DENVER - In a briefing about how Colorado prison officials monitor and manage violent prison gangs, they revealed there was no rule against inmates joining the gangs.
The briefing comes nearly a month after investigators believe parolee Evan Ebel, a member of the white supremacist prison gang 211 Crew, shot to death Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements and part-time pizza deliveryman Nate Leon. Ebel was later killed in a shootout with Texas lawmen after a 100 mph car chase and crash.
DOC and El Paso County sheriff's investigators have been investigating whether the Clements' killing was an organized hit by the 211 Crew in retaliation for his effort to counter the influence of prison gangs.
Authorities have recently arrested two 211 gang members, Thomas Guolee, 31, and James Lohr, 37, on unrelated charges. Investigators want to talk to the men because they were in contact with Ebel just before and after Clements was killed, sources tell 7NEWS.
But during the Friday "Prison Gang Management" briefing in Denver, DOC officials said they would not discuss the 211 Crew or the ongoing Clements murder investigation.
Instead, DOC intelligence officers -- Captain Roseanna Jordan and Lt. Eva Little -- explained how their squad identifies, monitors and manages "security threat groups" or STGs.
Despite noting that many of these "STG's" require criminal activity both inside and outside of prison, the officers made it clear there was no DOC policy against joining one.
"We manage the behavior," Jordan said. "We do not separate by races, we do not segregate rival STG's, we allow offenders to interact. We allow offenders to become inactive."
In other words, they allow gangs of all kinds. One officer even compared an inmate's freedom to join a gang to their freedom of religion.
Still, the officers said their work thwarts more criminal plots than the public ever becomes aware of.
Once criminal activity is confirmed, the officers say the inmates involved are placed in solitary confinement.
"DOC believes that security threat group activity creates a clear and present danger to DOC security and public order," Jordan said.
"We as a department identify security threat groups, which goes way beyond just gangs," Little added.
The prison security threat groups include street gangs, prison gangs, terrorists, drug cartels and other disruptive groups inside prison.
A common misconception is that gang members are poorly educated, Jordan said.
"We have very charismatic individuals that are involved in security threat groups," she said. "We have very educated individuals." One gang has a library of required books that new recruits must read before they can join. Some gangs order members to work out regularly to stay fit and prepared for any threats or attacks.
"They're organized, they're structured and they have complexity," Jordan said.
The officers laid out escalating levels of organization and violence of security threat groups, which are defined as three or more individuals with a common interest or activity, characterized by criminal conduct.
Little said a new offender may arrive at a DOC facility with little knowledge of "prison life." They naturally gravitate toward other inmates who share a common Hometown or neighborhood, cultural or racial bond -- and "a common enemy," she added.
Just as high schools have cliques of jocks and nerds, LIttlle said, "in prison we have the cliques as well." They're small groups with common interests, but no set rules or structures and no commitment to associations with each other.
But, under the right leadership, gangs can grow in sophistication, organization and power.
"In Level Four, we have a predator group. Now they've escalated. Now they're talking about formalizing and creating roles for the group that they've become. They begin to realize that their numbers are growing and they're gaining strength," Jordan said.
"They start weeding out undesirables," she said, and intimidating or attacking people who aren't committed to the gang or don't follow the gang's strict rules and orders.
Gang members identity each other by their tattoos -- many visible, others hidden between fingers to avoid easy detection by intelligence officers. They communicate with hand signs -- and even through artwork.
Gangs have a communication network -- including family members and girlfriends -- that spread information about what's happening with the gang on the street or at other prisons.
At Level 5, the gang is a full-fledged Security threat group, with its own constitution and hierarchy.
"They've created structures and laws they have to abide by," Jordan said. They define goals and philosophies that each member must meet. They specialize in criminal activities, such as drug dealing on street or in the prison.
It's a DOC violation for prisoners to be caught with a constitution or other organizing documents.
Here's handwritten by-laws that prison officials confiscated: "We believe in the teachings of our honorable chairman. All Laws & policies are set forth by our Chairman and our executive staff. In the concept of ideology & organization; I shall Aid & Assist all Brothers of struggle in ALL Righteous endeavors…utilizing & standing on our six points; socially, politically & economically we shall become a more reckoning Power of people throughout boundaries, without measures."
Another example of gang rules, includes: "Silence and Secrecy," "Drugs," "Respect," "Breaking & Entering," "Rape," "Hygiene," "Sportsmanship," "Commitable (sic) Diseases," "Breaking & Entering," "Gambling," "Education," "Dues," and "Exercise."
The DOC intelligence team identifies, tracks and minors gangs, Jordan said. They also share information and training with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Colorado Intelligence Analysis Center.
Little said that intelligence officers, by monitoring suspicious inmate behavior and gathering information, were able to head off an escape attempt at a prison she did not identify
"We were able to prevent something that could have possible turned out tragic," Little said.