Aryan Brotherhood




     Aryan Brotherhood tattoo I.JPG

    Status: Active
    AKA: AB, Alice Baker, Diamond Tooth Gang, One-Two, The Nazi Gang, The Brand
    Formed: 1964
    Headquarters: Pelican Bay prison (California), ADX Florence prison (Colorado)
    Area of Operations: Canada, United States
    Ideology: Social (White Supremacist)
    Group Size: < 15,000 members
    Known Leaders: Barry Byron Mills, Tyler Davis "The Hulk" Bingham, Christopher Gibson, Edgar "Snail" Hevle, Michael Patrick McElhiney
    Group Affiliations: Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, Aryan CircleAryan Nations, Dirty White Boys, Nazi Low RidersPeckerwood, Public Enemy Number One (PEN1), Silent Brotherhood
    Criminal Organizations: Hells Angels, Mexican Mafia, Order of the Blood
    The Aryan Brotherhood was founded in San Quentin State Prison in California in 1964.


     Organizational History

    The Aryan Brotherhood was first created as a prison gang in San Quentin State Prison in California to protect its mostly white members from the larger black and Mexican gangs present in the prison system. [1] Recently, the group has shifted to organized criminal activities as a means of supporting the group’s activity outside of prison. While at least half of its members are currently incarcerated, many members released from prison still pledge allegiance to the organization.

    The Aryan Brotherhood is believed to have grown out of another prison gang, known as the Blue Bird Gang, which was created to protect white inmates from larger black and Mexican gangs following the desegregation of prisons in California.[2] The Brotherhood developed into a white supremacy organization with a blood-in-blood out policy, meaning the initiation required a recruit to commit a murder, and the only way to be released from membership in the gang would be death.[2]

    Originally, the group solicited only members of Irish descent. However, this requirement was later removed as the group grew in size and strength. From San Quentin state prison, the group spread to other prisons in California and eventually to other states and even the federal prison system. Once a member is paroled, his role in the gang is not diminished; in fact, it may increase. Members outside of the prison walls are responsible for taking care of those who are still locked up. He must supply his brothers with drugs or weapons, and has to follow any orders dictated by senior members of the group.  The penalty for not performing these tasks, or helping his fellow members could be death.[3]In 2002, the federal government released an indictment targeting over 40 leaders of the group under RICO statutes, intending to cripple operations in one fell swoop.  Both Bingham and Mills, leaders of the organization, were relocated to the federal maximum security prison in Florence, CO where they are serving life sentences without parole. While the AB only accounts for less than one percent of prison inmates it is responsible for roughly 18% of prison murders.[1] 


    The gang has evolved from a necessary protection system for white inmates into a nationwide organized crime association where racial warfare comes second to financal business. Currently the gang contains roughly 15,000 members throughout the nations prison system.[4]

    Gang leaders realized that there was a great deal of money to be made in the illegal distribution of narcotics throughout the prisons. Therefore, the idea of white supremacy started to fade while the idea of being a profitable corporation expanded. During the 1980s the AB fought to have complete control over all financial activities inside prisons. Gang members released from prison helped create a large influx of narcotics into prisons to other AB members. They also participated in other illegal activities such as: extortion, weapons, protection, and murder-for-hire schemes outside and inside the prison walls. They are known to have a great number of small arms, including fully automatic machine guns, and also have shown interest in procuring explosive devices. As the gang grew as a criminal enterprise, multi-racial members were allowed to join; men with Native American ancestry, and even Jewish men who were willing to sport both Swastika and Star of David tatoos were eligible to become Aryan Brotherhood members.


    Members usually have a tattoo marking their association with the gang, popular tattoos include: 

    • Shamrocks – Representing the Irish biker origins of the gang 
    • 666 – The number of the devil 
    • HH – for Heil Hitler 
    • 88 – Representing the eighth letter of the alphabet, H 
    • Swastikas – Nazi symbols 
    • AB – for Aryan Brotherhood 
    • Double Lightning Bolts – Earned after a first kill
    • Nordic dagger and lighting bolts with a shield in the background
    • Falcon - symbol of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA)
    • Gaelic phrases/symbols - relating back to Celtic and Norse mythology
    • Happy Faces - AB members often have letters separated by happy faces and/or exclamation points

    However, these markings are becoming less obvious or not used at all by new younger members at the advice of older members. Therefore, police and guards do not know that the Aryan Brotherhood may have been the organization perpetrating a crime, not the individual acting on his own accord. These marking are considered “brands” of the gang any non-member who has these tattoos without the consent of the Aryan Brotherhood could be killed. The markings they wear on their bodies are meant to intimidate, the 666 and Nazi Swastika are images that instill fear.

