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Prisons cope with gangs - WMCI staff has 25 vacancies

Modified: Wednesday, Sep 26th, 2012




TORRINGTON – Identifying and dealing with gang activity and members is a reality with which correctional officers and law enforcement agencies live day to day.

Lt. Seth Norris researched and delivered a half-hour presentation on gang awareness within the state Department of Corrections and the state itself at the Prison-Community Partnership Committee meeting at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution last Tuesday.

During the presentation, Norris spoke about gangs and other security threat groups encountered locally, throughout the state and in Wyoming prisons. He is a member of the WMCI Security Threat Group team that consists of staff trained to educate on, recognize and prevent gang activity. Areas of their expertise include tattoo recognition, behavior of gang members in prison and debriefing gang members who wish to renounce their affiliation.

In Torrington, Norris said there has been activity in recent years from two gangs or STGs: the Surenos and Juggalos.

The local set of Surenos call themselves the South Town Criminals, Norris said. Last year, three Surenos were arrested in connection with a shooting on the south side of Torrington. The Surenos are currently the largest STG represented in the DOC. The Surenos originated in Southern California and are often represented with the number 13 or the words “South Side” or “Sur.”

The FBI classified Juggalos as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. The name’s original use described fans of the Detroit hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse. Norris reported there was a shooting of property in Torrington reportedly committed by a Juggalo member.



In other PCPC business:

Warden Steve Hargett said the prison is third in line in the state to undergo American Correctional Association accreditation, behind the Wyoming Honor

Conservation Camp and Wyoming Women’s Center.

Hargett said there are 522 ACA standards, 63 of which are mandatory. He told the PCPC he hopes to bring WMCI to 100 percent compliance of mandatory and non-mandatory standards.

“That’s going to require a lot of hard work from my staff here and the inmate population,” Hargett added.

Hargett said the prison is close to full capacity, housing 650 inmates on Wednesday. The staff currently has about 25 vacancies, which Hargett hopes to fill quickly. He said due to required training and short staffing, the prison has had to pay some overtime.

“When you’re running short on staff and we need to work in all the training we need to accomplish, then it requires some overtime,” Hargett said. “As I reported to you in our last meeting, we have to cut $1 million out of our overtime budget. We need to try to control our overtime as much as we can.”

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