The good news: Hundreds of MS-13 gang members have been arrested over the past few years. The bad news: Those gang members are now wreaking havoc in the prisons they're in, perpetrating acts of violence and extortion to gain control over their locked-down domains. The Washington Post details the increasing number of gang fights and attacks resulting from MS-13's desire to take charge of their surroundings. "MS-13 presents unique challenges … to the correctional system," the head of Maryland's corrections system says. The Post notes that as the percentage of MS-13 members in prisons' overall populations rises—local prisons the paper surveyed report double-digit percent increases in MS-13 inmates over the past two years—so do the problems as the MS-13ers get into "turf wars" with members of other gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and Aryan Brotherhood.

In the case of one Maryland prison, MS-13 members even started imposing a "tax" on fellow inmates (usually Hispanics), offering them protection in exchange for commissary goods. Other inmates eventually balked, immediately attacking any MS-13 member transferred to their unit as a preemptive strike. Prison officials try to separate MS-13 members so they can't work together, and also attempt to keep them away from rival gangs, as there are often "jump on sight" directives when rivals are spotted. Sometimes MS-13 members, often in prison for extended periods due to the serious nature of their crimes, have to be transferred to another prison to remedy the issues. Check out the Post for its interviews with a handful of the alleged gang members, as well as the New York Times for why President Trump referenced the gang in his State of the Union speech. (Read more MS-13 stories.)

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