    The Oath[6]

    An oath must be taken by all new members, this is their verbal contract of entering into the blood-in blood-out policy. New members are placed on a one-year probation period before they are officially approved for membership. 

    I will stand by my brother 
    My brother will come before all others 
    My life is forfeited should I fail my brother 
    I will honor my brother in peace and war


    The gang has a hierarchical structure. There are no designated individual ranks in the AB just more respect shown to more elder or more savage members. However, there is a distinction between veteran members and less accomplished members. At the top, there exists a commission of three members that makes decisions on AB actions, from murders to drug trafficking.[2] This commission also approves the membership of all applicants, they decide if a candidate is allowed to commit the initiation murder and invited into the gang. The lower level members are called ‘kindred’, who recruit new members and carry out missions; the kindred are organized into ‘families’.[7] These families are usually smaller state chapters of the gang.

    Areas of Operation

    United States, members present within the state prison system in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.


    Funding for the organization comes from payment for drugs, chiefly marijuana and methamphetamine's, weapons, murders, or any other illegal activities in which the Aryan Brotherhood participates. Drugs smuggled into prison and sold can be worth four times as much as their street value. This is a constant source of income for the AB, many inmates are addicts and their addictions need to be fulfilled. Money can be smuggled into prison and paid directly or paid by a friend or family member outside of prison to another AB member. Also, the AB is hired by individuals and even other gangs to perform hits in and out of prison. This can be a large paycheck for the AB, for example John Gotti was rumored to pay anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 for a hit on Walter Johnson, the man that attacked him.[5]


    Aryan Brotherhood members are constantly watched and placed in isolation chambers, therefore they cannot always talk openly to give orders and plans. The AB often communicates through a binary cipher created by Sir Francis Bacon in the 1600s.[8] The code works for hand written notes that appear normal and have nothing to do with the actual hidden message. Letters written in block standard handwriting actually stand for an A, while letters written in cursive represent a B. The letters of the hidden message are expressed as groups of five of these As and Bs.[9] To discover these hidden letters the As and Bs must be inserted where the block and cursive letters were written, then separated by groups of five. This cipher takes time to use but the one thing these inmates have plenty of is time. Another much less complex form of communication is urine writing. Members use a Q-tip soaked in urine, citrus juice, or bleach to write on a blank sheet of paper.[10] The message cannot be seen once these substances are absorbed into the paper, until they are held over a flame or a direct heat source. Obviously this is a much simpler form of communication and easier to detect by guards. Since guards are constantly watching for an exchange of messages or reading the inmate’s mail, more than one message is sent. This makes sure that at least one note will get through to the intended target. While the guards are good at intercepting these messages it would be simply impossible to block them all.

    Aryan Brotherhood terms:

    • The Brand - A name for the gang referring to the shamrock tattoo found on members that signifies membership.[6]
    • Blood In, Blood Out - The policy of the gang, meaning a member must kill to join the gang and die to leave it.
    • Shank - A makeshift knife made by inmates with a sharp steel blade and a wooden handle.
    • Making Your Bones - This is the initial murder to join the gang.[6]
    • Getting Your Steel Wet - Using a shank to stab another inmate or guard.
    • Rocking Someone to Sleep - This is when a member pretends to befriend a target, leaving the target with his guard down.
    • Lie or Die - This is the motto for when member faces questioning from a law enforcement individual or in front of a jury.[6]
    • In the Hat - The term used for someone who is targeted for death, when a AB member turn informant for the FBI his name is in the hat.[6]
    • Polishing the Rock - This term refers to gang members on the outside doing the biding of the gang on the streets. Before leaving prison members are urged to polish the rock, otherwise their punishment for ignoring incarcerated members could be death.[6]
    • Punks - These are male inmates who are used as sex slaves by the AB.[3]
    • Runners - This refers to girlfriends, associates, and people outside prison who help the gang by relaying messages or performing actions outside of the prison walls. They also smuggle illegal drugs into prisons into the prisons.[6]
    • Kytes - Letters or notes sent amongst inmates. These are coded or written in urine so that guards can not read them. Often many are sent to get one message to its destination since some will be intercepted.[6]

    Major Operations

    In 1998, three men, two with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood murdered and dragged the body of James Byrd Jr., a black man, through the town of Jasper, Texas.[1] John King, Shawn Berry and Lawrence Brewer invited Byrd into their pick-up truck then beat him and tied him to the back of the truck, dragging him for nearly three miles. Byrd was dragged so violently he over the bumpy country road it caused his body to become decapitated, his body was then deposited in front of a predominantly black church and cemetery.

