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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) Gangs

A new prison gang is emerging in California in the Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) of correctional institutions.

May 15, 2012  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is in a real mess. California is in financial trouble and CDCR has taken some serious hits. While trying to implement a court mandate to release 40,000 state prisoners to county jails and California communities, its internal inmate gang problems are exploding.

The CDCR's Internal Gang Investigators (IGIs) are some of the best in the nation, but they are only "plugging their fingers in the dike" and getting no help from the courts, institution administrators and the California politicians. Organizations such as the ACLU and Prison Law Collective are also working against them.

Over the last 50 years, the CDCR IGIs have become proficient in identifying and segregating prison gang members and security threat groups into Security Housing Units (SHU). This has somewhat reduced the power of these violent groups and lessened their control over the other inmate populations. They have disrupted and dismantled important criminal groups and their leaders operating in and out of the prison system. They are cooperating with local, state and federal law enforcement investigators and prosecutors.

Over the last dozen years, partly due to this effort and partly due to power group rivalries inside the big four California prison gangs, the CDCR has presided over the unprecedented wave of 30,000 prison gang members and their associates who have dropped out of these prison gangs. These frustrated defecting former gang members have become disillusioned with prison gang politics and have sought protective custody (PC).

CDCR has pledged to protect these inmates from their former gangs. The dangerous defectors are screened and debriefed by CDCR staff and placed into protective custody facilities or Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY). Whole sections of some facilities have been set aside to house protective custody inmates, but space is extremely limited in California's overcrowded prisons.

The sheer numbers of dropouts, jail informants, child molesters, and other "softies" who need protection has taxed CDCR's ability to properly protect all these inmates. Without CDCR's institutional protection, the inmates will find ways to form their own self protection groups. Given the nature of the criminal minds involved these self protection groups soon devolve into SNY gangs.

As far back as 20 years ago at Chino California Institute for Men (CIM) about a dozen inmates housed in the Birch Hall section formed a self-defense group. These men had grown tired of the bullying tactics of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, and had openly defied the most powerful gang in the system. Most of these men were former gang members themselves and were not strangers to criminal violence. Since most had sought PC protection from staff, they were considered snitches by other inmates. In Spanish, the slang term for informant or snitch was peseta, which was also a slang term for the Mexican silver 25 centavo coin.

Today, that peseta organization has grown into an organization numbering 1,500 members and associates and has been validated by CDCR as a gang. These pesetas, or 25s, are also called Dos Cinco. They tattoo the number 25, the name peseta or the letters DC on their bodies to identify themselves. Well trained and experienced in criminal sophistication these hardcore dropouts continue to sell drugs, extort other inmates, and assault their enemies.

Some of these individuals flourish on the sensitive needs yards. Unencumbered by the big four prison gangs that control the main yards, they use their criminal skills and the power of intimidation of their new dropout gang to rob, extort and victimize the other SN inmates.

Another gang spawned from the prison gang drop outs are the Northern Riders. These Norteño dropouts who identify themselves with the symbol of the Playboy Bunny, a falling star, or the word "rider" tattooed prominently. CDCR has identified more than 800 members.

The growing numbers of gang dropouts being placed in SNYs has resulted in numerous new gangs forming and warring with rivals on the SNYs. Gang violence has grown so bad that some SN inmates have asked to return to mainline yards rather than continue to face the SN gangs on the SNYs. SN gang activity has been identified on 32 of California's 33 prisons.

The pesetas and the Northern Riders are not alone. There are dropout gangs in 32 of the 33 California prisons. Here are just a few others identified by CDCR staff—187 Ride or Die, Against the Grain, Bad News Banditos, Ballers and Gamers, Brothers by Choice, Cut Throat Family, Down South, Drop Out Squad, FTS, Full 60, Gay Boy Gangsters, Independent Riders, Little Unity, Mexican Outfit, Nueva Flora (New Flower), Player Club, Presidents, Red Hand Mafia, Skins 4 Life, Sucka Free, and $ Gang.

Theses SN gangs operate inside and outside of prison. They can be mixed racially and structured in a looser less-rigid hierarchy. Members often flip in and out of active membership, but they can be just as dangerous as any traditional prison gang. Sometimes SN gang members pose as Sureños, Norteños, Crips, Bloods or AB-NLR members, because that's what they were.

They have spread from California to Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and Idaho. These dropout gangs need to be identified and segregated into the SHU just like the other security threat groups. All dropouts should be screened more thoroughly and debriefed with an eye for possible sympathizing loyalties with one of these drop out gangs. Once identified, these SN gangs need to be treated like traditional prison gang members.

Another aspect of this phenomenon of gangs forming in the SNYs is the danger posed to other true defectors. Ignoring former promises made to defecting inmates who left their prominent positions in the prison gang hierarchy and who have a perpetual "green light" death warrant from their former gangs, CDCR is attempting to "reintegrate" some of these hardcore PC cases back into the prison system by dumping them into the supposedly safe SNYs.

Throwing PC inmates, who have truly disassociated themselves from any of their former prison gangs, into these dangerous shark tank SNYs will force these cooperating defectors to protect themselves. This is a train wreak waiting to happen. In reality, they will be like Christians thrown to the lions in the Coliseum, they must kill or be killed, and neither choice is acceptable.

Author's Note: Much of this article was inspired by a recent FOX 11 Los Angeles report on the SNY gang problem by investigative reporter and close friend Chris Blatchford.


