Friday, September 14, 2007

'Tangos' vs. Prison Gangs: Power in numbers

Overcrowding and understaffing at Texas prisons has forced inmates to devise their own safety solutions in response to prison gang violence, reports Patrick Brendel at The Back Gate. A fascinating development to counter gang power in the last 20 years has been the creation of "tangos," or non-gang affiliated, regional-based self-protection groups. A "tango" is
is a “hometown clique,” [TDCJ gang specialist Sigifredo] Sanchez said — “homeboys, people that fall into our system who come from the same geographic area.”

Prisoners are pressured to join established gangs, involving a lifelong commitment or to seek protection elsewhere from those gangs, he said.

David Stacks, criminal justice department deputy director for management operations, said prisoners naturally gravitate toward others with common interests or backgrounds — much like how high school students form social groups.

Starting about 15 or 20 years ago, prisoners, originally from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, banded together for protection from security threat groups, calling themselves the “Four Horsemen,” [TDCJ Special Investigation Unit Sgt. Javier] Leyva said.

The Four Horsemen became known as “Tangos — an old Hispanic expression meaning hometown,” Sanchez said.

Tangos are more attractive to most prisoners than security threat groups, because members are not bound to the group once released from prison. Also unlike security threat groups, tangos do not have hierarchies, officers or a constitution, he said.

Leyva said that, at most, a tango would appoint a spokesman to be the voice of the group at a particular facility.

Tangos formed in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. These two tangos, plus the original four, sometimes support one another and are collectively known as “Puro Tango Blast,” he said.

Other tangos include prisoners from San Antonio and El Paso. With only about 8 to 10 percent of prisoners in security threat groups, Stacks said, tango members quickly outnumbered traditional gang members.

“There’s a lot of strength in numbers — a lot of power,” Leyva said.

So much power, that security threat groups across the state have declared truces amongst one another in order to present a unified front against the tangos, he said.

According to Sanchez, one important factor to the formation of tangos was overcrowding in the state prison system.

Instead of the normal two months or less, offenders on their way to prison would stay six months to a year or more in county jails, where security threat groups didn’t have a strong presence. Prisoners would carry with them relationships formed in county jails to the prison system, he said.

Read the rest at The Back Gate. UPDATE: A commenter points to this recent Houston Press story about tangos.

11 comments:

whitsfoe said...

You know even before you posted this blog, I read that at the backgate and learned something new. Isn't that wild? No jump in/jump out policy with the tangos. I bet a sociologist would go wild in the Texas prison system. When TBG reported that other prison gangs were coming to a truce to battle these "you and me" type of survivors, they have to be getting respect.

If I ever get nailed, I'm a tango pre-commit! How much you want to bet that a bunch of these Enron thugs that didn’t go federal aligned with tango?

(oh, p.s. Henson, it was my "machine" that had the virus problem, and I took it to a non-tyc clinic and had it treated...eh-hem)

Anonymous said...

Cliques are nothing new in prisons. They're just meaner these days. They're in TYC as well.

Anonymous said...

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3rd Coast said...

See also this recent Houston Press article.

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:42, what does your post have to do with gangs ? Are all those listed gangs ? Is this free advertising for them?
I'm soooo confused !

Anonymous said...

i work for tDCJ and the "tango blast" problem is gtting worse. there was recently a assault on another group of offender by the tangos which showed ow dangrous they really can be. Something needs to be done .

Anonymous said...

hey one of the founder's of tango lives in houstone and his name is lou paiz but he's a bitch

Anonymous said...

I'm a former correctional officer, trained in Wichita Falls. In the academy, you have a whole section on Security Threat Groups, and believe me...just because the Tangos aren't recognized in TDC as a "gang," doesn't mean they aren't something to look out for. Thankfully, I had excellent instructors who showed us what to look for, and it's becoming more and more of a problem. At the Allred Unit, Tangos were more recognizable than la eme or TS. Why they're not considered a prison gang, I'll never know, but they're definately out there.

Anonymous said...

Being a ex-inmate & down with the "HOUSTONE",from 1988 -2000. This is nothing like you ex-or-current officers are putting it. They are not a gang or have rules, blood in & blood out is not there way. They are just standing together as a group and not as prey. You should set down with these guys who was once there doing the same thing these guys are doing. If officers were doing there jobs and not turning there backs to the shit we were doing. Even promoting us to check our homies as they come in on the chain. It was an open floor for white boy's. One day it was the mexican's floors. The next day was the blacks day. It was like this on any farm you went to. I was the speaker for H-TOWN on the unit i was on, and officers would tell us who hit the unit and what time to open the floor. SO STOP BULLSHITTING THESE PEOPLES WHO DON'T KNOW BETTER.

Anonymous said...

My son is at garza east..full of tango blast...i visited with him yesterday mijo is only 20..he has seen sum krazi stuff,he's only been their 15 months on a 3....he tells me tdc isnt classifying adequately,a t.s member transferd their it was quite obvious with his tatts.anyhow he got attacked by atleast 10 tango blast...c;mon now that was very unnecessary,tdc could've prevented a t.s. member from being transferd to tango blast territory...in my opinion straight up set up....mijo flies with god and himself,i ask god to keep him safe and bring him home soon...