President Donald Trump’s crackdown on MS-13 has brought down thousands of cartel members across the country, but now those same criminals are gaining influence in America’s prisons.
Corrections facilities in Virginia and Maryland have seen their MS-13 populations surge as much as 32 percent over the past two years, according to The Washington Post. The gang is now operating in many prisons in much the same way as it does on the streets — by demanding a “tax” in exchange for protection. As a result, gang fights in some prisons have gone from biannual affairs to monthly realities.
Gang activity has plagued the American prison system for decades with criminal syndicates such as the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and Aryan Brotherhood all vying for control, and MS-13 has proven to be a dangerous newcomer. Its racial and often lingual divide gives it a fruitful base for recruitment or conscription.
“They control the Hispanic population,” an investigator told WaPo. “They make them pay rent like they do on the streets. They make them work out. They make them join with them in fights.”
Virginia’s independent inmates have lashed out at MS-13 members as well. In early 2016, inmates in two of Prince George County Jail’s 18 units began beating any MS-13 member transferred to their block. In nearby Fairfax, MS-13 makes up roughly 40 of the jail’s 1,000 inmates, twice as many as a year ago, according to WaPo. The surge has triggered dozens of inmates to flock to the rival 43 Mob gang, inciting even more violence.
The most vicious conflicts arise between MS-13 and long-time rivals the 18th St. Gang. Both syndicates reportedly have standing “J.O.S.” or “jump on sight” orders, making it nearly impossible to maintain peace in the facilities they share. Prison officials try to keep individual gang populations at manageable levels and steer them away from rivals. It’s nearly impossible shuffle prisoners around effectively, however, due to America’s high level of incarceration.
RELATED: Trump To MS-13
The Department of Justice and ICE show no signs of slowing down their war on MS-13, and President Donald Trump singled out the cartel for destruction in his State of the Union speech last week. Trump addressed the parents of two young girls slain by MS-13.
“Six members of the savage MS-13 gang have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders,” Trump said, as the girls’ parents wept. “Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our country’s laws to enter the country as illegal unaccompanied minors and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school. Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy and Robert, tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. Please stand. Thank you very much.”
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