    The Aryan Brotherhood also claims responsibility for the only time more than one prison guard was murdered on the same day. On October 22, 1983 two guards were fatally wounded, two others injured at the Marion Federal Penitentiary on separate incidents within a few hours of each other.[6] The Aryan Brotherhood attempted to send a message that they control the prisons, not the guards.

    AB members are often hired as hitmen for mission inside and outside prisons. Individuals or even other gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia, hire the AB to execute ordered assassinations. When John Gotti, the famous Gambino crime family boss, was attacked in prison he engaged the services of the AB to murder his attacked, however before the attack could be carried out he died of throat cancer.[5]

    Group Affiliations

    The AB has an alliance with the Mexican Mafia, Hells Angels, Dirty White Boys, The Silent Brotherhood, Public Enemy Number 1 or PENI, and Nazi Low Riders, to control actions throughout the prisons. Known as a gruesome band of murders stretching throughout the country, AB members are often hired as hitmen for these other gangs. Although this gang markets itself as a white power organization, they seem to be able to put aside these beliefs when the opportunity of making money appears.

    Their enemies include Black gangs, such as the Black Guerrilla Family, the Crips, and the Bloods. In addition, enemies also include those who turn their backs on the gang, whether that be testifying to a grand jury or the FBI, or simply just leaving the gang on account of a difference in ideals.


    AB Map.gif

    A map showing the nationwide presence of the Aryan Brotherhood.[11]

    AB Tattoos I.jpg

    White power tattoos.[12]

    AB Tattoos II.jpg

    An Aryan Brotherhood tatoo in honor of Adolf Hitler[13]

    AB Tattoos III.jpg

    This Aryan Brotherhood tattoo has a Nazi Swastika, Nazi S.S. lightning bolts, and a Parteiadler, the eagle symbol representing the Nazi Party. The tattoo also has the name of a prison in Arizona with a large Aryan Brotherhood population.[14]

    AB Tattoos IV.jpg

    An AB tattoo explained.[15]


    AB Leaders.jpg

    AB leaders, Barry Byron Mills and Tyler Davis Bingham, located in the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado.[16]


    1. "Smashing the Shamrock." Southern Poverty Law Center. [1] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    2. "History of the Aryan Brotherhood." Gangs Or Us. [2] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    3. Federal Bureau of Investigations "Aryan Brotherhood." Department of Justice. [3] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    4. Rick Ross Institute "History of the Aryan Brotherhood." [4] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    5. "Aryan Brotherhood: Prison Gang Profile." [5] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    6. "Aryan Brotherhood." White Prison Gangs. [6] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    7. "American Gangstas: Aryan Brotherhood." [7] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    8. Christopher Goffard. "Pulling Strings Behind Bars." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. [8] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    9. "Francis Bacon's Ciphers." University of Philosophical Research. [9] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    10. Christopher Goffard. "Invisible Ink Got Gang's Deadly Note Past Guard." L.A. Times. [10] (accessed on September 23, 2009).
    11. "Aryan Brotherhood: Map of Prison Locations". [11]. (accessed on October 26, 2009).
    12. Southern Poverty Law Center. "Smashing the Shamrock". [12]. (accessed on October 26, 2009).
    13. Behind Blue Eyes. [13]. (accessed on October 26, 2009).
    14. "Aryan Brotherhood Use of Nazi Symbols". [14]. (accessed on October 26, 2009).
    15. "Tattoo History-Prison Tattoos". [15]. (accessed on October 26, 2009).
    16. McDonald, J. (2006, March 16). Killer says he lied to defy gang. OC Register. Retrieved from [16]

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    Aryan Brotherhood chest tattoos
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    Aryan Brotherhood tattoos explained
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    Aryan Brotherhood Tattoo
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