Two Towns of Jasper

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Hate in America

Prison Tattoos

Authorities have said that at least two of the men convicted of murdering James Byrd, Jr. -- John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer -- may have been involved with a racist prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood during the time they spent in prison at Tennessee Colony, Texas. Both men left prison covered with racist tattoos, a tell-tale sign of membership.

The most common Aryan Brotherhood tattoos include combinations of three-leaf clovers, a swastika, the letters A and B and three 6s. View more tattoos and their meanings. In order to hide gang affiliations from prison guards, many gang members hide these tattoos under other elaborate tattoos. Prison officials require at least one more indication of gang involvement besides tattoos.

Prison guards routinely inventory incoming prisoners for gang-related tattoos, or "badges," as they are referred to within the prisons. King and Brewer had no badges when they entered prison, but photographs taken after the murder show that Brewer and King had tattoos indicating membership in the KKK and Confederate Knights of America. King's collection included Nazi SS lightning bolts, satanic stars, the symbol of a white supremacist group and the lynching of a black man.

In an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Sammy Buentello, the chief expert on prison gangs for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, says that there are 10 major gangs operating inside the Texas prison system, including the Aryan Brotherhood, with about 425 members; the Mexican Mafia, the largest with an estimated membership of more than 1,400; the Texas Syndicate, another Hispanic group whose membership is estimated at 800; and the predominantly black Bloods, with about 170 members, and Crips, with about 660 members."

Not all white power tattoos advocate violence against African Americans. Some tattoos are a celebration of white heritage and signify white pride. (see Celtic cross at left.)

Find out more about prison gangs and hate groups in America on the following websites.

Anti-Defamation League Racist Groups in Prison Report
Learn more about tattoos and their meanings at this website.

Online Newshour Transcript: Prison Gangs
Betty Ann Bowser interviews two members of the Aryan Brotherhood and investigates prison gangs in Texas after the murder of James Byrd, Jr. -- November 19, 1998

Hate on Display
The Anti-Defamation League has pulled together this visual database of extremist symbols, logos and tattoos. Click on the image to find out what the symbol means.'s US Map of Hate Groups
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project counted 676 active hate groups in the United States in 2001. All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. Click on a state to find out how many hate groups exist there. Interesting Fact: Only Maine has no hate-based groups identified within its borders.