Calif. Proposes Returning High-Risk Prison Gang Members to General Population

California's 'Realignment' Toward Higher Crime

Tags: Prison Gangs, Corrections, California Corrections

Comments (18)

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18

Patrick @ 5/16/2012 4:18 AM

Really? If these SOB's are forming gangs themselves, SHIP THEM BACK TO GENERAL POPULATION!

big drifts @ 12/21/2012 12:40 PM

i say there all a bunch of pc snitches that couldnt hang in gp....... why debrief and then lock up and start a gang...... ridiculous....... that goes for every pc, snitch or drop-out...... once u debrief ur a pc of shit.... bottom line, theres no ifs or buts.........

1 of Wally's old bunch @ 1/1/2013 8:43 PM

Interested in knowing why there is such an extensive process for someone considered to be "debriefed" from a gang, meanwhile the process to profile potential gang members and/or identify people as gang members is as simple as putting together a few pieces of criteria.

Daniel Navar @ 1/3/2013 12:46 AM

I think cdc should not protect those pc inmates,fuck pecetas if they fucked up,snitched or left their gang they should be left in mainline so they can get wacked! Big Smokey from the HARPYS gang said it,VIVA SURENOS!!!

Brenda Stormer @ 1/7/2013 8:10 PM

inmates that look down on PC Inmate need to stay on main yard and never grow up and look at life different. PC want to change their lifes while main yard are taking other inmate out or hurting them. For What? They all did something wrong. Wake up

kool @ 1/16/2013 2:26 AM

shit mutha fuckas im a rider yall could get butt fucked main line i play soccer with pisas in tracy low lifes

Inmate Wife @ 1/25/2013 10:45 AM

No matter what the yard the game stays the same. Come on now, Dangerous shark tanks? You must be kidding me. I think that's blowing it up a little. There is a prison gang that was not mentioned here and they are called C.O's. Those are the only sharks who should be feared because they can do whatever they want whenever they want. I have never worried about another inmate hurting my husband. Over the past 25 years I have seen them get away with everything from transporting drugs to murder and who gets blamed?? Of course the inmate. But if you havent done a chunk of time either as a inmate or inmates wife you will NEVER truly know what it's like because it is a whole other world.

D Cruz @ 2/5/2013 8:46 PM

Money gang or $ gang is not a drop out gang! Haha What the hell? This article could lead the injury or death of a person and it would be based on false information.

NORTENO4LIFE @ 3/26/2013 8:23 AM

There shouldnt be any sny yards! if you do the crime do the time!the victims of their crimes didnt get any special protection so why should they? if you victimize a kid why should you be protected from being victimized yourself? if you dropped out of a prison gang and go to a sny yard and join a piece of sh!t gang how hard can you be? If youre hard enough to bang then go back to a GP yard. you're a coward among real convicts but a hard core gangster around queers, child molesters and other easy prey. And FU*K the CDC for not validating them also. They are allowed to drop out and debrief and while doing so cause 3, 5, 10 or how ever many other people to go to an indeterminate shu term while they go to a sny yard and run with other "gangsters" and do worse than they were allowed to do on mainlines. mainline convicts for the most part are respectful to staff and other convicts. 95% of stabbings are groups "cleaning their own house" or "taking out the trash" those who do not fall inline with the rules. its not random violence or just victimizing people because you can like the piece of sh!t drop outs do, in reality they are more of a threat to other inmates and staff than mainline prison gangs are. But because they told on other inmates and WORKED WITH THE K9's they are given special treatment.

anna @ 6/15/2013 10:17 PM

I hate gangs, u gang fuckers R a piece of shit. We all bleed the same color u fucken idiots, morans Fucken putos.I'm puerto rican look white like a mother fucker.however I am consider an other no problem with me being an other.i didnt listen to my mother u think imma listen to you.think again. I even had brains done. Captain ask me wats up with the braids and I said what's up with them anybody have a problem too f****** bad. Fuck gangs.get a fucken life stupid Ass.

Early Cuyler @ 10/11/2013 9:35 PM

How about the new douche bag pc gang trying to get off the ground at the CSP-LAC Square One a bunch of black Turds.

smils @ 4/16/2014 11:22 PM

It is what it is gente

Compa 2 feezee @ 5/28/2014 11:28 PM

f*** active Norte bunnies up maybe the active homies should have played better untreated the little homies better and not made them do so much crap maybe if they would a practice what they preach then this s*** would never started and all this is coming straight out of the mouth of the northern RYDER

red from hanaz @ 9/22/2014 3:02 PM


Daniel Torrez @ 10/8/2014 4:10 AM

I am never the one to say i told you so.

Rob @ 11/14/2014 11:55 AM

I have no sympathy for a drop outs. Nobody forced you to be a Northerner. It was the life you choose. Sacrifice is what a Norteno stands for. Being the smaller CAR. We are expected to be harder and stronger. Laziness and cowardly acts is what made a you a peace of shit. If you got wacked by a bad call. Then you should have fought it in the hole. I have No respect for snitches, debriefers. Playboys , New flowers are a joke. If you hated gang life. Then you should of became Christian or became family men. Instead you join a group of D.O's with no morals or loyalty. I did my time and came out on good terms. I dont have to watch my back. Im now a family man. But Nortenos will always be my people.

Stretch @ 11/14/2014 2:27 PM

You should watch your mouth buster. You ain't been there. So don't speak on it

Stretch @ 11/14/2014 2:28 PM

Fuck an active

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